Posted by: Jack | November 10, 2007

Guatemala – Cahabón

I almost forgot to mention a funny little incident that occurred en route to Cahabón. After a reasonably strenuous hike up out of the river valley, we took sometime in Lanquin to grab breakfast before hopping on what turned out to be the wrong bus. We found a tiny little comedor — the cheapest form of restaurant — and ordered two plates of the only meal available: more beans, eggs, cheese, tortillas and coffee. It wasn’t bad but at one point I walked through a door into the food prep area in search of a bathroom and, in regards to sanitation, the conditions were not very reassuring.

But anyway, the funny incident: As we were eating, a pack of local kids, all easily under the age of five, came running past seemingly just playing in the street. The last little girl in this group noticed some tourists (us) and thought it would be funny to run up to the comedor entrance and make a sort of monstrous gesture; growling with her hands up in the air. I scrambled for my camera but was seconds too late to capture the scene, including the ten-inch kitchen blade she was wielding in one hand. By the time I had the lens cap off she was sprinting down the block to rejoin the group.

A bit later we were in Cahabón, a small town in the middle of nowhere. After checking into the Hostel Carolina we spent quite awhile touring the street markets and enjoying some nearly-free treats. I was also able to find a well-stitched pair of shorts to replace those that had been thoroughly destroyed by the previous day’s adventure. This picture is of a rarely seen, indoor portion of the markets and was by far the cleanest of the entire trip.

It quickly became apparent that we were not only the only Americans in town but even the only non-locals. This place was clearly not a tourist destination so there was a whole lot of staring going on. But one can’t really complain about being the center of attention so we made our way around the entire village, taking in the pleasant scenery. Eventually we sat down with some drinks at a comfy spot overlooking the whole town and I found a sense of familiarity in the view which I couldn’t place for quite some time.

I felt like I had experienced this setting before but knew I had never been anywhere like this in my life. Then suddenly it dawned on me. The reason that these worn-down, rusted-tin-roofed shacks placed in the middle of a jungle left me with a surreal feeling of comfort is that I have, in fact, meandered through such environments countless times before. The only difference is that until this day, these settings had been found only in computer games. If you’ve ever played one of the many Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon games you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Despite this unusual connection with my locale, I felt in no way compelled to equip a sniper rifle and find a bush from which I could survey my strategic position…which is probably a good thing. But having thought about gaming, I did find myself missing my computer a bit…which might be a bad thing.

As daylight faded we found ourselves playing cards in our hostel until a very loud bell began ringing outside. On a hunch we made our way to the nearest comedor and found that, as we suspected, it had been a dinner-bell. Sitting down among loads of local laborers we were served an extremely cheap and entirely unsatisfying meal which consisted of some decent rice and a bowl of broth with a scrap of chicken in it…and of course, tortillas. Despite costing approximately $1 we felt a little ripped off. Furthermore, we couldn’t believe that these laborers, who probably work 10+ hour days on the surrounding steep slopes, could sustain themselves on such a modest meal.

With not much to do and a bus departing at four in the morning, we retired especially early this night. We were fairly surprised when the bus arrived quite promptly and we crammed into the back for a very uncomfortable four hour ride. There is no developed road between Cahabón and El Estor, where we were headed, so instead this bus careened its way along a very rugged mountain pass which never once straightened out for more than two seconds. As it was still well before sunrise, all we could see was a small patch directly in front of the bus which always looked like either a spinning wall of trees or a cliff. As we bounced along, Anna and I both commented about how it imposed the exact same feeling as one of those virtual rides found at amusement parks. Perhaps around five in the morning the bus came across a rather steep and rutted hill. After a couple failed attempts at a running start, nearly everyone was asked to hop out and push. With a bus of this size I’m not really sure that pushing uphill can offer any reasonable aid but the greatly-reduced load seemed to do the trick.

Shortly after the sun rose we made it to El Estor and were desperately eager to get off this bus.

Black line on the Progress Map

Next: El Estor to Paraiso



  1. […] Next: Cahabón to El Estor […]

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