Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coban and Onward

In a daze, we made it to steaming Coban...a small town of about 55,000 people, one small museum of tiny Maya artifacts and that's about it. We came here to sleep, figure out details, and sleep some more. Our sea foam green hotel, La Paz, we simple, full of plants and kind of an odd throw back to the 40's.
Besides the couple of small, crawling around cockroaches in the bathroom that gave Sarah a small heart attack, and the hot water that cycled on and off (to frigidly cold water) while showering, the 35Q (about $4) a night served us well.
Thank goodness there were sheep to count on the curtain as I fell asleep!
There were so many tourists around (read sarcasm) that after asking a couple of questions at a travel agency about how to get to Semuc Champey, they came to our hotel at 8pm to try to seal the deal, then semi-chased us down in the street after 10pm while walking back to La Paz after an inexpensive traditional dinner of chicken, pasta and tortillas.
After making a 10:30pm deal to get to Semuc Champey in a private shuttle (welcome to wheeling and dealing in the slow season) we were ready the next morning to hop on an 8am micro-bus for the 2.5 hour trip over bumpy, unpaved, windy roads.

The fresh morning in Coban quickly turned even hotter and more humid as we made our way into the jungle. Because wheeling and dealing never ends, we were first brought to a hostel run by the tourist agency that provided our transportation. They were hoping we would stay at the hippy infested, quiet, remote site, but after learning about some local plants, watching a smelly European do some crystal ball tricks, while another smelly American practiced juggling, we quickly saddled up and headed to El Portal, a hostel located five minutes away from the entrance to Semuc Champey.
Cardamom. Tastes like you are putting dirt in your mouth, which then becomes spicy.
Choite. A red seed used for food (very common in Mexican foods) and for dying. I rubbed it all over my fingers and after multiple soap washes couldn't get it off. La vida!
El Portal. Located up on a hill overlooking the roaring river below. Little bungalows amid the jungle; scattering the hillside.
The bunk house. Summer camp anyone?
Besides terrible food, the place was very chill and a great spot to swing in a hammock and relax (when you weren't gallivanting about in the water or caves.)
The roaring river below, which we attempted to swim in, but the current was too strong around the rocks. Instead we tubed down it with our "tour" group. It was also frigid water, but after a hot, humid hike, the "refreshing" water was a gift.

Two cuties successfully selling home-made chocolate. Cacao trees dotted the surrounding hills and was the major source of income for the locals. The girls are wearing local dress...the skirts are all pleated and flowing compared to Xela and Lago Atitlan, and rather than wearing a fitted, lace shirt, they all wore bag-like loosely knit shirts with tank tops underneath.

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