Published: March 6th 2009February 28th 2009
The transport links in Guatemala got a little more complex from Xela. The options were a two day six bus combo or a long day with Guatemala City bus changeover. Whilst not ecstatic about heading back through Guatemala City, Guate as the locals call it, it seemed the best choice to get to Coban.
Between Guatemala City and San Salvador (El Salvador) it’s a close call as to which is the most dangerous Central American capital city. As we crossed Guate for the second time in a taxi to switch between bus depots it once again appeared calm and up together it was only the omnipresent security guards most sporting full army style gear and a large shot gun that suggested otherwise. Although in Central America the sight of this style of security has been far from uncommon it is when you see it outside a modest linen or clothes shop that you realise that this is probably not a city to dwell over. Having said that all those, taxi drivers included, that we came into contact with on our two Guate crossings were friendly, helpful and inscrutably honest. It felt like perhaps they had a point to prove that
it’s not as bad as the guide books make out.
Coban is meant to be not much more than a convenient stop over en route to the natural limestone bridge of Semuc Champey and the Lanquin Caves. However, we found Coban more than just a place to kip with its rich supply of lively inexpensive places to chow down with the locals. We decided to shun the all in day tour and instead opted for the much more entertaining option of working out ourselves how best to navigate the much recommended remote Semuc and Lanquin attractions.
The natural limestone bridge of turquoise tinted crystal clear pools which lay above the gushing Rio Cahabon in Semuc Champey was stunning. The steep hike up to the lookout followed by swimming in the pools was the perfect blend for a day trip. Lanquin Caves was also spectacular due to the sheer size of the caverns but the damage that had occurred to the millions of years old stalagmites and stalactites was saddening. This hugely extensive cave system, the end of which is apparently yet to be reached, is still an important place for Mayan worship and sacrifice (nothing more sinister than
chickens we understand). The smoke from what must have been hundreds of ceremonial fires over the years had coated in thick and very grubby soot what once would have been a cave adorned with endless amazing glistening limestone formations.
After our three nights in and around Lanquin we continue North to Tikal, Guatemala’s show piece Mayan ruins, and our final stop before Mexico.