Published: July 14th 2010July 15th 2010
(Day 832 on the road)
And so my time in Guatemala was coming to an end. From the great market in Chichicastenango (see last entry), Tino and I embarked on our last few days in the country, the natural wonders of Semuc Champey near Lanquin.
One American guy I talked to a few weeks ago had called Semuc Champey the most beautiful thing in the world. As anticipated, my resulting high expectations could only be disappointed. While the blue, terraced pools were certainly beautiful and special indeed, they are most certainly not the most beautiful thing in the world.
As always, I found myself comparing this attraction to other I have seen, and instantly Huang Long National Park in Sichuan, China
came to mind. Huang Long has a very similar look, but it is decidedly more beautiful. I really need to stop comparing sights!!!
Stunning however was the road we took a few days earlier from Chichicastenango to reach Coban, the jumping off point for Lanquin and Semuc Champey. The road wind through dramatic mountain scenery; often a whole section of the road had been swept away by land- or mudslides. With some luck I had managed to
get the from seat next to the driver; Tino wasn't quite as lucky and was stuck in the back, slightly annoyed.
I was just about to offer to swap seats when our minibus broke down about halfway through the rough three-hour journey on the pot-holed dirt track. The verdict: Broken axle. So the rest of the way we were travelling standing on the open back of a big truck, which was certainly a great experience for my liking. Beautiful scenery, the wind in my hair (well, kind of as I have no hair at the moment), no worries - what more could I want?
In Coban we met up again with the Israeli girls we had spent some time with at Lake Atitlan. They were on their final three days of their month-long trip across Mexico and Guatemala, and as well as Semuc Champey we also explored the amazing cave Gruta de Lanquin together. Most of this cave is to this date not explored and apparently boasts a lot of complicated side tunnels in which to get lost in, so we mainly kept to the main path. What a pity, as there is little more exiting than venturing
off into a dark cave with my flash light.
Soon after that, the girls left for the airport in Guatemala City to catch their flight back home (in a tourist shuttle bus), and we followed suit later that day (using local transport of course). We spent a day in the capital again, mainly catching up on emails and this blog, uploading pictures, and savouring some international food. I also chatted to the two only other guests at our hotel - Guatemaltecans who had been convicted of and deported from the USA for gang-related crime and who were now looking for a way to get back into the US illegally via the Mexican border. I didn't feel to safe at night I have to admit.
We also had two very unpleasant and harsh clashes with our alcoholic land-lord, who tried to increase the price of our room after a full day after we had paid the mutually agreed amount. My advice: Steer well clear of hotel "Monte Cristo" in Guatemala City. Anyway, the next day, we were off to El Salvador.
As for Guatemala, well, I have certainly enjoyed my time here. In the beginning we had been
scared considerably by the high crime rate and the whole security issue - a recent poll here found that 46% of all Guatemaltecans see security problems as the country's main problem. But as time went by we got more and more relaxed, helping us to enjoy more and fear less. Highlights for me have been the magnificent Maya ruins at Tikal (of course), colonial Antigua and relaxing yet stunning Lake Atitlan, all with a minimal amount of the usual hassle and rip-offs so common in other poor countries. Mucho gusto, Guatemala!
On the downside, I despised the people's horrendous attitude to pollution
. Motto: Just drop your rubbish wherever you happen to be - on the street, in rivers or the ocean. The resulting amount of pollution all across the country is simply appalling.
And then of course, there was the football world cup, which has now ended. Sadly. What exactly am I going to do with all my additional free time now? The final between Spain and The Netherlands I watched in Lanquin near Semuc Champey in a small restaurant, sitting between a Spanish couple and a Dutch family - a tight spot!
But generally watching the
world cup here made for many an interesting encounter considering the wide range of venues I utilised for watching - restaurants and bars of course as above, but also the private bed room of a house (I happened to pass by by during a goal for Brazil), countless little shops where the shopkeepers were watching the games, or even inside the office of a driving school In Guatemala City. It was certainly a very different, yet highly interesting world cup for me.
Next stop: El Impossible NP (El Salvador). Also have a look at my pictures at http://pictures.beiske.com