7 Things to do in and around Cobán, Guatemala – coffee, crocodiles and orchids

For most backpackers, Cobán is no more than a stopover on their way from the Guatemalan highlands to Semuc Champey, Tikal or Rio Dulce. But it’s not the worst place to stay for a couple of days. The capital of Alta Verapaz was our first proper stop in Central America with a slightly bigger city feel – sorry, Belize City, you don’t really qualify. We breathed in the cold mountain air and ended up staying for a week. These are our favourite things to do in Cobán. Continue Reading →

Climbing Tajumulco, Central America’s highest mountain

The young Dutch woman in our group plops down on a set of rocks next to the ninth station of the cross, titled Jesus falls for the third time. She huffs, puffs and curses everything, including herself. “Fuck, I should stop smoking! I can’t do it any more. How much further is it?” I’m too focused on my own breathing to experience any Schadenfreude. O wait, did I say breathing? Desperate gasps for air describes it more accurately. Continue Reading →

Hiking in the Cuchumatanes near Nebaj: lessons about the horrors of the Guatemalan civil war

“I was 2 months old when I lost my father. He was killed by the army.”

We haven’t yet properly met, only exchanged names and pleasantries when Francisco, our ever-smiling guide, drops a bomb on our path. A muddy path at that, because we have just set off for a two-day hike through the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. We have left Nebaj, the biggest city in the Ixil Triangle, one hour earlier on a chicken bus that dropped us off in a village so small that it surprised me that it is even on any chicken bus schedule. Continue Reading →

Back to school: learning Spanish and falling in love with Xela

Waking up early, rubbing the sleep out of your eyes while shovelling in your breakfast, flying out of the house just a couple of minutes before eight to sit half a day behind a desk repeating sentences in Spanish. True, these are not the first things that come to mind when we think about travelling. In Guatemala, however, that is the way. On the second day in this wonderfully diverse country, a boat tour seller called Mario tucked a little yellow card in my hand- a flyer for a Spanish school in Xela. I wouldn’t have ever thought that one day I would enter the very same school asking for information. But life and travel is fun in this way that you never know what will happen next. Continue Reading →