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 →

12 hours in Tikal, Guatemala: a plunge into the world of the Maya

15:50

Anete and I sit on top of the second highest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas – Temple IV in Tikal, aka the Temple of the Double-Headed Serpent. Our gaze is directed eastwards, where a couple of stone colossi stick their necks out of the jungle. Minutes earlier, we’ve stared a spider monkey straight into the eyes. A couple of Olive-throated parakeets skim over the canopy. We remain on our throne for an hour – not speaking much, solely admiring the view. Anete tries to meditate, I climb up to the highest step of the staircase to check if the view gets even better. Any minute now, we’re expecting a group of tourists to join us, but they never arrive. We have Tikal all to ourselves. It’s a magical experience, a highlight of our trip through the land of the Maya. What a difference a day makes. Continue Reading →

Ethnicity in Belize: a salad with different ingredients that all add something to the mix

Imagine a handkerchief of a country, barely 350.000 souls strong, where any of the following could happen:

-A Latino speaks with a thick Caribbean accent: “Hi, my brotha! Wassup?!”

-A Maya bar owner turns on Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits, but switches after a couple of songs to old-fashioned Spanish music.

-With a backdrop of Cohune palms and banana trees, two white men with woolly beards work the field with an ox.

-In a small town shop, a young Chinese boy translates a customer’s English into Chinese for his mum, the shopkeeper.

-A black guy leans out of a bright blue church bus and shouts: “God bless you! Welcome to Belize!” Continue Reading →