Cobán

Feb 20 – We got up early to wait for the bus that will take us the 75 miles from Panajachel to Cobán. The Trip is advertised to take nine hours at a minimum. We sat on Calle Santander, watching the shopkeepers set up their stalls for the day.

The tuk-tuks were out in force, trawling for fares.

We were the last ones on the bus, so Jim got to sit up front with the driver. I was not so lucky, squeezing behind him into a tiny seat with a hump where the legroom should be.

There is no highway north, so the bus followed local roads through dusty little towns, and bumpy dirt road roads through the mountains. It felt like we never went more than 20 mph or got past second gear.

The driver stopped every three hours so we could stretch our legs and answer calls of nature. The place we stopped for lunch served grilled sausages and cheese tacos – pretty good!

First stop on the mountainside
Second stop – shoulder rolls needed!

We stopped several times due to road construction, which allowed all the young smokers to jump off the bus for a quick cigarette. Why do young people smoke? Our driver knew his way around every pothole and speed bump. He says he does this route every day for 15 days, back and forth, 12 hours a day, before he gets a day off.

By 5pm we reached Cobán, a good sized city that is not on the tourist trail. We were the only ones to get off the bus here – the kids are all headed straight to the caves and pools of Semuc Champey. We are staying at Casa Serena, a lovely B & B on the outskirts of town. We have hot and cold water – it’s the first time we’ve seen two knobs on the faucet for a while!

Feb 21 – Roosters! Jim picked this hotel for its advertised quiet, but no one informed the roosters next door, who kept up an all-night competition. Don’t they know they’re supposed to crow after the sun comes up?

The breakfast offered at our place was a little pricey, so we set out for a desayuno tipico in town. The woman running the comida offered us only one option, so we said yes. I asked for coffee with milk, but she had no milk. She offered café something-I-did-not-catch, so we said okay to that too. The coffee was sweet and thick with spices and some sort of grain stirred in. Very good! The breakfast was good too – scrambled eggs, black beans with crema (sort of like mayonnaise? sour cream?), a white cheese and tortillas fresh off the grill.

We are here in Cobán to see the orchid farm, which is several miles out of town, so we took a taxi – no Uber here. The Orquigonia was founded in 2008, and is trying to collect all the varieties of orchids that grow in Guatemala. So far they have collected 450 varieties out of the 4000 possible. Our guide Fernando took us on a private tour.

Most of the orchids native to Guatemala are miniature – Fernando gave us each a magnifying glass so we could see them properly. He told us there are three kinds, orchids that grow from the rock, from the tree or from the ground.

This one is called the dancing octopus:

So many colors!

I saw a huge fern – Fernando said that the part we call the fiddlehead, they call the monkey’s tail.

We traded English vs. Spanish names for things – I wish my horticultural knowledge was deeper, and that my Spanish was better. A lovely, quiet, shady way to spend a hot day.

This is the national flower of Guatemala, the monja blanca (white nun)

Bulbs only produce one flower per year.

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