Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A cool visit to Coban, Guatemala

As I mentioned in my post on Semuc Champey, we hired a driver and van from Otto Archila (otitoursplus@gmail.com) to take us up to the mountain city of Coban for three days. We took the slow road up on roads that looked more like stream beds and must have only averaged 15 kilometers an hour for most of the way. I really can't believe the van made it and our driver was exhausted at the end of the trip. None of the online directions gave us any idea of the difficulty so we arrived really too late at Semuc Champey and it took 11 hours to get to our hotel that night.
Tiny but often old churches appeared at the small villages

We saw very few vehicles on the road, generally only the
vans that provide public transportation.

This is a very rural area with few homes and only a couple
of "villages".  A vehicle going by is a source of
entertainment and everyone was surprised to see us.

As you can see these photos are blurred as they were taken
out of the window but I loved this family sitting in front of
their house - the few vehicles provide some entertainment.

The lovely view from the one "restaurant" we saw in 4 hours - it was a welcome sight!
Happily our hotel, Don Juan Matalbatz, was welcoming and comfortable. The desk clerk walked us over to his restaurant recommendation, El Penescal, and it was excellent. By this time I had every bit of clothing I had brought with me on! That night I slept in my fleece...and every blanket in the room.
Our driver and van in the hotel courtyard.

The view from our room showed the top of the Cathedral
in the main square.

Renate found a cart selling clementines (with seeds) but
Next day, after breakfast at the hotel (not that great), our driver took us to Orquigonia. This beautiful reserve has hundreds of orchids saved from deforestation throughout Guatemala by the family that lives there. Our young enthusiastic guide gave us a tour and we learned lots about these fascinating flowers. And of course, took tons of photos.  One thing we all found amazing was the tiny tiny orchids that we would never know existed.  The tour ended with a delicious cup of tea.
We drove back to the city to have lunch at Kardamomass - a beautiful restaurant that features the local cardamon seeds in many ways. We started off by enjoyed their excellent coffee flavored with it. A warming fire near our table took away a little of the chill.
In the afternoon we drove out to Chicoj for a tour of the coffee cooperative plantation.  This huge operation is run by local men and women who live right on the place. Our guide was very .informative and showed us the whole process. It was all in Spanish but Dave did a pretty good job translating. We sampled the coffee afterwards and bought some of their beans.
That night we had a excellent meal and experience at La Abadia. This small 5 table restaurant is first class and the food and service wouldn't have been out of place in Boston or NYC. The owner and chef previously had a restaurant in Venezuela but were driven out of there by the deteriorating political situation.
Our last day we had breakfast at El Penescal and took a MUCH easier road back to the Rio Dulce. It was quite scenic also as we went through the coffee growing area. We left at 9:30 and were home at 2:30.

Closeups are fun

The variety is amazing

The usual tourist photo opportunity

I had a hard time picking out only a few of these photos

This transparent butterfly was so gorgeous

Renate at Kardomomass

Dessert at Kardomomass - a cheese cake with tomatoes!
The group with our guide at lunch at Kardomomass
The view up into the hills at the Chicoq Cooperative Finca
The map of the coffee plantation at Chicoj

Our charming guide at Chicoq
Jim, Renate, Heather, Linda, Ellen, Dave and Scott. 
This is me in every piece of clothing I brought
having dinner at El Penescal Restaurant,
our first night
Busy streets in Coban.