Another day in the road
07/02/2005 - 07/02/2005
Our last night in Las Mareas passed, I awoke at 2am and couldn't asleep. Shuttle came before sunrise. It was 5am but no day light - mornings are cloudy there. Minibus run in the jungle. In some time road became better and first buildings of Lanquin appeared. Village was in night sleep yet, no lights and no sounds. The first one who opened and already worked was а butcher shop (Oddly enough, given the fact that the locals almost do not eat meat). Some early customers crowded around the butcher, in diffuse glow of lamp.
:-o :-o COBAN
Coban isn't a place you wanna visit, even I heared about lovely folklor events (?) there, still I doubt it can be a nice place to stay.
First we passed in Coban in the way to Semuk Champey but it was very short - happily we got a minibus to Lanquine almost immediately at arriving to the city.
Now we had to visit Coban for few reasons:
1st we need cash - mean need bank,
2nd we were with no internet connection for a few days in Posada Las Mares - so internet cafe was must to visit too,
3rd - the shortest way to Tikal went via Coban anyway.
Coban is quite big city, with population abt 85,000. It was founded in 16 century and later, towards the end of the 19th century, it was developed by German coffee growers - so it supposed to have German influence but it is not visible.
Most of the year it is either rainy or overcast, dank and chill.
There are: bus terminal, few stadiums, market and supermarket too, few photo shops, bank, internet cafe, the old bridge crossing the river. The bridge is narrow and two-way traffic is not possible. The problem is solved by using a traffic light that regulates the movement by shifting between transport currents. Central Square (must element in every settlement in C. America) and Municipality Building, both, worth additional talk, but a bit later.
At arriving, when we just stepped out of the bus, we were immediately warned.
A white lady of golden age touched my arm with her thin dry fingers:
"Actually is not too safe here," - she said with a low voice, "You'd better be careful with your bags and your wallets. Hide your money into your shoes!".
Wow, what an introduction!
The only Internet Cafe in the city - at least it was in 2005. So, no competition. But it was very cheap and had good connection. Very effective visit indeed.
A security guard at the entrance.
Face-control - and we are allowed to enter.
Inside: There are few girls in folklor skirts are rustling papers. A short swarthy clerk quickly scores banknotes with sausage fingers. (His neck is hidden inside the collar of very white shirt and it seems that the ball of head is growing straight from the collar). There are almost no visitors and we are done very soon. We received wads of Quetzals for our $$$ and now we have to shove small portions of them into different places. "Actually is not too safe here". We are quite indifferent to own safety, but we noted that faces on the street were really criminal. So we'd better be careful (don't put all your eggs in one backet). Packed with cash money we getting out to the street.
Coban Central Square
Most of city "activities" (internet, supermarket, bank, cafes, municipality, etc) are concentrated around the Central Park/Square. It makes sence.
Here is incredible number of shoeshiners and all of them have job - even the shabby lumpen cares to have shiny shoes.
They only work with black wax, but seems no one cares. Red shoes are polished with black wax too. To a mirror shine. But only a bottom part of boots, that peeking out from under pants, tops are left alone.
Farmers in high hats sit on the benches in solid pose, meantime the shoeshiner is doing his work.
There are also crooks with traces of life on their faces. They shooting around with their eyes, sometimes manage conversation in a low voice and then exchange something compact. Packed little. It's not looking entirely innocent. Not my business sure.
Remarkable loafers, dressed like gentlemen, are playing cards in the square or reading newspapers or just discuss news.
Charming. Not kidding, I really think it's charming - it's so pure "the wrong place 2b there" that I almost applaud.
In addition to the human croud, there is a large population of black birds on the square. They are similar to crows, but they are much more elegant: they have sharp subtle beaks and evil yellow eyes. Birds are walking all around the square: on the grass and between the benches, with no fear anything and anyone. Their brilliant-black plumage and bloody audacity immediately evoke associations with the Mafia.
It's still early morning and we are the only white trash there and we are visible like under zoom. We decide to have a breakfast before we are taking a ride North.
This is a little cafe right on central park - look simple and clean, with rustic wooden chairs and tables covered with oilcloths. Food was fresh and OK and coffee was good too. From behind the glass street looks quiet and friendly. We already almost emptied coffee-cups when we heared shots. Oh My God, here it comes. Being ready to every possible scenario, we were not looking for trouble. We are peaceful fellas. Shooting last for some time and then subsided. Soon we seen the participants through the window. On closer inspection, they were children in festive dress. They came from the church and behaved, trying not to stain the dress. It looked like there was a confirmation or other fest. There were no shots, but fireworks. Guatemalans adore fireworks and never miss an opportunity to launch a petard or two, even in the daytime.
Municipality of Coban sits in colonial palace - grandiose and disrepair.
The walls of the hall painted in grass-green color. Hall decorated with portraits of the founders. They all are different sizes and shapes, most are colorful and some black & white. I could not find two identical frames. Portraits hang at different angles, as if the wind was walking inside and crooked them. Actually, it's a reminiscent of a novel of Marquez "The Autumn of the Patriarch" (El otoño del patriarca). I was looking for WC and found the police office - it set right under the stairs. The office consisted of a dilapidated table and shaky chairs. All this was protected with solid metal bars. I kindly greeted the sad policeman in the cage and he pointed me in the direction of the toilet. Toilet happen to be outside of the building, as it were, with entrance from the yard. A dirty hostel was a logical continue of the WC. Yes, you got it right, it was situated at the backyard of the Municipal Building. Half-dressed man were sleepily wandering in the yard, keeping in hands soiled towels - apparently waiting their turn to the shower.
We left Coban with overloaded minibus. It's quite good and direct road between unforgetable Coban and Sayaxche.
SAYAXCHE - is our next stop in the way to Tikal - one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. Landscape in the window was changing from cloudy mountains to flat swampy valley. There were villages, surrounded with banana plantations and corn fields. The way was four hours long.