Escape from Cobán

This post is part 4 in a series of posts I am calling Incidents of Travel Past. This post takes us to Cobán in the country of Guatemala in August 2011.

May 2011 saw me graduate from college, and afterwards I worked my last summer at Camp Shohola. I was the Head Counselor. Afterwards, I took a celebratory trip with two of friends from that summer, Tom and Ty (Tom and I last saw each other in January when I stayed at his flat in London for two night), to Guatemala and Belize. We arrived in Guatemala and spent a few days in the city of Antigua. Afterwards we decided that our next stop would be Semuc Champey, a highly recommended river reserve further north in Guatemala. So the three of us booked a room in the nearest city to Semuc Champey, Cobán, and get ourselves on a bus.

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Semuc Champey is a common tourist destination, and many of the other travelers we had met were also headed there (or had already been). Most of them were surprised that we were staying in Cobán, which is still a few hours away from Semuc Champey, not closer to the site. Nevertheless, we had booked a room and had our bus ticket reserved.

When we arrived at the guest house they informed us that they were full, but they had reserved us a room at a sister hotel a few blocks away. They walked us over to the other hotel, where we were shown to our room. We were under-impressed. Within minutes of arriving we decided that we still had time to catch a bus to Lanquín, the town much closer to Semuc Champey, so we went down to the front desk to inform them of our decision to leave. They were not happy. They wanted our payment for the night, which sparked an argument between me and the receptionist, in Spanish. I was pretty fired up and impressed with myself, given that I hadn’t really used my Spanish speaking skills much since leaving Ecuador in 2009. Despite the receptionists demands I insisted that we had never made a reservation at that hotel to stay the night, and that they could keep the small deposit I had paid through the online booking at the other hotel, but that we would not pay any more. Tom and Ty only had a vague idea of what was going on, but I made them go outside and get us a taxi to the bus station.

The receptionist followed me outside to the taxi and if I remember he even tried to take our bags out of the taxi so that we couldn’t leave. Despite his threats that he was going to call the police, we did leave in that taxi (with all of our bags) and we went right to the bus station where we piled into a minibus to Lanquín. I was pretty scared. What if he actually did call the police? We waited and waited for the bus to fill up before it left, but within 15 minutes it did leave.

And then, on the way out of the city, two cops on a motorcycle came up behind the minibus and then pulled it over. I nearly pooped my pants (I think Ty fainted), but they only talked to the driver for maybe 30 seconds before driving off. After we got out of the city my fear subsided, but I didn’t really shake the feeling that something could go wrong until my passport was stamped leaving Guatemala on the Belizean border a week later.

Lanquín and Semuc Champey were excellent. It was really a great decision. The lodge we stayed at was really nice – right on the banks of a gorgeous river, and the other guests were fun to spend time with as well. Semuc Champey was also really cool too. The river cuts through a gorge. At one point it hits some soft rock, so the river cuts under the rock, forming these terraced land bridges that you can swim in. The water is perfectly clear, and we were there on a very nice day as I recall.

Tom, Ty, and I made a series of funny videos during the trip, and I desperately want to find them to post here on my Vlog (truly, they are the forerunners to my current Vlog). Unfortunately, I think they have been lost to the virtual graveyard, victims of my computer-owning hiatus from 2011 to 2012. Every once in a while I search my external hard drive looking for them. If I ever find them I will be sure to load them up because we had a blast making them.

Incidents of Travel Past:

Part 1: Frankfurt, Germany

Part 2: Quito, Ecuador

Part 3: The Greek Isles

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5 Responses to Escape from Cobán

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