Criss crossing the Alta Verapaz to Coban

Here are a few pictures of our backcountry ride from Poptun to Coban, via Fray Bartolome de las Casas. It was a challenging three day journey, that took us into rugged Alta Verapaz, amongst rocky outcrops and milna, coffee and cardoman plantations, with a detour down to the turquouise-hued, limestone plungepools of Semuc Champey.

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Stormy times. Every afternoon, mushrooming clouds seemed to vie for position as they tumbled over each other…

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…constantly changing, finally releasing a massive downpour that turned banana leaves glossy and filled potholes with muddy water. Refreshing in the lowlands, but cold in the higher elevations.

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After the steamy flatlands of El Peten, we were heading for the crumpled folds of the Guatemalan mountains once more.

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Leaving the highway at San Luis, we turned onto a dirt road that wended its way between steep stacks of tendril-covered outcrops.

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This butterfly seemed to take a fancy to my handlebar grip, pirouetting about it in a graceful dance.

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Heading out of low lying Fray Bartolome de las Casas, the main settlement in the area, on a dirt road scheduled for pavement.

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Morning drizzle flecked our kit with muck, making drinking from gloopy waterbottles less appetising.

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A muddy-spattered bike, running a lightweight touring setup: two small Ortlieb panniers, a Revelate Designs fuel cell, a Porcelain Rocket seat pack and front sling for a roll top bag. But the real question is, how does Cara stay so clean?

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Up and up we climbed, along the dirt and stoney paths of the Alta Verapaz…

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The road seemed to forever disappear round the next bend… A bright and cheery man on a pizza delivery motorbike promised us we were nearly there. He was woefully wrong.

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It was tough going too, steep and loose, challenging our bike handling skills.

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Slowing us down enough to spot this massive beetle trundling across the road.

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More rain. Ah, so Cara does get muddy…

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All this climbing was making us ravernous. Low on supplies, we stopped in a village for fried masarpan, a local, dimpled vegetable the size of a melon. Delicious. Food was cheap here, with five bananas for one Quetzal (about 12c), and the same price for tangerines.

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After the pass, the landscape opened up into these massive tussocked hills; the crops here were coffee, milna and cardomon.

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One of few buses, filled to the gills with passengers, as it lurches its way through this rugged scenery. The valley had a strangely Scottish feel to it. Each village had a clearing with a football pitch, where muddy players were treated to incredible views.

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Generally, we’ve been experiencing hot mornings, and rain showers in the afternoon. Occasionally, we’re blessed with a clear, golden evening… The perfect way to end a day.

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La Tortuga agrees.

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Part of the reason we'd headed this way was to see Semuc Champey, famed for its 300 metre limestone bridge, broken up into a series of idyliic pools perfect for swimming.

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Water flows both beneath the whole limestone bridge, disappearing in an almighty, roaring, frothing torrent into darkness…

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…and at the same time, above ground, from one mellow crystal clear pool to the next. The perfect way to wash off all that dust and grime…

5 thoughts on “Criss crossing the Alta Verapaz to Coban

  1. gyatsola

    I had to wait until I got to Elkhorn hot springs and a dip in the hot baths here before I could comment on this – I’d be too jealous otherwise! Those pools look amazing. although I can only imagine how tough the riding was if you considered it ‘challenging’. I think your ‘challenging’ would be my ‘impossible’, or ‘sheer hell’.

    I think Cara secretely sprays herself with Teflon, its the only explanation.

    Reply

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