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.
Stormy times. Every afternoon, mushrooming clouds seemed to vie for position as they tumbled over each other…
…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.
After the steamy flatlands of El Peten, we were heading for the crumpled folds of the Guatemalan mountains once more.
Leaving the highway at San Luis, we turned onto a dirt road that wended its way between steep stacks of tendril-covered outcrops.
This butterfly seemed to take a fancy to my handlebar grip, pirouetting about it in a graceful dance.
Heading out of low lying Fray Bartolome de las Casas, the main settlement in the area, on a dirt road scheduled for pavement.
Morning drizzle flecked our kit with muck, making drinking from gloopy waterbottles less appetising.
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?
Up and up we climbed, along the dirt and stoney paths of the Alta Verapaz…
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.
It was tough going too, steep and loose, challenging our bike handling skills.
Slowing us down enough to spot this massive beetle trundling across the road.
More rain. Ah, so Cara does get muddy…
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.
After the pass, the landscape opened up into these massive tussocked hills; the crops here were coffee, milna and cardomon.
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.
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.
La Tortuga agrees.
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.
Water flows both beneath the whole limestone bridge, disappearing in an almighty, roaring, frothing torrent into darkness…
…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…