In Antigua there was a bit of a mare with buses meaning I didn’t get into my next town until 11pm on Saturday. The transport to Lanquin reminded me of a clapped-out school minibus and I was sat next to a couple who clearly viewed deodorant as a non-essential travel item..
The route took us from the (relatively) built up cities of Guatemala, up towards the rainforest region. This was the time when it sunk in that the country is home to thousands of people who live away from everyday society, and largely subsist from the nature around them. If you were to look at a map, there is often just one road that goes to a whole region in the country. We stopped off in Coban, a town that acts as a hub in the centre. Driving through at night, a set of big yellow arches was visible from the main street indicating that it had received some Westernization. 50 or so kilometres later (Guatemalans are metric) was not quite the same.
The bus slowed down as it approached a sign saying “Lanquin 11”. Excellent, I thought, we’re on the home straight. It was over an hour however before I reached my hostel. The ‘road’ was a cut out trail through the forest. We submitted to the driver knowing best, although at times he was often a touch cavalier with the accelerator pedal. On several occasions the brakes were slammed, leaving us on the edge of our seats (in both senses) but he would then be able to make a swift manoeuvre and get us back on track (again, in both senses).
The town is an interesting one. It seems to have been flattened out of the jungle, and acts as one would expect any rural community, with the addition of a few hostels to accommodate for the likes of yours truly. There is a pharmacy, a bank and a number of small shops selling drinks and crisps etc. I also stumbled upon a little shack on the roadside, peered in, and saw a family making tortillas (the most common foodstuff here, basically emulsified maize and water) in a couple of massive buckets to sell to the local businesses.
However I was also hit by how the younger generation were different to their elders. On the bus trip back from Semuc Champey (see 5.3.1) I saw two things within 10 minutes (remember the minimal distance that would be travelled in that time) that seemed the opposite ends of the spectrum. First was a family washing their clothes in the river and returning to their shack on the river bed, the second was the young teenagers of Lanquin playing Call of Duty in the town’s Internet Cafe. It seemed odd because it felt that we had gone through another world to reach this town (we were still bang in the middle of a rainforest) and yet here was a set of kids doing what I’d expect to see at home.
So this is more my first record of remote Guatemalan rural life. There is one road in and out of Lanquin, and the next serious habitation is 2+ hours in either direction. Apologies to those who got this far looking for Profile Picture contenders, they will be uploaded in the adjacent blog 5.3.1 Semuc Champey.