Churrasic Park

Coban Travel Blog

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Churrasic Park

Stretching a single planned night into a stay longer than a week, I left my Italian (and Spanish and German) friends and hosts in Cobán, reluctantly departing Guatemala's capital of Churrascerias. Churrasco: delicious plates loaded with slabs of grilled, seasoned meat (puerco my carne of choice) and, depending on the vendor, some combination of rice and beans, hunks of baked potato slathered in sour cream, grilled tomatoes and onions, accompanied by garlic bread sometimes and tortillas always. My favorite comida corrida churrasceria loaded styrofoam plates with all the preceding less the rice and beans, for an absurdly low Q$15. The tough meat worked my jaws, but was so succulent I never ventured into Churrasic Park, the scene of central Cobán's nightly churrasco competition, a series of churrasco-selling carts lining one long side of the zócalo.

I caught a shuttle bus to Antigua yesterday morning, en route enjoying a joint, then a liter of milk and a divine slice of chocolate-caramel cake, reunited and sharing hightimes-hilarity with Paola, a lovely Italian I'd met in Livingston weeks before.

Not only that, but two North Carolinian girls inquired about my Davidson sweatshirt, kickstarting a conversation in which I realized I'd had beers with one of the girls at the Brickhouse, a restaurant-bar back home, a week before this travel began, that she is a good friend of my (currently displaced) fellow adventurer, Jackson, and his sister.

Antigua is a beautiful city, architecturally spellbinding, but it is far from a real representation of Guatemala. Money reveals itself in European sports cars and candlelit dining, a far cry from the favela buildup lining highway hillsides through Guatemala City. Still, my first night here I was offered a job at a restaurant gearing up for tourist high season, so swimming through this volcano-encircled tourist sea for a few months is an option. There is a fabled bakery here, offering an assortment of breads, most importantly pan de banano in cinderblock sized loaves. And cheap dining exists lining central park -- food carts steaming and smoking midday, meat sizzling and tortillas frying, crowded by camera happy tourists and hungry locals jostling for cartfront position. Yesterday's lunch cost me Q$18: a pupusa con queso covered in a colorfully piquant chili of chunked onions, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower; and two tortillas hidden by black beans and steak, then covered with their own array of sauces, topped off by a generous portion of the aforementioned chunk-veggie chili, a popular condiment throughout Central America, often offered jarred on restaurant tabletops.

Today I'm hiking Volcán Pacaya, Antigua's active volcano. Safety regulations don't exist here, and a tourist in the lava is as quickly forgotten as a stench-free fart, his money collected pre-trek.
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photo by: chunfucius