Guatemala offers an astonishing diversity of spectacular landscapes. In two weeks we‘d visited high mountains and colonial cities, lush cloud forest and active volcanoes, deep lakes and limestone valleys.
Packed into a relatively small country the views change all the time, giving the impression that you are a member of a theatre audience enraptured by a fantastical play in which the range of possible scenery hanging in the wings is limited only the by creative power of the human imagination.
Now, amongst the coffee plantations of Coban, it was time to change the scenery again.
We headed north, down out of the cool mountain air of the Alta Verapaces onto the sticky plains of the Peten.
We left the highland Maya for their cousins in these lowlands, a vast area of thick tropical forests, stretching down from Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula into the most northerly department of Guatemala.
Our bus followed a lonely road, winding through wild lands where the scenery changed by the hour, from high mist-clad cloud forests into gently undulating hills before flattening out inside a landscape of swamp, savannah and, of course, jungle.
The change of climate was reflected in the local produce on display and growing all around us. Gone was the green palette of the coffee plant and avocado tree; usurped by tropical tones of yellow, the coconut palm and the banana plant.
The fresh air and clear skies of Coban gave way to brooding clouds followed by heavy rain; the air grew thick and humid, an uncomfortable gloop into which the gringos swam, visibly perspiring.
Even the locals have had to adapt, the local Maya woman here eschewing the heavy, intricately embroidered blouses and shawls of the highlands for lighter blouses in shades of yellow, blue and pink.
They worked under the blazing sun in scruffy little villages comprised of modest dwellings, many with roofs thatched with palms, all with rough wooden planks for walls.
Their kids ran around barefoot in the dirt, wrestling with each other in the road, apparently unconcerned about the odd vehicle which plied its way in their direction.
We crossed the a large river at Sayaxche, wobbling across on a rickety little pontoon as minibus drivers watched us from the shore, washing their charges in the muddy waters. Roads felt less permanent here, their existence dependent on the whims of nature.
Flores greeted us like a gated community for tourists, the small island on which it stands linked to the more raffish town of Santa Elena, where locals preyed on new arrivals with promises of jaguar safaris and sunrises over Maya temples.
A newer temple stood guard at the entrance to the Western enclave: Burger King, bright, plastic and shiny. RIP tortillas and salsa.
We left and fled to the village of El Remate, some thirty clicks out on the road to Tikal. A string of flimsy buildings lined the road, chickens pecked in the dirt, goats played chicken with the traffic.
No aggressive touts here - only gentle locals who merrily greeted us as they rode slowly past on old bicycles. They were all Mayan except for one storekeeper - the first Creole we’d met, a reminder that Belize was only a couple of hours further down the road.
We holed up at a rundown old guesthouse, its hippyfied glory days long past, garish murals fading, fantastical plasterwork cracking, boho furniture broken.
Geckos clucked away from the walls of our room as rats fought in the ceiling above.
We retreated to the old sun terrace and perched on a couple of cracked plastic chairs as the sun bid us a spectacular goodnight over the still waters of Lago de Peten Itza.
Geese called up to us from the shoreline, frogs sang out and somewhere - perhaps - the fabled crocodiles of the lake gulped down another unfortunate fish.
Bats swept down amongst us, silhouetted in the orange glow, and all around the forests hummed with insects and echoed to the calls of a thousand exotic birds.
On with the next Act…