Guatemala: Flores and the Tikal ruins

20-23/08/2013

Flores

13 Bel$, that’s how close San Ignacio is from the Belizean-Guatemalan border.  We change our queen Elisabeth faced Belizean dollars with one of the many, promising the best rate to get, persons into Guatemalan Quetzals.  We fetch a combibus for 60Q (quetzals: 1€= 9,8Q) and the next thing we know is us, sitting with 18 others for 3 hours long direction Flores.  The bus stops, somebody gets out, 5 minutes later: bus stops, 2 more get in… all the way long.  I have seen sardines in a tin can with more comfort and space!!!  The streets left long behind us, the suffering vehicle searches his way between bumps, rocks and puddles, which can just be a thin layer of muddy water but as well an abyss competing with some oceans deepness.  We observe the evergreen landscape gliding by the windows with detail, having time, offered by slowness, to point out the remarkable sights.  Arriving at the bus stop of Santa Helena, we have a drink to get rid of the tuc-tuc-taxi drivers verbally struggling to get us in their vehicle for 20/25Q.  We avoid the ‘innocent tourist’ moment they are hoping for and ask to the bartender what the prices are and were to take a transport.  So we stop a tuc-tuc on the street, pay 10Q and have a ride to the island of Flores, situated in the middle of the Petén Lagoon.

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We go to the hostel Los Amigos, in the center of the small islet.  As we pass the entrance we feel like entering Nirvana.  Young travelers passing by, eating, drinking, chatting and chairing stories, card games and board games surrounded by crowds, experiences are told, advice given, prices compared.  It’s backpackers’ paradise.  This must be the place where backpackers go when they die, this is heaven.  We get a private ‘tree house’ without windows as room, on an inside patio that looks like a wild jungle.  The first hotel of its kind, as far as we can remember, that has the possibility to charge on the room bill.  In our case the tree house-bill.  The kitchen a bit slow and not the cheapest but the finest for those who want to eat something normal, plenty and recognizable after months of tacos, burritos, frijoles and deep fried pre-fab food.  The arrival day we just enjoy the ambient and possibilities of the hostel.

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The second day we change some euros to cover our stay in Guatemala.  The quetzal is around 10Q each €, which is very good comparing the year balance, so the perfect moment!  Later on the day we take a small taxi boat and cross the lake to get (not after a mini hike) to ‘the beach’.  A spot at the lake with white stones where we enjoy some swimming, reading, swimming, reading, reading, swimming… you get the idea? 😉 a beautiful view over the lake decors our day.

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The third day we visit the ruins of Tikal, the most important of Guatemala.  A perfect day prepared by the hostel: 125Q each for the transport both ways, 150Q entrance each to pay at the entrance of the ruins and one of the best guides we’ve had since the start of our trip.  Full of passion, as the teacher he is, Julio explains different concept s and remarkable parts of the ruins, highlighting the details which make Tikal so special.  Julio guides us through the labyrinthic jungle paths explaining the atrocities of nature’s fauna and flora.  We see a family coatis looking for their dinner, tucans, howler monkeys, spider monkey groups, wild turkeys, tarantulas and so on.

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He explains us the influence of Teotihuacan in Tikal as we can perceive and compare after so many ruins visited.   But never have we seen pyramids so vertical build.  With their, in comparison with other sites, small bases they rise high in the sky.  The highest of them peeking out of the dense forest canopy.  At the ceremonial center, under the eye of the ‘Templo del Gran Jaguar’ we get a short break so we can sit down and get a good imprint on our retina.  At dusk we climb one of the highest pyramids to get a sunset with views over the oceanic horizon of forest green with pyramids…  when there wouldn’t be those damn clouds!!!   Well, you cannot always be lucky.  Julio, in act of desperation, brings us to another pyramid, hoping for s to see the moonrise.  The good thing about clouds is that they don’t discriminate… they block the sun going down exactly the same way as they block the moon coming up!!!

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It’s rain season… what can we say?  Two spaghettis and a conversation with Carlos, a hardcore traveler from Madrid giving the hostel website an update, is a fine way to close the day.  The fourth day we find Carlos who want to check a place for some photos for the website.  He invites us and a British girl, Jessica, to go with a canoe to the other side of the lake where we can use the ‘rope-swing’ for 10Q a whole day long.  A rope attached at a tree growing over the lake gives us a swing as we jump from different places and heights.  There is this alone standing house where a friendly family lives.  They make some lemonade for us and the kids proudly show us how it’s properly done.  This is everyday playground for them and swing till eight meter high above the lake while for us it is already hard enough to have a correct landing in the water!  It is contagious and addictive and it is not until I hit the surface with a flat back, that I consider a short break.  It is as each afternoon raining hard.  For a while lightings fill the sky over Flores and thunders are barking loud.  We see the spectacle from the other side of the lake, from a unique side of the lake.

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That evening back on Flores we eat with Carlos and Jessica some tacos, tamales and fried with frijoles filled bananas for 5Q each order on the street just aside the lake.  We make a last walk at the shore of the lake and the small town.  We end in the hotel playing some games with the Dutch owner. We have great loughs and almost consider staying a day longer.  With the sound of the last raindrops hitting the ground, with a thin breeze slinking through the banana leafs and palms we fall asleep in our tree house.  The squirrels crossing our room from window to window will miss us… and the bread they borrowed from us.

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