...good morning monkeys!
Surprise, surprise, this new adventure kicks off with yet another ridiculously long bus ride! Always trying to see the positives in life, I was counting my lucky stars that it wasn't another 5am start, the bus was not full and the roads were much better than they were on the way to Semuc. A win, win if you ask me! All in all, it was comfortable enough (well, as good as it gets really when you are cramped into a mini van for 8 hours). But I did have some great bus mates, so the banter was good and made the ride go by much faster.
Flores is a town on an island in the state of Peten in Guatemala. Most people visit Flores based on its proximity to Tikal as it is only an hours drive away. Flores itself is very small and can be very easily covered by foot in about fifteen minutes. It´s quite a picturesque little village and aside from snapping a few photos, doing a boat tour of the island, and a few visits to the street food ladies at the shoreline for some divine Guatemalteca food on the cheap, there isn´t much to it! With that being said, it´s quite comical that we spent four nights here. Sometimes being lazy is necessary.
We didn't arrive into Flores until around 5pm. Once we checked into our hostel (Los Amigos), and had a few drinks, it wasn't long until dinner time. I kept hearing rumours from other travellers about the food being fantastic at Los Amigos. And it was! I cannot tell you how nice it is to finally have "control" over what I am eating again. As great as the food was with Maria in San Pedro, it was certainly nice to be able to eat a bit more western and as dictated by my mood. Safe to say, I know that I would definitely be avoiding a tortilla for a while. As delicious as Maria´s tortillas were, I was suffering from a pretty severe case of a tortilla burn-out.
Following dinner, Alessandro (who is very familiar with Flores as visits often for business), gave Felix and I a tour of the island and showed us a few hot spots for drinks. We ended up settling in at the tallest rooftop bar in Flores, a whopping three storeys, for a beautiful view of the mainland (Santa Elena) and of course the lake. A few Cuba Libres later, and it was passed my bedtime.
The second day was a wash out (weather wise, not based on my previous nights festivities!), and to be honest, I was very pleased about it. I hadn't been online while at Utopia so was in desperate need for an admin day where I could get caught up with the basics. Who knew travelling involved so much admin?! I happily camped out at Los Amigos all afternoon and into the early evening armed with my iPad and travel guides whilst also counselling Felix about a possible five day trek into the jungle to see El Mirador (a journey that is certainly not for the faint of heart...and notorious for hellacious bugs! Get your Raid cans ready folks...). Despite the day being the epitome of laziness, it was very productive (hello Captain Organised, you don´t show up too often!) and was also able to meet quite a few characters while I was there who also provided some great entertainment and served as an invaluable resource for what to do next and where to stay.
Even though the third day in Flores wasn't much more productive than the last, Felix, the ideas man that he is, had managed to organise a booze cruise for a few of our mates that we had made over the past few days. Enrique, the "Captain", was a local (and an absolute character at that - let´s just say that he is incredibly relaxed and likes to spend his afternoons hanging with MJ on the lake) that we had met the previous day during a brief glimpse of being active when we managed to peel ourselves off the couches and hammocks and go for a walk around Flores. He told us that he would take charge 150Q for an hour of cruising around the lake and we could bring up to six others and beers if we liked. It didn't take long to recruit five other people, and we were off for a lovely afternoon booze cruise through the lake.
It was an early night that evening as we had a 3am start the following day. After two days of being couch potatoes, we had finally decided to do what we came to Flores to do, see Tikal!
Tikal was the largest Mayan cities in the Classical Era, about 1,000 years ago. It dates back as far as 400BC and at around 900AD was eventually abandoned and entirely consumed by the jungle. It was rediscovered in the mid 1800s, and re-excavation began in the 1960s. It is certainly a very impressive site to visit being amidst the jungle as it is surrounded by lush flora. Even more impressive would be to visit it being the only one in the park, I imagine it would be quite a surreal and tranquil experience.
In hindsight, seeing Tikal at sunrise in the low season probably wasn't the greatest idea. You cannot actually see the sun coming up, it is more like a gentle lifting of the foggy haze that surrounds the temples. Even though the photos of sunrise aren't very clear (nor impressive), what was incredibly impressive was to hear the animals waking up in the jungle. The howls and crows are absolutely amazing and like nothing I have heard before. I could not get over the noise the howler monkeys were making for such small creatures! It has definitely gotten me very excited to get into the jungle in South America.
Following the tour of Tikal, Felix and I made our way to the local bus station in Santa Elena where we took a five hour bus to Rio Dulce. We weren´t entirely sure what would unfold in Rio, but it sounded nice...so porque no?! (That´s why not, in Spanish...and has become my life motto since travelling)...who says this blog isn´t educational?!
Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are!
Some top Guatemalan engineering here! Alessandro showed us where half of the island is permanently under water due to an expansion of the island that was made a few years back...a big ooooopppppssss!
A few snaps of Flores during my very fleeting moment of activity...one of the few times I managed to peel myself off one of the hammocks!
Church in Flores
Flores from the water...
Fisherman on the lake during out ¨booze cruise¨
I´m quite proud of my photog skills here....Chris diving into the lake! Talk about action shot...right before the gigantic belly flop!
The shore of another tiny island in the lake...there is just a resort here...
The sunrise (cough, cough...lifting of the fog!)...And this is one of the better photos!
Mayan temples amidst the jungle...
Jungle overgrown ruins...
Monkeys everywhere! And they are so noisy! You woudln´t believe the noises they make when they are ¨waking up¨.
One of the two main temples in the main plaza.
The ¨famous¨temple at Tikal...
Etchings in the stone of one of the temples...
Tarantulas everywhere!!! Not for the faint of heart...they´re actually quite placid (apparently), not that I was willing to test out the claim!