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Published: February 11th 2011
8th of February already and this was the end of the Belize adventure. That morning, I was packing my bag and going to Guatemala – the country I was looking forward to the most out of the whole trip. Still on a high from the previous day's experience and following the Lonely Planet's advice (start early) I left at about 8am. I knew I had to get the bus to the border town of Benque, about 12km away from San Ignacio. From there it was 3km to the border (Bz$10 in a taxi). After that, I had to cross on foot and get a bus or colectivo on the Guatemalean side to carry on the journey to El Remate, a village about 20 miles from Tikal.
The wait for the bus wasn't too long – maybe 15 minutes – which wasn't a surprise as I had been advised they were running every half an hour. As I got on, I noticed a tourist looking couple (pale white) so I asked them if they were going to Guatemala but they weren't. My ploy to share a taxi was flawed... I was thinking of walking the 3km but the weather wasn't looking too
good (grey and spitting) so I wasn't entirely sure. The bus ride was Bz$1.50 but the guy didn't want to give me change on Bz$10 so he took all my change instead (Bz$1.35). By the time I jumped off the bus, the rain hadn't worsened so I decided walking was the best plan of action (at least I wouldn't die of heat stroke) and I ignored all the taxi drivers wanting to give me a lift. I had Bz$12 left in my pocket and I knew the exit tax was more than that, but I was confident I could pay a part in US$. The walk took a good half hour, some of it uphill and by the time I got to the border I was dripping with sweat (and a bit of rain too). I entered the immigration building and paid my exit fee (Bz$37.50 including the bit to help save the planet) so I gave my last 12 Bz$ and paid the rest in US$, good work again with the currency. Getting my passport stamped was no issue and I was through in minutes. At the Guatemala end, the guy told me I had to pay 20 Quetzales
(approx Q13 to £1) or US$3. I told him it wasn't true and there was nothing to pay, but I wasn't surprised as I'd heard of this “scam” happening regularly. In the end, I had to pay, otherwise I'd still be standing there, but I left (with my stamped passport and $3 less in my pocket) wondering what it said about the rest of the country if the border control staff was corrupt. I'll have to double check that it really is a scam when I get an internet connection... At least he gave me directions to a cash point so that I could get some Quetzales, as I knew there was no ATM in the village I was going to. That was another uphill walk (not too far this time) and by the end I'd had enough of walking with the backpack. I got some cash and then jumped on a colectivo which was heading to Flores (where most people stay before going to Tikal). That meant I had to get off somewhere called Ixtul and then walk a further 2km to El Remate. The driver was really nice and made me sit at the front so I could
see the landscape and we had a nice chat for the duration of the journey (about an hour). When we got to the crossroad Tikal/Flores, I hopped off and paid my Q25. Then I walked (did I mention I'd had enough of walking by then?) until I got to the village. I'd written down a few names of hostels and guest-houses supposedly costing Q25 a night but when I got there, they were all more expensive than that. In the end I settled for the cheapest I'd found at Q40 for a triple room all to myself, share bathrooms and no hot water. When I asked if there was a kitchen I could use, the lady said I could use the family kitchen but it was basic. I didn't mind, as long as I had a stove, that would be OK for me.
After dropping my bags, I went to buy some food. There were many little private shops along the road and I got bits and bobs from each one, spending about £3 in the end for 2 full days worth of provisions (it's the big box of Corn Flakes that killed the bill). I returned to the hotel
to drop off the shopping and then went back out to explore the village.
El Remate, consists of one main road (the road leading to Tikal) alongside the Peten Lake. At one point it branches off into a lakeside road going all the way around (it's a big lake, you couldn't walk the distance). I went along the lake, going near the water whenever possible, walking along all the different piers, saying hello to strangers (that's how you know you're in a village) and having a chat with 2 North American ladies. All in all, I walked about 4km along the lake, taking pictures whenever the opportunity arose, before turning back and returning to the hotel at around 4.30pm.
After a well deserved (but freezing cold) shower, I headed back out, just in time to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, the sky was just too cloudy and there was very little to see, so I slowly headed back, hoping for a better view the following day. Back at the posada, I went to cook my meal and had a nice chat with the lady of the house while doing so. After the food, I retired to my room for an early
night as I was setting the alarm for 4.30am in order to catch the first bus to Tikal at5.30 (gets you to the park for roughly 6am, time at which the park opens and best moment of the day to observe wildlife).
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