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Published: August 7th 2007
The bridge to somewhere.....
Wild animals caged within....
The border crossing cost $37 Belize dollars to leave the country. This was the cheapest thing I bought there. I was barely one toe into Guatemala when crafty money exchangers that had official looking homemade Blue Peter type badges ambushed me. The border guards assured me with a confirming wink followed by a nod that they were kosher. Let me tell you they were as kosher as a full fat cheese and bloody roast beef sandwich. I wished to change a £50, as we had no cash on us to go through to Flores and we didn’t know that there was a cash point machine just the other side of no man’s land, they told me the rate was 8.5 Quetzals to the pound. How they fibbed. What they meant was 8.5Q was for the Euro as the true exchange for UK sterling was 15.5 Quetzals. This I found out ages after this event. So I was done out of half the amount.
A robust English tongued child accompanied by two small grown up men grabbed my backpack even though I was still carrying it. They jumped on me trying to sell the tourist bus through to Flores. I had
been a bit clever and researched this part of the onward journey and had understood that these buses cost $65USD, even if it is a whole bus load or just two of us, so when he said $100 USD I laughed so loud buildings trembled some 200 miles away. I got him down to $50, but then didn’t know how many $USD went into these Guatemalan Quetzals. For the next two-hours we tested the suspension on the bus to its maximum as we endured the bumpiest ride ever on route to the idyllic lake type island.
Flores is a wonderful small island on Lake Peten Itza. Founded by the Itzaes on Lake Peten, population 22,000. This was the last functioning Maya ceremonial centre, which was once dominated by pyramids and temples and god type idols, but the Spanish came in 1697 and destroyed everything.
After dark human feet crunch upon plagues of turned over death watch beetles, all legs in the air and helpless. We caught a launcha boat sailed by a crippled father and his sprightly son; they took us across to Petancito zoo, which is another tiny island in the lake. This was a compact zoo,
but resembled the natural environment of the wild. This zoo housed a real sacred jaguar; no wonder the Mayans adored and feared these beautiful creatures, a stunning creature to watch, apart from that day he was visibly upset and paced the lower area repeatedly while making huffing noises. This made my heart reach into his confined small hillside space that was no bigger than a small cinema screening room, considering his size and strength I would rather have seen him freely stride Wembley stadium, but I’d much really rather have seen him back in the wild.
His tiered gardenette looked over another part of the lake and beyond to forests galore which sadly he had no access too, which must be torture for him. It was feeding time at the zoo and the keeper let me get into a cage with the cuddliest looking nocturnal creatures whom I have no idea what they were, that’s until they all smelt the fresh fruit in my bucket and my sweat which was pouring out in buckets, this suddenly woke them up and sent them screeching and clawing me out of their personal space. Pigs, howler monkeys, and a large variety of
tropical birds were caged but available for public viewings.
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