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Published: April 25th 2012
Stress free boarder crossing again due to our early morning start and the fact that it was just as cheap to take the taxi instead of the bus, so we did just that and had door to door service at the time we wanted to go to the border of Belize and Guatemala. By 8.15am we'd filled out our tourist questionnaire and paid our exit tax and were in a shuttle bus waiting to travel the 140kms to Flores... ( think we got a bit ripped off but after Belize this place is so cheap you kind of don't mind....) Rather than the chicken buses we have become accustomed to we got to ride in a people carrier that was brand new, only us in it and it reminded me of something the posh business execs of London get chauffeured around in and after 2 weeks of outside showers and composting toilets as Loreal would say 'were worth it´!!!!
So we arrived by 10am and had the full day to enjoy this cute little town, which is both of those adjectives and much more.
Flores itself is an island on a lake, which you get
to via a little bridge. It has a church on top of the hill in the middle, with copious cobbled one way streets and alleys that wouldn't look out of place in Italy, colourful houses like Granada and a lakeside walk all the way around, which takes all of 20 minutes to leisurely stroll it all. To say that the lake is lined with cafe bars would make it sound much bigger than it is but there are a few chilled out places where you can grab a drink, snacks and meals... These are all on the west side of the island so you can watch the sunset over the lake and people watch as they take their evening swim, generally just muck about in the water, fish, take a boat trip .....
When we arrived we checked straight in to our.... Wait for it.... HOTEL!!!! Yes for £14 the price for 1 person to have a bunk bed in a shared dorm in Costa Rica... We had a room with 2 queen sized beds, ensuite bathroom, fan, air con and wait for it again.... HOT WATER!!!!!! Yes we had our first hot shower for 6 weeks!!! Once we'd got
settled in and unsuccessfully attempted a bit of Skyping we went off to explore....
With our natural noses for water as you can imagine we headed strait for the lake, which was all of a 1 minute walk... We hadn't got very far, the corner of the street in fact when we got chatting to an 86 year old local man called Miguel, who wanted to take us out on his boat for the afternoon for a 'special price'.... How could we say no?? So we arranged to meet him at 2pm so we could then spend the afternoon with him as he took us on his boat around the island and over to a wildlife reserve.
We really wanted to check the place out and have a little bit of a mooch but someone had other plans and literally 200m further on we were met by a familiar face running out of a cafe across the way..... It was Brenda and Dana, who we'd been on the island with and who I'd done a lot of dives with. It was great to spend the next couple of hours catching up and getting to know them a bit better... They
are living the dream out in San Pedro, Belize, where they have a little sail boat and get to snorkel everyday.... They have a daughter and son in law who sound just like us and it's a shame we didn't get to meet them, they've been travelling through Mexico and seem to have loads in common with us....
After a while we made our way back to the hotel for a bit of retry of Skyping the parents and managed to get my Dad and Baby Bro, although he's still not sorted Skype out.... And god knows how but managed to get me agree to getting something called Viber instead..... You have a gift for making people run about after you Wayniepain.....
By this time it was almost 2pm and we made our way down to meet Miguel...
The lake is so flat, so you can imagine Jon was setting up a wakeboarding school and having fantasies about riding the glass!!! The wildlife reserve was tiny and the guides spoke no English but we really do know enough now to understand and make ourselves understood, which is great and we saw wild howlers chilling out with the caged spider Monkeys,
macaws, parrots, a caiman, some small turtles, a couple of ocelot which were so cute... One was blind and one has a leg missing bless them... They look like mini leopards .... They've been in there together for 2 years and they were hopeful of babies but no such luck..... We took a walk around the trail with the guide and disturbed a croc who shot off back into the lagoon and made a donation before we headed back to Miguel who was waiting for us on the makeshift dock...... The sun was coming down at this point so the ride over the lake was beautiful and Miguel was great teaching us a bit of Mayan to accompany our Spanish.... He sent us on our way to the Plaza at the top of the hill to get some cheap good grub along with a great view, which we happily obliged as we were starving!!!! As we were passing a travel agents we thought we'd take the guy up on his offer of helping us price up our overnight bus to Guatemala city where we need to be for Saturday. We got chatting and having asked how long we would be
in Guatemala he came up with a suggestion for a better way of making our way through to the city which would give us a bit more of a taste of the country.... So for about £40 per day we have the next 4 days sorted, accommodation, transport, caving, tubing, waterfalls, pools, hikes... You name it, so for that price we couldn't argue .... No need to spend the next few days planning or organising and stressing to make sure we get to the places we need to get to by the times we need to get to.... It's all sorted!
Here's to a week of being a tourist!!!!
We did finally make our way up the hill, ordered some yummy tacos and a couple of beers not to mention the yuk orange stuff Jon ordered which tasted somewhere between warm medicine and sweet warm fruitish flavoured condensed milk.... It was just vile!!! Then headed back down to the lake for a walk around it whilst the sun was setting, finishing up with happy hour Mango Vodkas and Mohitos.....before heading back to the hotel, where we found the entertainment kicking off with some random dancing giant doll dancing to 3
xylophone playing lads and everyone including us belly laughing at the sight!!!
Day 2 involved a really early start to reach Tikal, by 4.30am we were sat waiting outside our hotel for the first bus.... 5.15am we were getting on it!!!
It's about an hour ride to Tikal so we were still amongst the first to get into the national park but not in time to see sunrise, which you can only do now by bribing the guides and camping the night before in one of the 2 hotels that are in the national park. We had a guide for this trip to see if we could get to like ruins more with some enthusiastic, informative story telling.... Tikal really is something, it's huge for a start and as its deep in the jungle you get to see a lot of wildlife. The guide also told us that you can take a night walk around Tikal and into some of the jungle trails with a guide between 6pm and 10pm and have a 70% chance of seeing Jaguars.... Something we'd have definitely done had we known in advance.
There are many Temples here that you can wander around and
climb up to the top of and get great views over the jungle. We also found out that George Lucas had used Tikal and the view from the top of temple IV in one of the Star Wars films, it really is something...
As for wildlife we weren't disappointed either, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, toucan, green parrots, coatimundis..... We also got to see chewing gum trees and sample how chewing gum used to be made before they began making it from petroleum.... Nice! Taste pimiento negro (black pepper) leaves, which is used as a natural antisthetic and it works... Amazing....
We were very glad we'd come early, we almost had the place to ourselves, which is completely contrary to all the horror stories you hear of how busy Tikal is with tourists. The other massive benefit was it was marginally cooler.... Probably only about 40 degrees instead of 50!!! It is so so so hot.....
We spent from about 7am until 12.30pm looking round and by about 11am you were looking for shade... Therefore we were glad to be on that 12.30pm bus back to town, which predictably went at 1pm....
When we got back to town we felt we earned a lazy one and the rest of the day was spent Skyping our lovely parents, staying in the shade and when that sun was coming down, picking a bar with the 2 vital ingredients of great view and happy hour..... And to top off our new found wealth in our first real taste of Guatemala we had a wonderful meal right on the lake and tipped handsomely!
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