The trip Wednesday from Rio Dulce Town to Flores on Lago de Peten Itza was yet another interesting Guatemalan journey. After disembarking from our lancha, we grabbed a pizza at a river-side restaurant and then busted ass to catch the 1:30 bus to Flores. Flores is on the southern side of Lago de Peten Itza and is a common launch point to head out to Tikal, which is about an hour away. We actually had no intention of staying in Flores - we were planning on immediately heading to a much smaller town called El Remate on the northern side of the lake (30 minutes from Tikal) to avoid some of the gigantic tour buses and the gigantic tourist prices.
However, here's what really happened: we arrived for the 1:30 bus and were told that it would be coming soon. At 2:15, we realized that we were actually waiting for the 2.30 bus. At 2:45, we were told that the 2:30 bus would be here soon, but it was completely full (Rio Dulce Town is on the road between Guatemala City and Flores, and the buses are often jam packed). We were offered the "especial" bus for 50 Q more (about $6) which would take us directly to Flores at 3:00 and would not be full. At about this time, the 2:30 bus passed, and we could see that, indeed, the bus was packed full of people both sitting and standing. We decided on the 3:00 "especial". Around 3:30, the 3:00 "especial" came rolling in. We all jumped aboard this air conditioned wonder and proceeded down the road.
The first time the police stopped the bus was a little bizarre. They came on board, wandered to the back of the bus and took 10 to 15 people off the bus, including my seat mate (not Sam). Fifteen minutes later, the 10 to 15 people reboarded the bus, muttering about having to pay 50 Q each to the police. The second time we were stopped, I didn't even dig for my passport. The same group of people was taken off the bus and forced to pay another 50 Q. Upon further discussion with my seat mate, I learned that he and the others were all from Honduras and were making their way to the US to work. Since they didn't have Guatemalan passports, the police were just taking little tips for allowing them to travel. The next stop was at some sort of inspection point where we all got off the bus and the police went through people's bags looking for "cheese and fruits". We finally reached Flores around 6:45 and were told that it was very unsafe to try to travel to El Remate at this hour.
So, Flores it was for the first night. Our hotel was actually quite nice and had a great terrace looking out over the lake. We had some really good food for both dinner and breakfast, but by 11:00 on Thursday, we were on a bus to El Remate. Acting on a tip from somebody that Hemp and Angie had met, we ended up getting a room at the Sun Breeze Hotel, which turned out to be an awesome tip. The owner, Umberto, was one of the more chilled out people I've met. The room was cozy and had a hammock out front. The lake was a few steps away and was great for swimming. The restaurant was delicious and cheap. There were a couple really big spiders to share the area with us. What else does one look for in a hotel?
(Just a quick testament to Umberto's chill-outitudeness: I dove into the lake with the only key to a padlock on our hotel door in my suit pocket. When I told Umberto, he just smiled and said "Tranquilo, no hay problema. No tienes pena." First we ripped the screen in back so that I could crawl in and see if the key was there. It wasn't. Next, I went to the lake and endured some heckling from the locals while hunting for the key. Not there. Next, we took turns with Angie's metal saw and cut through the damn lock. Umberto never stopped smiling.)
Friday morning, we were up at 5:00 to catch the 5:30 bus to Tikal. Tikal is not only a world heritage site and one of the largest Mayan cities that has currently been excavated, but more importantly, it was in Star Wars Episode IV. And it kicks a fair amount of tail, to sound ever-so-sophisticated. We were some of the first people to enter the park, and we were treated to howler monkeys playing in the trees and letting out some hellacious roars. You never would imagine such a little monkey could make such a freaky noise. We managed to get to most of the temples and have a fair amount of time to ourselves, but in the late morning, quite a few tour buses showed up and the North Acropolis became the North Acrapolis. No, I'm just kidding - it was absolutely amazing, but we really wanted to rent the park for a day and wander on our own, is that so wrong? Check the pictures, because I suck at describing big, ancient temples.