We arrived fairly late in this tiny little town called Flores. It has bright houses and buildings and cobbled streets and feels very European. The town is situated on an island in the middle of a lake and is very small- we walked around it in about 20 min!
After arriving and getting settled and showered we joined up with our friend Stuart (Dutch) for a super chilled dinner on the lake’s edge. A note about the showers: this was our first experience with what Stuart calls “electric shock showers” which means that there are two cables that go to the shower head and one tap and every time you have to turn off the shower or change the temperature, you get an electric shock. Not ideal. It was also therefore not really surprising that there was then an electrical fire in the hostel and that the electricity was out for the rest of the night after that!
With the power out we wandered around the town and after dinner hit the sack early after a long day of travelling. We also went to bed early because the next morning we were getting up at 4am to head to the old Mayan city of Tikal.
We sprung up (not really) at 4am and were collected at 4.30 (more like 5.45) by a mini bus taxi who took us through to Tikal where we arrived at 6am on the dot, which is when the park opens.
There we met an English speaking guide, Caesar, who took us on a 4 hour tour of the ruins which included watching the mist clear whilst sitting on top of an ancient Mayan ruin. The tour was brilliant and I think we were really lucky to get the guide that we did. He was extremely over educated and had a lot of knowledge not only about the Mayans but about other ancient and tribal cultures, so he continually made comparisons and references to other parts of the world and their cultures.
He pointed out a lot of things about the need to maintain power and how that was done and there was a lot of talk about the various reasons why the Mayan civilization decreased the way it did (incest, droughts, disease etc). There was also a fair amount of discussion about the whole thing about the Mayan calendar coming to an end in 2012, and the symbols and meanings that may exist therein.
We were absolutely shattered after that and after taking a quick walk to get some ice creams- I had probably the best coke float that I have ever had- we headed back to the hostel and passed out.
The next day we headed off to Lanquin on a supposed 7 hour bus trip. This slowly turned into a 10 or 11 hour trip... Firstly, we stopped for over two hours because a child in one of the villages on the road had been hit by a truck the day before. The locals therefore, with the assistance of the police, systematically shut down the road and created a massive traffic jam in order to get donations towards the child’s healthcare.
Shortly thereafter we came around the corner to find that a petrol tanker had over turned across the whole road and a truck was busy trying to move it. Included in all of this was the continued presence of men coming out of the jungle with pangas to go and assist the truck. We’ve got no clue how the guys might have helped- but nevertheless they kept coming!
We finally arrived in Lanquin and at Zephyr Lodge in the dark: cold, tired and grumpy. There we were met by really friendly staff and were very quickly made to feel at home. The hostel is fairly new but already very popular and it was obvious why when we woke up in an awesome room overlooking misty mountains and rivers. The additional bonus to Zephyr is that the food there is absolutely delicious and not over priced!
We had a really great time in Lanquin: It is really beautiful- very rain foresty and mountainous and everyone is extremely chilled and friendly and we were lucky to meet up with some fantastic people.
We had one big day of activities where we went caving and up to these pools called Semuc Champey. The caving experience was slightly more adventurous than we had bargained for because it had been and continued to rain so the caves were very full and there were rushing currents around every corner. Essentially, you go against your every instinct and you climb, bikini and slip slop clad, into caves and explore them by swimming through them with a candle. At points you feel like Shmeegle from Lord of the Rings because it is pitch dark save for your candle and you clamber up and over large, dark slippery rocks. The experience was all in all fairly intense but nevertheless a great one!
We then put our sopping wet kit back on and hiked up to Semuc Champey (google it!) which is a natural bridge of 300m over a river and you swim in the deep turquoise pools hanging over a dark rushing river. There are natural slides and great jumps, so you swim from pool to pool sliding and jumping and diving into each pool as you go.
To add to our already fairly bizarre and sopping day, the Guatemalan army suddenly crept out of the bushes while we were swimming in the pools. They marched across the river with massive automatic rifles to where other people from the hostel were having a farewell party for one of the staff members. Next thing you know, they were taking photos of each other with the staff and stripping off to their underpants and swimming and taking photos of themselves in their jocks with their guns. All a bit surreal and bizarre!
That night we had an absolutely huge party as our group celebrated the day that was and the staff celebrated their friend who was leaving. All in all this amounted to a great night of loads of interesting dance moves and good times!
We spent the next day recharging our systems and just hanging in the hammocks and staring out to the mountains and the river. People have to leave Lanquin really early and only arrive late, so the hostel is always empty and quiet during the day, which is great. Sitting there contemplating our navels, we realised how much we have already packed into such a short time away and how great it has been!
We sadly left the next day, foolishly refusing the option of a free night’s stay, in order to trundle off to Antigua to get in some Spanish training...
We have planned to do a week and we’ll see how it goes!!!
Hope everyone reading this is well and happy, please keep all the news and emails coming in- we really appreciate them!
We can’t upload any more photos until after the 8th of January, so there are just a few photos here now- we’ll put up the rest of the selection in a few days’ time... In the meantime there will be a dump of pictures on Facebook too!