02 February 2012

Up the river without a paddle

Day 9 of our trip found us up early and walking on the beach back to the docks in Livingston. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming up...back on the road...errrr beach

Mike taking in the morning air

Team Hare, still in the lead.
 Currently, in our contest to visit every country in the world, I am in the lead, so Mike has been referencing the Tortoise and the Hare. He even had shirts made...very clever Kennedy. As I pointed out, thats just a fable...in real life the hare always wins, turtles are fucking slow.

We got into town and sat down for a quick breakfast of coffee, eggs and poop.


Ok, its actually coffee, eggs and beans...not poop...and it was surprisingly delicious.

Then we hustled down to the dock to catch a 930am boat up the Rio Dulce (Sweet River).


 We took the boat about 20 miles up the river to the town of Fronteras. Along the way we passed locals paddling their cayucos, many bringing goods to market, as well as some pretty impressive scenery.


6 miles of the trip was in a gorge with 300ft high sides covered with exotic trees like mahogany and teak.

Our boat had some other tourists on it as well...like the German guy in the background who was apparently chilly....lol.


We had been looking forward to this part of the trip as a highlight....and it was.

...a boat ride up a river into Guatemala...derrrrrrr ok!

Eventually, the river opened up into El Golfete, a long narrow lake.


It was a nice trip. You can take other slower touristy boats up the river, but 2 hours was plenty. Besides we had places to go!

The plan was to get to Fronteras catch a local bus, a chicken bus as tourists call them, to Flores in the North of Guatemala. Buses usually stop in Fronteras every hour or so. Unfortunately, they were always full, so we ended up waiting around for ever. We opted to buy tickets on the more expensive ($10) express bus that runs from Guatemala City throu Fronteras at 2:30pm, on its way to Flores. Of course the bus didn't arrive until 430pm, but our long ordeal was over...and we were on our way to Flores.

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I slept for 1 hour of the 5 hour ride, and then the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation...in Spanish. It was difficult at first, as he had no English at all, but after a while, we both got really into it. I broke out my books and we were able to communicate quiet well. We talked/signed/gestured for the better part of 2 hours, which ate up a good portion of the trip. This trip was getting more interesting by the day!

Flores, Guatemala



Situated on an island in Lake Peten Itza, Flores was the home of last independent Mayan holdouts against the Spanish. It wasn't conquered until 1697!

Today Flores is small (population 13,000) and is mainly a tourist gateway to Tikal National Park further north.

We had the name of a local hostel, and had emailed them from Livingston, but had no confirmation of rooms. Luckily enough when we got there, our lovely host Maria had saved us two beds in one of the dorms.



Los Amigos Hostel in Flores....one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in....seriously.


Hostels these days are not just dorms full of beds. This one had a huge open courtyard common area.


It was a great place to hang out and meet people.


Its always great when the place your staying is a place you can hang out. In fact, lots of people from other hostels were coming to our hostel to hang out.


...and who better to hang out with than the Irish....they are everywhere!


We met Connor (above) and Kerryanne (below)....turns out Kerryanne is good friends with one of our good  friends in Ireland, Rebecca! What are the chances of meeting up in Guatemala!




We of course had a good laugh, and immediately posted this picture to Rebeccas facebook page..."hey, hangin out in Guatemala with Kerryanne...see ya"

In addition to the great atmosphere and coincidental bumping into friends of friends....the hostel had amazing food!

Fruit, scrambled eggs with veggies, plantans and beans...and some strong coffee...yum yum

One night the dinner special was a Burrito...it should have said Burrito Gigante!
Ok hostel, its been great, but we didn't come all the way to Northern Guatemala for burritos..

We came for Tikal.


Tikal. One of the largest urban centers of pre-Columbian Mayan civilization.

A huge complex of thousands of structures, only a fraction of which have been excavated.


Mike and I walked around all morning, criss crossing the jungle and hitting all 6 of the major pyramids.

Very impressive Mayans, you industrious builders you.


The Grand Plaza is incredible...you cant help but picture what life must have been like here during the height of Mayan civilization 1500 years ago.

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You could easily spend several days at Tikal...hell, you could spend a lifetime studying Tikal. It's amazing.


At its peak, a population of 75,000 to 90,000! Wow!

The big deal, literally, at Tikal is Temple 4...the tallest pyramid in the Americas. You can climb to the top via a wooden staircase built up the side. Its worth the climb. You can see the other pyramids poking out of the jungle canopy. Beautiful.


It was also one of the sets from the first Star Wars movie in 1977.

I found the Rebel Base on Yavin 4...its in Guatemala!


It was definitely a highlight of our trip. We were glad we made the extra effort to get to Tikal.


Just hiking through the jungle was great. I can't imagine hacking my way through it as a conquistador...no way Jose.


Sadly, we had to leaveTikal and get back to Flores....the next morning we had to hit the road again.



Stay tuned...next up, Belize!