Tikal and Eternal Travellers

2 09 2010

We got the 5am bus to Tikal that morning (I’d unilaterally decided that the 4:30am one was too early: it’s not like we’d get to the ruins in time for sunrise either way and that extra half’s sleep is crucial). There were a Dutch couple on the bus from Amsterdam and I chatted to them for quite a bit of the tour.

I quite liked the ruins (other friends have hated them) — especially the way the jungle grew all around them; and our guide was okay; although in common with most Latin American guides his jokes were pretty bad: poorly delivered and highly telegraphed.

A small part of the ruins at Tikal

One of the highlights of the ruins for me were the coatis. I’ve seen the raccoon-like creatures before of course (back at Lost & Found hostel in Panama) but never in large masks (this is allegedly the collective noun for raccoons so I’ll use that for coatis too). It was fun seeing stupid tourists (mostly local Guatemalans) holding food in their hand at knee height and then wondering why they were getting mobbed by the aggressive creatures.

A "mask" of coatis

Also fun was trying a snap a picture of the many toucans, monkeys and spiders that inhabited the jungle around the ruins.

Spider monkey

Whilst we were on the tour, Sabine met two other girls that she knew Adele and Emma. It turned out that Emma was also a medical student and that she knew Yvonne who’d I’d met at Yo Mamas.

After the ruins tour Sabine and I got an early bus back to town and then chilled out for most of the afternoon back at the hostel. I taught a German guy, Colas, and his friend how to play Janiv and the four of us were playing it when an Israeli girl leaned over. “Can I ask you something?” she said. “Who taught you that game?” The other 3 looked over at me and said “Him”. I explained that I’d first learnt it in La Paz the day before St Patrick’s Day. I thought that no Israeli people had taught me it but one of the girls was Swiss-Israeli. “Oh,” she said, “I thought it was our game”.

In the evening Sabine and I went with Colas to a cheap eatery for dinner. Colas had to leave early to catch his bus and then we headed back to the hostel where we hung out with a lot of the English guys from Semuc Champay. I was, of course, still famed for my dress-wearing incident. There were also two English girls who I’d spoke to in Semuc Champay. One was called Sophie, I can’t remember the name of the other now. Everyone pretty much went to bed early so that they could get up on time for the ruins the next day.

Sabine and I decided to play Shithead and more Janiv and then we chatted to a French guy who was famous throughout the hostel — he’d been travelling for 25 years. I was quite excited to meet him: how did someone sustain the travel bug and their funds for such a long period of time? It defied belief. On meeting him though I was less impressed. For someone who’d spent so much time travelling the guy just couldn’t listen! He’d fire a question; let you get 2 seconds into your story and then talk about his experiences of that place. And for such a seasoned traveller he hadn’t been to a lot of places: Africa for example had completely passed him by (in 25 years, really!) and then he seemed to get excited about visiting places that completely leave me cold: like Managua.

One of the Israeli guys made the mistake of asking us about the El Mirador trek. I suggested that he hook up with the German guys who were going the next day but the poor Israeli (who needed to get up very early if he was going to see them) had to listen to 10-minute monologue from the 25-year travelling veteran about how he‘d done it. You could see that he was itching to go to bed but couldn’t find a way to break into the constant stream of conversation to announce his departure. Shortly after he’d gone to bed, Sabine and I managed to find an opening and headed off too.

You Don’t Bring Me Flores Any More…

1 09 2010

At Zephyr lodge I rushed down some breakfast and said goodbye to Nikki, Killian, Sean, Nick and Mick. They were all heading back down towards Antigua and Guatemala City; I on the other hand was heading in the opposite direction: towards the island of Flores on Lake Petén Itzá. The bus was mostly full of Israelis but there was also a sweet French girl, Sabine. She knew the Irish boys as well and we struck it off from the beginning.

A last view of Lanquin from Zephyr Lodge

At the town of Coban we ran into the Irish and Nikki again; whilst the buses were rearranged and we had a toilet break. The boys tried to get me to say “Mine” one last time but failed so I fortunately didn’t have to do any more push-ups. Their bus journey sounded quite traumatic: just after we last saw them they stopped around the corner to change every single tyre on the bus (they were looking flat); then after a car wash and a lunch stop they got stuck behind a road accident and had to wait forever. Our journey, in contrast, was pretty smooth; with only a rather pointless cursory fruit check to make sure we weren’t going to contaminate the local flora; and a stop for a hamburger at lunchtime.

Once in Flores, Sabine and I checked into Los Amigos hostel and, after a couple of beers, went for a small walk around the town: it was really cute with the lake surrounding it but I didn’t have my camera with me. We dinner at a little cafe down the road (the food in the hostel looked good but it was pescetarian fare and I like a meat component to my food and couldn’t justify the cost of the prawns) and then went back to the hostel bar. I taught Sabine how to play Janiv and only realised much later that there were no Aces in her deck (neither of us are sure why!) which explains why it took a bit longer to get Janiv than normal (since the objective is to get a low hand and an Ace is worth one).

After that we joined a big group of Québécois people for a few rounds of Kings. Eventually the bar closed though and we could no longer replenish our drinks so that was our cue to head off to bed ready for our early start to the ruins of Tikal the next day.