Saturday, February 21, 2009

Flores - Tikal Guatemala

The trip from Palenque to Flores takes about 8 hours and is a combination van, boat, bus trip, the cost is $340 pesos. The bus leaves at 6am from El Panchan which is also were I got the ticket from. Sadly my dumb ass travel alarm clock is having issues, I bought it just before I left from my trip so it has been used twice I paid $10 for that f%cking piece of crap. It is a simple clock with a battery dial style so you would think there is not much that could go wrong with it but... The minute hand gets stuck once in a while and time stands still which is what happened the morning I needed to be up at 5am. Luckily I had a gecko roommate that night and at 5:30am he started chirping which woke me up. A bit of a rush to get my crap together but made it to the bus stop with 5 minutes to spare.

I used San Juan travel for the trip and other than a bus mechanical issue it was great (it didn't break down but it was pretty sick by the end of the trip), all of the connections were set up with people waiting for you. The first part of the trip is a 4 hour van ride to Frontera Corozal; where you clear Mexico customs at a cost of $100 pesos or $10.00 US. Then a 35 minute boat trip down the river, climb a steep mud bank to the bus for Flores. There are money changers on the bank of the river so you can change pesos to quetzals which is recommended as there are no banks in Flores who will change it for you. You get ripped off a bit but if you are not returning to Mexico it is worth it. 5 minutes into the bus ride we stopped at Guatemala customs in Sayaxché they don't check bags or anything you just show your passport and tell them how many days you want, I got 90 just in case I end up staying longer than planned. There is a $40 Quetzals charge to get into Guatemala. Than a 3 1/2 hour bus ride into Flores with a stop at the ATM machine in case you need $'s.

There were a few folks from El Panchan on the bus and we all decided to stay at Los Amigo's hostel. It is one of the best hostels I have stayed in. Funky decor including a swing in the lobby and lots of nooks and crannies. I got a dorm room with private bath for $40 Q and the couple with us got a private room for $60 Q. The hostel has a restaurant that is really cheap the average meal is $25 Q - $60 Q and they are huge. They also have beer and blender cocktails that run about $15 Q. This is a very busy place and for the most part is usually full, the staff are incredibly helpful and you can book most travel arrangements through them. Check out their web Site for some great travel advice on getting through Guatemala. They also have a couple of pet parrots that although cute can be very noisy and a few dogs and cats who have the run of the place. If you want to meet people this is the place, as well as the folks I came in with from El Panchan I met a ton of others who it turns out were all going to Tikal the same day. I highly recommend the blender drink with Strawberry juice, Bananas and rum in the huge fishbowl glass, very tasty. I had a brief stint as a street performer, I spent the first night hanging out with a fire dancer from Montreal going from restaurant to restaurant doing her show and collecting $'s.

I booked my trip to the Tikal ruins though the hostel and once again it was via San Juan Travel. The buses leave at various times but I wanted to be up there as early as possible so I booked on the 5am bus which gets you to the ruins when the park opens at 6:30am. The cost was $60 Q including return, you can take whatever bus you want back they run at 12:30pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and the last one goes at 6pm. No need to book the return just show up at the bus stop 10 minutes before the bus goes. Again alarm clock f*cked up but a couple of others in the dorm where on the same bus so crisis averted... Clocks and time are not my friend :-(

The park is huge, I didn't get a guide but I did purchase a map it costs $150 Q to get in to see the ruins. The ruins are beautiful, it was foggy when we got there so it gave it a very ghostly appearance. The wild life was also very active in the morning and I saw howler monkeys, regular monkeys all kinds of birds and a wart hog looking thing. Most of us headed out on our own little adventures in the park and bumped into each other through out the day. You get through the park via dirt roads and paths through the jungle, for the most part I took the paths over the roads way more interesting. There is something about walking through the jungle with no one else around that makes you feel connected with nature. In some cases I would go an hour before running into anyone else. Some of the ruins are incredibly high, number IV and V are particularly scary, 4 is the tallest one but V has the nastiest set of stairs on it. For the most part you don't climb up the stairs of the ruins, they don't want to damage them so they have ladders and stairs up the sides so you can get to the top and sit and enjoy the view. Again with the height issues on both IV and V, I stuck as close to the back wall as I could get. Funny story the first place I went to was where Temple 1 & 2 are, not realizing that there was a set of stairs off to the side and not seeing the sign in Spanish that said no climbing; I actually climbed the front stairs of Temple 2 which is a total no no but the guard saw me do it and didn't say anything which is good because they can kick you out of the park for it. I also met a Shaman at Group F who works for the park we had a lovely conversation in Spanglish he was very fascinated with my tattoo and kept poking me in the arm. Kinda of freaky he had the whole black lips thing going but super nice he took me around and showed me were the howler monkeys were. All of the people who worked for the park were great in many cases I was the only one in the section of ruins and they would walk around with me and try to explain about them; I really have to learn Spanish there is a whole world of info out there I am missing. Anyway 7 hours later I had managed to see all of the ruin sites so I headed for the 2pm bus and back to Flores which broke down 70km into the trip, not a big deal we waited by the side of the road for the 3pm bus and they picked us up. I got back with very sore feet and a layer of sweat and bug spray coating me. Had the best shower ever, they have lots of hot water here.

I took a ton of pic's at the ruins but blogger is a pain in the ass to load pictures on (you can only do 5 at a time, it messes up the formatting and I have to individually move each one to where I want it by default it just piles them up at the top of the page) and I am just getting too lazy to spend 3 hours formatting. So here is a link to them on Flickr if you want to see more. Click on the picture and then to see it large click on "all sizes" at the top of the picture.

Flores is a town on an Island, it is very cute and old world. The people are great and the lake is clean so I've been doing a lot of swimming because it gets very hot here. There are any number of tours you can take including a boat across the lake, renting a canoe etc. There are a ton of restaurants laundry facilities etc. pretty much everything you need in a 6 block radius. The streets are either stone or dirt and the taxi service is motorized Tuc Tuc's that cost about $5 Q for the most part you don't need them on the Island but if you want to go across the bridge to Santa Elena they are a great alternative to walking in the heat. I have been in Flores for 3 days now and am leaving tomorrow it has been a very relaxing time, they have lots of book shops so I have stalked up and spent some quality time in the hammock in the lobby reading. There is a restaurant down the road that I have coffee in every morning with my new friend. Talkative little fellow and drinks my coffee instead of buying his own.

Next stop on the tour; Lanquin / Samuc Champey.

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