Friday, August 5, 2011

Flores and Lanquin, Guatemala 10-16 July 2011

Flores-Photo from Wikitravel
Flores and Tikal 10-13 July 2011

It felt good to be back in a Spanish speaking country. I seem to miss the language after spending 7 days in Belize. Dimitri and I have the same level of Spanish, so now we will have to team up to get the best out of our Spanish. :-)
In Guatemala the currency is Quetzales in short Q. US$1 = Q7.5 We took the collectivo from the border to Flores, it cost us Q30 per person. We didn’t expect to be squeeze like sardine in the little van with 4 in a row, some of them have to sits on some make shift stool. The conductor stood all the way at the door during the 3 hours ride. :-) Flores is an island in the lake Peten, connected to the mainland with a 100m crossway. The island is very small. We could go around in 20mins. Flores is a popular place to stay for people who wants to visit Tikal ruins. Tikal ruins is the ONE place that one should visit when in Guatemala. It is WILD, all the ruins are located in the 570 square kilometers Tikal National Park.

We checked into Los Amigos hostel for Q30 pp/pn about US$4.5, that is a big change from a US$15 per night in Belize. The hostel has a nice garden and restaurant with amazing breakfast and smoothies. When we arrived at the hostel, we met a guy who has a broken wrist; Brian, he slipped and fell in Tikal due to the rain and slippery floor. He was worried of what the doctor in the local hospital will do to his wrist the following day. With his limited Spanish, is even worst. As Dimitri is a Doctor to be, he offered to have a look at his X-ray to see if the operation is going to be a big deal or not. A guy who speaks Spanish went together with us to the hospital. I would also freak to see the condition of the hospital but it turn out that they did a great job after all. :-)

Dimitri only had 2 days in Flores so we had to visit Tikal the next day even thought the weather was shit. We left with the 5am shuttle in a heavy down pour. Arriving to Tikal with light drizzle, we opted for no tour guide as we both preferred to be away from the crowd. At the entrance we bought a map from a guy at the tourist information while he was holding a gun! This place is really unsafe? Tikal is surrounded by dense jungle, we saw plenty of animals while walking in the ruin’s compound. We saw grey fox, Coati, paca, spider monkey, keel billed toucan, laughing falcon, curassow and chachalaca. The ground was covered with algae and very slippery, after seeing what happen to Brian we were extremely careful.

We climbed up Templo IV which is the highest in Tikal, we were surprise by the view from the top. We had the view of the jungle canopy, mist from the jungle, 3 other temples peak, toucan flying off the canopy and the sound of howling monkeys. We sat there for pretty much an hour, just admiring the view and chill. We spent 6 hours to cover 80% of the area. After which my knee starts to hurt. It was really annoying! :-(
Dimitri left the next day to Belize. I was really sad, he was a great travel buddy and dive buddy. L I hung around for another day at Flores just to reorganize myself to travelling alone again. What I want to do? Where I want to go? How do I get there? Etc I find it hard every time I have to part with someone and restart the entire meet new traveler thing again. :-(

Lanquin 13-16 July 2011

I booked myself on a shuttle to Lanquin. Shuttle here is a private minivan that only takes tourist and go to a fixed destination. Usually there is no air condition. All our bags will be up at the roof top. The journey to Lanquin took forever, we left at 9am and we arrived at 6pm in the dark in the rain and freezing weather. I followed the group I met in the shutter to the same hostel called Zephyr Lodge. We were lucky that the driver help us to make a booking before we arrived. The other groups that arrive much later didn’t have a place to sleep. Our accommodation is Q25 PP/PN=US3.5 at the Loft, a queen size mattress on top of the bar/restaurant. They told us it is going to be noisy as there is party every night. Well at this point in time we had no choice as other hostels were fully booked. With the price that they are charging I guess I could live with it for a night! :-) Too tired to be bothered by the loud music, I slept like a baby.

The next day I woke up with the view of mountain, valley and river. The hostel is located at the edge of a hill top with breathtaking view. How can such beautiful place exist? I am in heaven? I could stay here longer if not because of the crazy party.  That afternoon I went tubing. Tubing is an activity in the river where you just sit in the giant tube and float down the river with the rapid. It was fun and relaxing. All the crazy Irish had a dozen of beers on the go. At night they crashed the hostel.

The highlight of this place is Semuc Champey. 10km off Lanquin. We hop on to the back of the truck and stood all the way on a bumpy and hill road. This place is known to be the most beautiful place in Guatemala. It has a series of turquoise pools that formed on top of a limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabòn River.  The bulk of the water went under the bridge of a series of turquoise pools. We climbed up to the El Mirador (view point) to capture the best view and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the pool.
I could not stay here another day longer with those crazy party and crazy Irish. Didn’t slept on the last night as the Irish bought some liquor and hide them in the dorm, they were going in and out of the dorm to fill up their drink. It was really annoying and disrespectful for those who are sleeping in the dorm. I took the 6am shuttle to Antigua the next day.

Flores – Hostel Los Amigos( – Q30 pp/pn in 10 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, Q40 pp/pn for 6 bed dormitory with private bathroom in the dormitory, WIFI available
Lanquin – Zephyr Lodge – Q12.50 pp/pn for a double mattress on top of the bar with shared bathroom. Q35 pp/pn in a 9 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available

Belize border to Flores – Q30 pp by collective(to find the collectivo walk 5 minutes across the bridge after Guatemala border)
Tuk tuk from bus terminal to hostel – Q5 pp to anywhere in Flores
Hostel to/back Tikal – Q60 pp by shutter
Flores to Lanquin – Q140 by shutter
Hostel to/back Semuc Champey – Q60 by pickup (pay direct to driver)
Lanquin to Antigua – Q90 for shutter

Tikal Ruins- Q150 pp
Tubing – Q50 pp
Semuc Champey – Q20 pp

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