Flores and Mayan ruins at Tikal

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Union Hotel

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We arrive by bus in muddy and uninviting Santa Elena, a small satellite town joined to Flores by causeway.
There are instructions in our guidebook - go to the Union Hotel in Flores, call Oscar and Marta and ask them to come across the water to pick you up.
A quick ride in a red scooter with a 2-stroke motor onto the small island of Flores, a few bumps on the cobblestones and we tumble out of the taxi at the Union Hotel. First impressions of Flores are cute, tranquil, colourful and a little gentrified.
I´ve prepared my 10 words of Spanish and manage to describe to Oscar over the phone exactly where we are. Ten minutes later after a ride in a launch we´re on the opposite shore to Flores, chatting with Oscar and Marta and admiring Flores which lies just across the water from their grand orange house. You could almost be excused for thinking you´re on the edge of a tropical sea with a couple of hammocks, and several  palm and banana trees. The small skyline of Flores is dominated by the cathedral perched on the highest point of the island.
Flores is our base for the next few days. We take a few hours Spanish lessons with Karina (Marta´s sister) and enjoy Marta´s cooking with her memorable crispy tortillas (unlike the normal Guatemalan offering).
One of the days we travel to Tikal the premier Mayan archeological site in Guatemala. It´s less manicured than Palenque and the roof combs of the temples penetrate the rainforest canopy, a spectacular sight at sunset from Temple del Mundo Perdido (temple of the lost world). Just before dark a swarm of Coatamundis (curious raccoon-like creatures with long stripy tails) pass around the main temple looking for scraps of food. We stay in the site until after dark and find our way out with torches accompanied by a fast talking Catalan and 2 young Ozzy girls.
The night is an uncomfortable experience in a damp, musty tent just outside the site. We return to Temple del Mundo Perdido the next morning before sunrise to watch the toucans, hummingbirds, monkeys and bush turkeys, a really atmospheric experience.
Back in Flores we take the opportunity  to watch a unique and scary festival, a procession of people dressed up as Bert, Ernie, Oprah, Maradona (to name just a few) marching down the street, accompanied by a brass band, and several men dressed in hula skirts sporting fake breasts (or were they man-boobs?). I do manage to get some good photos, especially from Oscar and Marta´s house where we can see the fireworks lighting the whole island.
Flores is one of those laid-back places we´re sorry to leave.
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