Saturday, 10 May 2014

Flores (no flowers)

Flores is the main stopping point before Tikal (home to THE best Mayan ruins in the world apparently), and is famous for being home to Guatemala's second international airport, allegedly built by the CIA (really!) so that they could keep an eye on drug importation and other such other illegal pastimes (at least according to the all knowing Wikipedia!) ....... however it seems they neglected to build any decent highways and the entire journey is on single carriageway (at best) with way to many speed bumps than are necessary or under desirable.

The shuttle journey there is billed as 6-7 hours, but having set off at 7am, we don't get to our hostel in Flores until after 7pm... Although the last hour of that journey was because of delays brought about by the Israelis (see below!)

The journey in brief:

For the 11km trip along the worst road in Guatemala, the Israelis claim the best "seats" in the pickup truck, with the rest of us sprawled out on the floor between bags for the 45 minute journey back to Lanquin.

Chief Mossad thinks he's a funny guy and makes wrenching noises as we bump our way down the hill - his hilarity backfires as he's forced to ask the driver to stop so his girlfriend can get off to puke. Nice one. CP on the other hand is braving it as her stomach is still not right and actually does relieve her stomach contents when she is able to get off the bus in Lanquin!

Our final crossing of the dodgy bridge, and one of the massive planks is shaken loose and falls into the river below and is whipped away by the rapids leaving another gaping hole in the bridge. It's only a matter of time before it's a vehicle that goes through but none of the locals seem too concerned?!

Anyways, we digress, back to the Israelis. Despite having one of the few seats in the truck (and not actually moving over once his girlfriend gets out to offer it to one of the boys hanging off the end of the truck, rather just spreads his legs out and makes himself comfortable) Mossad then thinks he should be getting off first when we stop, so clambers over/through the rest of us and all the bags over which we were forced to sprawl for 45 mins and who are trying to pick ourselves off the floor. Might have sworn at him at this point...

When our next bus arrives, some 45 mins later, the Israelis are of course attempting to board before it's even stopped, then each claim a double seat per person and bag when clearly there is barely room for everyone to have a place to park their butt, and all bags are going on the roof. We eventually can get on the bus and encourage them to move. 

As I'm getting on the bus, Mossad #2 who is behind me decides that his bag needs to get on the bus before anyone else does, the most direct route for his bag means repeatedly shoving it into me. Definitely swore at him this time.

Eventually everyone has a seat (how kind), and we're on our way. At least we have a single seat each this time and so it is slightly more comfortable then previously journeys.  At 11am we stop off in a town that we recognise as Coban... so we've been driving for about 3 hours (excluding the waiting time etc) and we're back to where we picked up the Irish guys a couple of days ago. Definitely not making this in 7 hours...

Several hours later we pull in at what turns out to be a fruit checkpoint. Yes, we're all off the bus and our bags checked for fruit, (seriously, of all the things that could be checked...) and once it's confirmed that none of us are attempting to smuggle an apple down this main road then we can continue... what?

The next stop is because we've reached a big river with no bridge, but a boat that will ferry us across. As we wait for the boat Mossad is irritated and wants to know why we can't just drive across. Just sit down ffs!

Finally, we arrive. Because it was us that found Greengos Hostel in Semuc Champey, we've left it to Paul & Stelios to track down accommodation in Flores - potentially harder than expected as we were expecting a 2-3pm arrival, and instead darkness is falling. Tbf, we don't care where it is as long as Mossad is somewhere else.

Flores is made up of 3 separate islands connected by bridges. We've elected to stay in the Isla de Flores and despite initially refusing to look at lonely planet, the boys eventually caved (at some point during the hour long wait while the Israelis pissed about in a bank during what was a planned 5 minute stop to get cash and water) and picked the cheapest hostel, Doña Goya, which turns out to be just perfect for £2.50 a night! We had some beers in the hammock on the roof top, a quick dip in the lake and a tasty spaghetti dinner just to treat ourselves! It's a tough life but someone has to do it, and our hostel being about a 20 second walk from the lake which is just beautiful to swim in is simply divine.

After walking round the island and finding the BEST coffee shack called Cool Beans (Rich had a kahlua latte (at 10am..) and the iced frappe that CP had was awesome), finding yet another bag for CP (although this time, it was only 4 shops before she found what she wanted at the price she wanted to pay) and playing basketball with some local kids, we were ready to take on the Mayan ruins! We had decided to head to Tikal and had booked in with the same travel agency that collected us in semuc champey. They all seem to be related in some way (and have contacts everywhere) and can organise anything to anywhere, for a price of course. We are probably paying a bit much for these tourist shuttles, as opposed to catching the chicken buses, but they make life easy, and in the scheme of things, are still very reasonable!

We'll do a separate blog for Tikal but just a quick one to say that when we got back from tikal, we stayed in Flores for another night and got caught in an epic rain storm, twice! Not so bad as the shack we were in had wifi and a happy hour, so it could have been worse! We found some wicked little markets on the lakefront selling all matter of street food and home made cakes, and must have tried almost everything at each of the stalls, because at about 40p per plate, why not??  Feeling a bit full now though...

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