30 Photos

From Ruins to the Beach
Guatemala

(Betsy Parker)
Gerry and I wake up at 5:15am for jungle walk at 5:45. We have coffee with Antonio, another one of the brothers who own the hotel, the sons of the original owners. Unfortunately, we get a late start because we have to wait for the others from our group, one of whom is late. Our group includes a couple from London and a young man from Scotland.

We really enjoy the tour though it is not what we were sold, which was a wildlife and flora tour. We re-walk areas that we have already covered – Group G, Temple 5, Mundo Perdido and Temple 4. We climb temple 5 – very steep!!! And the view from the top is again – just a bit too high to be interesting – the accomplishment is in the climb.

Antonio gives us more information on the Maya and lots of interesting information about the actual archeological work done at the site back in the 50s and 60s, when he was a boy growing up at the lodge. He knew lots of short cuts through the jungle. We went out too late for dawn photos but we had good light almost until the end. We got some glimpses of birds through the foliage, but basically there were no nature shots.

We had breakfast back at the hotel with Juanita and Marshall. Gerry needed a rest (I think it is the heat and the sweating that really drains you.). I walk around the grounds to try to get some photos, and I am somewhat successful with a hummingbird and a couple of really strange looking crested lizards. Of course, there are plenty of beautiful flowers, too.

About 11:00am, I wake Gerry up and insist he accompany me back to the site. My plan is to head toward Temple 6. It isn’t included on any of the tours, so I guess there isn’t much to see there, but I am thinking that if no one goes there, perhaps we’ll see wildlife. Along the way we happen upon a very extensive leaf cutter anthill. There are at least two streams of ants carrying leaves in, and one area where it looks like they are carrying some sort of reddish particles out. Our morning guide told us that the ants take the leaves into the hill and compost them to grow the mushrooms they use for food. Perhaps the reddish particles are some sort of used up compost that they no longer need. The path is a good one, but it is fairly deserted. We only see four other people during the entire walk and visit to the temple.

With a little patience I finally get some great shots of spider monkeys. There was one particular fellow who was grunting and growling up in the trees and then practically posed for me as he ate, hanging from his tail. It was a spectacle worth the walk and the heat. Other animals we have seen include various birds (Juanita got a great picture of a toucan – but I haven’t seen a one), the coatimundi (lots of them) and twice a little bush pig-like animal that I need to look up the name of. We walk back to the hotel get cleaned up and check out.

Since the food at the hotel is so mediocre, we walk down to the visitors’ center area and have lunch at the Comedor Tikal. The place is very simple and I enjoy looking at the photos of the archeologists who worked the site early on. I’d like to read more about that. It would probably make a good book!

At 2:30 we catch our ride to Flores. There is lots of lively conversation in the bus – fueled of course by Gerry. Our companions are all known to us: George and Tom from the ride out to Tikal, Jennifer and Mary from our first morning’s tour. We apparently left without two guys, who caught up to us along the way (by truck - I can just imagine you thinking they came running behind us dragging their suitcases!).

We dropped four of the passengers off at the airport, then drive to our hotel, Isla de Flores, also owned by the same group as the Jungle Lodge. The hotel is very clean and we’re ready for a rest. Hallelujah! AC! Blissfully cooler, we sleep. About 5:00pm we meet Marshall and Juanita in the lobby and head out to explore our newest town.

It is still hot though it is past 5:00pm. We head down the hill from the hotel to the first cross street and then west toward the lake and the sunset. We locate our dinner destination (Capitán Tortuga) and then walk along the beach for awhile. The town reminds us of Rincón, in Puerto Rico. Very laid back. It’s a typical beach town. It is also really hot in the sun. Lots of people are swimming. I so wish I were too! Finally, common sense prevails and we decide to get out of the sun and we head back into the maze of streets where we hope to find some shade and a bit cooler temperatures. Many of the streets are completely torn up – apparently for new sewers and storm drains and paving. The good thing – no traffic! We walk up to the plaza. The plaza and the church are on top of a hill that is the island. The plaza isn’t too interesting. The people in it far more so: Like any beach town, there are hippies.

From the plaza we walk down the other side of the hill towards the lake again. This would be the east side – so no sun and a nice breeze that cools at least when it touches your skin. We sit along the new “boardwalk” (though it is cement) and just watch the people who are there, some are tourists, many are in family groups. When we can stand it no more and have also seen basically everything there is to see on a Sunday night, we go to Capitán Tortuga’s for dinner via a walk around the southern part of the island. By the time we get back to the west side – the sun is setting and we are treated to a gorgeous sunset as we sip our "limonadas con soda y ron"! Still hot, though cooling off slightly – our talk centers on how thankful we are that the hotel has air conditioning. We share "parrilladas guatemaltecas" – several different grilled meats with rice and "frijoles".

I stay up to edit my pictures, but by 9:30am we’re asleep again. I discovered that my pjs are missing and conclude that I must have left them in the bedclothes at the Jungle Lodge. I had taken them out to wear but it was so hot (no air conditioning there) I ended up sleeping in just my underwear. Not having checked the bedclothes before I left the room, I guess that is where the hotel maids found them. And concluding they were rags (they were very old, threadbare and soft) they are probably working away today cleaning something, someplace – a whole new life in Guatemala.

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