The promise and the sunny road to Tikal

We woke at 4am under the promise of watching a sunrise over the Mayan ruins. Edy, the smooth linguist, who arranged our hotel room also sold us ‘the once in a lifetime trip to Tikal’. The jack-of-all-trades was quick to recommend the first bus of the day to catch the sun rising over the horizon and hitting the ancient city. ‘The jungle wakes up when sunrises’, Edy said, beginning to count the benefits on fingers. ‘Howler monkeys, exotic birds, insects fill air with the noises. There (sic) are also less busy, not as hot as afternoon and not too much rain.’

Waiting in the moonlit street surrounded by a dozen other droopy-eyed tourists, the door-to-door speech echoed in our minds. The semi-darkness hid our sleep deprived faces as we waited in silence for our ride. The realisation that we had all potentially been duped in a Third World country was worn on our faces. However, the doubt soon vanished as the distant roaring of an engine cut through the quiet.

Alerted by the welcoming noise everybody flocked towards the oncoming van waving their tickets high in the air. An uninterested portly driver stepped out and took a moment to look at the collection of diversely handwritten tickets. He chose a seemingly arbitrary couple who boarded the bus and drove away. Moments later another vehicle spurred more competition in the crowd, tickets again brandished, an equally chubby apathetic driver, more random victors. For the next hour we watched as the twelve dwindled down to two. And so there we sat, slumped and alone on the curb, in the now deserted street.

By the time our bus arrived, day and our promise had already broken. Already weary we sat down and for the next hour or so drifted in and out of sleep until our arrival at Tikal.

© John Brownlie 2012

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Flores, Guatemala & Hotel Mirador del lago

Flores is a small island located in the north of Guatemala. The entire area can be walked in just twenty minutes. Surrounding the island are the waters of Lake Peten which for centuries have provided a source of food and water. Bright colours from the local houses caught our eye when walking the cobbled streets as auto-rickshaws bounced around looking for a fare. The whole place is a hub for tourists wanting to explore the lake or the Mayan cities nearby.

We arrived there late afternoon and were introduced to Hotel Mirador del Lago by Edy, a charismatic fast-talking tour guide who joined our bus from the border (read more about that journey here).

Located on the east of the island, our room and many others were fortunate enough to overlook the lake. Although our accommodation was small, so was the price. It came complete with a balcony and a sunrise every morning. In the afternoons we would watch electric storms across the lake. And when the heat became too much we went down for a dip in the cooling waters.

With a wealth of great cuisine at a low price nearby, our life on a shoestring continues to surprise.

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© John Brownlie 2012