Flores, Guatemala

By the time we arrived in Flores we were tired, hungry and otherwise irritable. Upon finding that our first choice hostel was completely booked, we threw in the towel and checked into the next hotel we saw. It was ludicrously overpriced at $20 per night, but we were dripping sweat and desperate to ditch our backpacks. By then it was early afternoon and we decided to take a walk around the town to get a glimpse of our new surroundings and find a place to eat.

image_1Instead of strolling along the lakeshore, where bars and restaurants line the road, we unwittingly lumbered up the hill to the town center where there is very little aside from a church and schoolyard. Kyle and Meghan succumbed to their growling stomachs and became petulant, bickering kids, so I shuffled them into the first eatery I saw in an attempt to keep the peace. This turned out to be quite a mistake, and I suppose I have only myself to blame for the devastating food poisoning that hit me at about 2AM that night and kept me out of commission for the next 24 hours.

When I was finally released from intestinal hell, Megs and Kyle showed me around the adorable island. Our new (and budget-friendly) hotel, the Doña Goya 2, had a rooftop terrace and cozy denim hammocks where we’d curl up and read or take afternoon naps. The actual lake is quite large, and has a petite museum on an islet you can swim or canoe out to. Boutique hotels and curious eateries occupy the wealth of colorful but slightly worn-down buildings and the passing traffic primarily consists of cartoonlike tripod taxis and scooters bearing 3-4 people each.

When we initially arrived in Flores, we weimage_2re informed of a festival taking place, but we had no idea what the locals were celebrating or what the occasion entailed. It took us a good four days to figure out what the heck was going on, and even now we’re not quite sure. We were undeniably entertained by the unpredictable parades that would overtake the streets at capricious hours, once or twice each day. At first they were civil, unruffled throngs of people simply walking together in a slow procession down city streets; however, by the afternoon they’d loop through again, riotously wasted and cross-dressing, which we found confusing and hilarious.

It seemed to us that the majority of the festival revolved around the act of setting off fireworks. For 96 straight hours, the boom of explosives rang through the air, regardless of their invisibility in the light of day and loudly peppering the otherwise silent nights.

On Tuesday we took a 5AM shuttle to Tikal, one of the largest archaeological sites of ancient Mayan civilization. We opted to forego guided tours (and even declined a map) and set off on our own to explore the ruins and discover the diverse species that inhabit the area. We became convincing jungle explorers, rushing ahead of tour groups so they would not have the chance to scare away our prey and coming to random halts in the middle of trails to watch the tops of trees and listen for scurrying creatures. We spoke in hushed whispers for four hours, even when those around us were speaking at normal volumes. To our credit, we turned out to be skilled and successful! We encountered no less than 20 Spider Monkeys, camouflaged crocodiles, skittish rainbow turkeys, baby squirrels and teeny tiny frogs.

image_4Our biggest conquest by far was the Howler Monkey. We could hear them whooping throughout the park, but were forewarned that they were near impossible to actually see. That wasn’t going to stop us. We trekked out along the exit road, following the sound of their vehement barking. We quietly forged off the beaten path and stopped exactly underneath them, at which point they became dead silent. It was like the cops showed up at a college party, and we pictured them putting their beers down, turning off the lights and pressing a finger to their lips encouraging silence until we left the scene. All but one had the routine down pat and managed to sneak into the figurative closets. The three of us stood rooted to the spot, straining up through jungle branches until finally we spotted him! It was a standoff—we just stayed still as statues and stared at each other: Primate vs. Homosapien. At that point there was nothing left to do but walk away with our heads held high. As soon as we walked away the party started up again but we were satisfied..

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Guatemala

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