Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Antigua, Tikal & our first Caribbean beach

Short bus ride (4hrs ish) to Antigua & checked into a hotel with clean sheets & hot water. Slept for most of the afternoon, did a bit of exploring, ate pasta (so nice to eat something other than beans & spinach) and slept again. 

I've still got germs so walking up one of the 3 volcanos that surround the city (really more of a town - it's tiny) didn't happen. That & low cloud each morning. Took us all of half a day to see the delights of Antigua which is pretty enough but bugger all there. About 17 churches of which we went in 2, appraised that they were indeed churches, very similar to all other churches, and left again.  Also visited an old convent who's claim to notoriety was being old. Nice gardens & interesting to read the explanation of Christianity laid out for Asian visitors but not much to get excited about. 

So with another 3 hot showers & more sleep done we took the night bus to Flores - a small island town serving tourists visiting Tikal.  Good job we'd banked so much sleep as a man two seats behind snored in spectacular fashion from before the bus left Guatamala city the whole 12 hours.  We caught up on Wittertainment podcasts & did get a few hours each. 

The deluxe bus service in Guatemala is not as good as Mexico.  The seats recline, there's individual headphone points for a tv that remained off, there's a loo (for the brave & desperate only) but the compliment of bitey bugs in my seat wasn't appreciated. After 12 hours of attack my waist to knees looked like I'd caught measles & itched like mad.  Chris remained unblemished proving he must taste horrible. 

Getting off the bus was a shock- Our last two destinations had been fairly cool temperatures but Flores was at 28degrees with 60% humidity. We dropped the backpacks off at the hostel & then kicked our (hot & tired) heels for a few hours waiting for check in. 

By 5pm the skies delivered a massive downpour until the early hours which cleared the air a bit. We were up at 4am to get a bus to Tikal & were thankful that although a bit slippy underfoot it was less humid & not as mosquito ridden as we'd been warned it can be. 

Tikal has got to be the most famous of the Mayan sites -partly due to the lush jungle setting it surreally appears from, partly from being used as setting for StarWars (Return of the Jedi- something about ewoks, bla bla blah).  It didn't disappoint anyway. From the moment we started walking & heard the howler monkeys waking up (google their cry: terrifying noise & if you didn't know what one looked like you could be forgiven for bracing yourself for something far more ferocious) to the final climb up Temple 4 (the highest one currently open to public) which gives a view across the jungle canopy it was 6 hot, humid, brilliant hours. 

Our guide told us as much about the flora & fauna as the Mayan stuff which was good - after a few wks in Mexico/CA we're getting a bit Mayaned-out so are no longer impressed by tales of human sacrifice & elongating babies heads, but were very happy to know more about the jaguar, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, anteaters, wild pigs & huge array of birds that live in the sub-tropical jungle. And the many plants from magic mushrooms, mimosa plants (that appear to die when touched only to revive minutes later when whatever was sniffing them has moved on to eat something else), to some strange leaf that tasted like basil but numbs your mouth like a local anaesthetic. 

Bizarrely as we were stood in the central temple a Coke van turned up, put up a banner & a wooden table of fruit & drinks. Minutes later triathletes started appearing from the jungle & crossing the finish line of their 5k run. Unexpected to say the least but as triathlons go - the scenerys pretty spectacular. 

Back to Flores by 2.30 ish, time to peel off the jungle gear (see the hideous but practical beige slacks I'm sporting! DEET infused to make me feel extra special but when I saw the savage attacks on others who'd taken the 'shorts & a vest' approach I was ok with the trade off), shower & head out to eat. 

Another early start the next day - this time out of Guatemala and across the border to Belize. We weren't going to visit Belize but after chatting to other travellers the sound of Caye Caulker was too appealing so off we set.

Our bus arrived 3 minutes too late for the first boat so we wandered around for an hour in Belize City then got the water taxi across to a very thin island full of Caribbean influences.  A friendly Rasta called Gilbert (big smile, few teeth) led us to a cheap hotel & we were in our sea front cabana in no time.  Swimmies on, and relax..... 

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