It’s Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy in Flores
Flores, Guatemala was my first stop, the gateway to Tikal and one of my favorite places I saw on this trip. I only spent two days and nights there but it seemed much longer. I suppose it was because I did so much the first day (showing up ungodly early and staying up late) but time, nonetheless, felt slow.
The town reminded me of Copan, Honduras except that it was surrounded by a lake. It was composed of narrow cobblestone streets and pretty buildings no higher than three stories. The town was so small that you could pretty much walk end-to-end in 10 minutes and circle the whole thing in 30. I tend to have a soft-spot for small towns and Flores was no exception. Not only that, the blue skies, warm weather, lakeside piers and slow pace of life reminded me of summer.
After my ridiculous plane flight followed by a restless night on the night bus, being able to finally drop my bag off and stay put for a few days felt great. I spent a lot of time hanging out on the pier, swimming, taking advantage of the awesome happy hours (3 drinks for 20 quetzales, ~$2.5) and hanging out with a great group of people. Life in Flores was good.
Here are some of the highlights:
Tikal – No trip to Guatemala is complete without visiting Tikal. It is one of the largest ruins in Central America and was once the epicenter of the Mayan civilization. The trip from Flores took about 2.5 hours and despite the numerous temples and courts that are unearthed, many still remain buried due to lack of funding. We toured the area for a good 3-4 hours and saw the main temples and court. Despite being in one of the most historically significant places in Central America, I think we were all feeling a bit templed-out by the end.
The Treehouse – On our second day, we made a trip across the lake (5Q or ~$0.67) to find a treehouse we had seen the prior afternoon. After getting lost and nearly suffocating from Emily’s not-properly-dried swimsuit, we eventually found it. We weren’t alone, however, as an entire Guatemalan family on vacation also happened to be up there and were in the middle of taking glamor shots. The daughter, being the most photogenic, was posing on every tree branch and fence she could get her hands on. Not to be outdone, we soon followed suit. The view from the top was worth the hike: 360 degrees of green trees, blue skies and Flores surrounded by the lake.
Tweedledee and Tweedledum – You meet a lot of people on the road. Some are cool, some are funny and some are annoying. Then there are those where you think to yourself, “Are these guys seriously for real?” Tweedledee and Tweedledum, as we called them, were identical American twin brothers in their late 40’s to early 50’s, about 5’9″ in height and a little bit on the heavy side. They wore matching short-sleeve button up shirts, khaki shorts, ankle length socks, and big-ass, serious looking hiking boots. Their attire was funny enough but the true comedy gold came out when they opened their mouths: the two were a non-stop highlight reel of the most crude and sexual jokes ever told. Not only that, they had some pretty hilarious, yet “WTF?!”, comments. Overall, good guys. The girls thought otherwise.
Two of my favorite:
- After arriving in Flores, they had apparently found their way into a brothel somewhere on the mainland and were proudly boasting of their conquests from the night before. One of them had the “native” experience whereas the other had what they called “dark chocolate”. The way they smiled wryly and egged each other on was at the same time hilarious and creepy.
- One of them turned to me and exclaimed, “Yea man, I’m currently living with my friend in Santa Barbara. He lives with his mom. FREE RENT!” Sweet dude, sweet.
Total lunar eclipse on winter solstice – There were a lot of people going nuts about this , especially in the Tikal/Flores vicinity, talkative woman on the night bus included. To have the two coincide happens to be an exceedingly rare occurrence; the last time this happened was back in 1638. Totality was set to occur around 2am and I was damn well determined to see it, despite being up since 4:30am. So I reached into my bag of tricks and pulled out the midnight nap, something I hadn’t done since Buenos Aires. It was a risky move as I could have easily slept till the next day but fortunately, I was dragged out of bed some undetermined amount of time later.
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Flores was a great first stop because I really got to relax and unwind on the little island. As much as I would’ve liked to stay longer, time was ticking and I had to keep moving. My next stop would turn out to be… one might say… unBelizeable.