We woke up the next day fuzzy headed, with skin like pork crackling from the sun, and immediately wrote off the original plan of catching the 9am water taxi to Belize City. We had to pay the hostel bill and had spent all our money the previous, so staggered to the ATM (via a shop for breakfast mender beers) in the roasting sun, covered from head to toe in loose fitting clothes and sunblock and looking like typical middle aged British women abroad (Susan: “I think this is the first time I’ve EVER dressed my age!”). The ATM was in one of those little rooms where you have to swipe your card to get in, and once we got inside we realised that it was AIR CONDITIONED which felt amazing on our poor sunburned bodies, so decided to hang around in there enjoying the cool air, chatting and enjoying our beers, occasionally having to step out to let people in to use the cash point.
Once we felt sufficiently chilled, we headed back to the hostel to pay the bill, and the little Swedish girl kindly offered to give us a lift to the boat landing on her little golf buggy (the island was too small to have cars and these were the only transport). We got there just as the boat was leaving, so as the next one wasn’t for another hour the obvious course of action was to find a bar on the beach with wifi, have a few beers and check the times of the shuttle from Belize City to Flores while we waited for the next one. We told this to the bloke on the table next to us (who had broken the ice by telling us that we should come back later in the year for the Lobster festival, as Susan (being the pinker of the two of us) could be “the Lobster Queen”), to which he responded “Why are you rushing around girls! Go slow! Enjoy our island!”. “Go Slow” is indeed the motto on Caye Caulker and it obviously rubbed off on us sat in the beach bar, as the next boat came and went, and the next one…until we finally got on the 2pm one.
On arrival in Belize City, we asked an official looking bloke in a uniform next to the taxi/shuttle stop where we needed to wait for the next shuttle to Flores. He told us that there were no shuttles running that day as it was a bank holiday in Belize! Oh noez!! So, instead we would have to get the chicken bus to Benque, cross the border into Guatemala on foot and get a bus to Flores from the other side. We had a while to wait for the Benque bus, so we used the time wisely and stocked up on beers from the kiosk at the station.
The bus ride was quite pleasant, through Belmopan and the lush jungly countryside and we arrived at the border after dark and got our first (of many to come) Guatemala stamp. There was only one taxi driver waiting at the other side who told us that there were no more buses or collectivos to Flores that night but he would take us there for $80 (which was quite steep compared to the bus, but not bad for a 2 hour taxi ride and we didn’t really have any other options at this point!). He was dead canny and happy to stop at the first shop we came to so we could run in and get some road beers (Jill was overjoyed to be reunited with Gallo, the national beer of Guatemala – we had ran out of Belikin, the national beer of Belize) and the journey passed in no time.
The original plan had been that we were going to go straight to Tikal and camp there overnight before exploring the ruins the next day, but the horrific sunburn we’d received on Caye Caulker had put a spanner in the works as neither of us could face a night in a stuffy tent, being bitten to death my mosquitos (which are notorious in the jungly region of Peten) so we instead found ourselves a nice, reasonably priced hotel (Hospedaje Doña Goya II, which was recommended by the taxi driver) with a fan in the room and a lovely terrace with a great view over the lake. We were staying in the old part of town, which is on an island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza and connected to the mainland by a causeway. It was raining and there was a lovely cool breeze coming off the lake, which was absolute HEAVEN on our burning hot, chargrilled faces and we set out to find something for dinner. The first place we found serving food was a lovely little place serving Italian and Latin food and playing non-stop Beatles hits, and we were so hungry we decided just to sit down and order something there and avoid our usual walking around for ages being indecisive until we start getting really tetchy with each other due to hunger. Jill got a burrito and Susan a vegetarian enchilada and when they arrived they were ENORMOUS. As usual Susan ate a couple of mouthfuls and then was full, and Jill had to soldier on and attempt to finish both dinners. After food, several Gallos and lots of chatting to the lovely waiter, we retired to our room, turned the fans onto full and went to bed. It had been a long day and especially trying with our hangovers and hideous sunburn!