In which your two girls commit crimes (but not cards) against humanity – Tikal, Guatemala

It will come as no surprise to you, that we had quite a nice lie in until about 10am and missed the last bus to Tikal, so decided to have a wander around Flores and get some breakfast and hopefully happen upon some kind of tour company that could get us there that day. We walked along the lakeside and the only place we could find with a breakfast menu was the unimaginatively named “Bill’s Place”. We ordered traditional breakfast (Jill getting very excited about the accompanying Guatemalan tortillas, freshly made and kept warm in a basket wrapped in hot tea towels, bringing back fond mammories of her previous adventures in these parts) and a couple of Gallos. Bill himself, a domineering but friendly American ex-pat, came and introduced himself (breaking the ice by scrounging our cigarettes as he was supposed to have quit), poured himself a breakfast scotch and joined us on our table. We mentioned we’d just come from Caye Caulker and he told us that he’d wanted to open a bar there, but they’d wanted a million US dollars for a tiny tumbledown hut on the beach and he was having none of it, so opted for Flores instead. He’d ran bars all over the shop, in Jamaica, Cuba, and Belmopan in Belize, which was quite an impressive feat, especially since he spoke NO SPANISH. He came across as quite ignorant in this respect, barking his requests to the Guatemalan girls behind the bar in English but they were obviously quite used to this and usually laughed at him before going about their business.Conveniently, the bar lead through into a tour office that opened onto the main street, that was also owned by Bill, and after hearing of our plan to visit Tikal he shouted through to the lady to come through and talk to us and within 10 minutes we’d got ourselves booked on a shuttle to Tikal and back, entry to the ruins and tickets for our planned night bus to Rio Hondo (from where we would continue on to El Salvador). We were a bit reluctant to resort to a tour company sorting our stuff out, but it was a weight off our minds to know that our onward journey was all booked and taken care of, so we could enjoy Tikal without the stress of worrying about having to sort it all out once we got back. So we happily supped on a few cold beers and Susan got to touch a really cute dag.

We got a rickshaw across the causeway to Santa Elena where we were getting picked up and nipped to the nearest shop for some beers before getting onto our minibus.¬† The journey was hilarious, we stopped in Santa Elena bus station, which was slap bang in the middle of a bustling (and pretty much indoor) market, where the stall keepers had to move their wares to make room for the bus to squeeze through, to pick up more passengers and allow people to try and sell us cold drinks, bags of nuts and tubes of toothpaste through the window. We declined the driver’s offer to sort us out a guide to take us round the ruins, saying we didn’t need one as we were just going to “find a pyramid, have a beer on it and then gan”. Unfortunately this ended up being pretty much the case as it took us a good hour or so to trek through the jungle and find the ruins so we didn’t have much time to actually spend looking at them as we had to do another hours trek back and catch the bus. Jill took it upon herself to be the tour guide, reading from the (quite substantial) Lonely Planet section on Tikal and providing a running commentary on the history and purpose of each of the ruins we had a beer on. We only got to see pyramids 1 and 2 (and 5 from afar, from the top of the acropolis) before we had to head back to the car park and we were quite gutted as there was so much more to explore! A website we read later said “spending any less than three days exploring the Mayan ruins of Tikal is tantamount to a crime against humanity.” We wondered what they would have thought the equivalent of spending an hour there would be? Slavery? The Holocaust?

We got back to the car park with 10 minutes or so to spare, so grabbed a couple of beers from the little cafe and sat chatting to a couple of young American hippy girls that were waiting for the same bus (and yet again the ice was broken by the scrounging of cigarettes from us). The bus driver on the way back was class – he stopped by a shop on the way so we could get some road beers (and got some for himself and his friend and joined us in a drink en route – crazy Guatemala we love you!) and chatted with us non stop about how good the weed is in Guatemala, and when we said neither of us smoked weed he replied “Neither do I – I prefer “the special white stuff”. Do you like the white stuff? I can take you to a ranch in Santa Elena where the beers are very cheap and there are many contacts, if you want to party with us tonight? Only two dollars a gram!” and while the prospect of an evening at the cheap beer, drug dealing ranch with the bus driver certainly piqued our interest, we sadly had to decline due to us wanting to be able to catch (and actually get some sleep on) the night bus to El Salvador.

Going via the hotel to pick up our rucksacks, we walked around Flores a bit trying to find somewhere to get some dinner and ended up in a newly opened place called “Sky Bar” that had a nice terrace on the roof, where we enjoyed some margaritas, delicious shrimp kebabs and cheesy barbecue chips and the lovely night time view over the lake. After dinner we wandered back to Bill’s Place, chastising ourselves for not wanting to find another bar, but we were knackered from our day of jungle hiking/pyramid climbing and wanted to say thanks for all his help that morning. We used his wifi to update our facebook and let everyone know we were alive and well, and as the time wore on Bill booked us a taxi to the bus station at Santa Elena and we ordered 10 bottles of Gallo to take out for the journey! Unfortunately the plan was foiled as the ATM (the only one for miles) on the main street was broken and luckily we could scrape together the change for the taxi (and the bus tickets were paid for) but we couldn’t afford the beers! Bill totally blew us away with his generosity and said we could just have them! 10 beers! WHAT A GUY!!! After an anxious wait for the late taxi, it finally turned up and (interspersed with some kitten touching from Susan) we hopped on the night bus for the next leg, curious as to what dubiousness awaited us when we got dropped off in the middle of nowhere in Rio Hondo at 4am!

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