The long bus journey from Bacalar, Mexico to Mira Flores, Guatemala was definitely worth it. We crossed two borders and traveled 10 hours through three countries. Driving out of Mexico through the jungle was beautifully scenic, the road fairly smooth, lined with tropical, dark green vegetation. When we entered Belize I could see a difference in culture. People spoke English, restaurants served seafood and barbecue dishes and the houses were colourfully Caribbean. I opted not to stop in Belize because in the city itself there is not much to see or do and is relatively expensive, plus I want to stick to Spanish speaking counties.
Next we entered Guatemala, here the forest was dense and the Spanish signs reappeared. Palm trees lined the roads and greenery surrounded us. On arriving at the hostel I was ready for some food. No one spoke English, providing me with the chance to practice my Spanish. I ordered the meal of the day unsure specifically what it was. I just said yes please to what ever questions I was asked – I think it was something about how I wanted my food served. I was pleasantly surprised with a very tasty meat, rice and vegetable dish (I still don’t know what it was). For the grand total of £3 for a large, hearty dinner I cannot complain. Walking back to the hostel I heard some music, so decided to follow the noise. I found some street food stalls and stopped by to grab a traditional Guatemalan maize dessert. It was rather like custard in a cup with cinnamon. It tasted great.
The next morning I was up nice and early raring to go. Wandering around Flores I discovered how beautiful it was in the daylight. The houses all very colourful and well kept, the lake stunningly clear and the far away land covered in dense forests.
I took a launcher (boat) across from the island flores to a sister island. It only took 5 minutes or so. Someone had previously recommended me to find a mirador (view point) on this sister island. I walked along the waterfront looking at Flores in the distance, although it was a grey day it was beautiful. The colourful Flores houses were a phenomenal contrast against the bleak sky. After asking a couple of Guatamalans for directions, climbing up numerous stone stairs and hiking through the jungle I found the mirador. I ascended up the watch tower and got an even better look at Flores. While, on the high up platform, I met two people also enjoying the view. One Guatemalan hostel worker and a fellow America traveller. We spoke in Spanglish. The Guatemalan lady said that she understood my Spanish well. I was super pleased with this comment. I still need a lot of work but I think I might be improving. I even managed to translate Spanish to English for her American friend.
I took the wooden, motor boat back to Flores and joined a tour group to the Tikal Mayan ruins about 50 minutes away. There was a large group of us from America, England, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Chilli, Brazil and Australia – everyone was very friendly. Our tour guide showed us temples, houses, places of human sacrifice and some amazing wildlife. It was fascinating to learn how numbers were written in Mayan script and what each unique symbol meant.
We saw agile spiders monkeys jumping from branch to branch on the magnificent tree tops above us. I heard howler monkeys roar to one another, birds chirp and the constant hum of the crickets. The sounds in the jungle really highlighted the sheer number of species living there. Bright blue birds swooped down before me, green parrots flew among the trees in the distance and a colourful woodpecker desperately pecked at the tree bark trying to find some food.
We climbed ancient temples, amazed at how they were built so long ago. Their exact positioning and architectural structure all had a purpose. Some were positioned so when there was an equinox or solace the citizens would be able to tell from the shadow cast over the temple. One temple gave an echo like nothing I have ever heard before. When you clapped the sound that reverberated was undescribable. The mysteries surrounding the Mayan culture astound me and the theories or facts revealed so far are fascinating.
The views at the top of the temples over the forest were jaw dropping. I could see forested mountains for miles and miles. Ruins were hidden between the forest cover, temples poking out through the far distant trees, their grey stone structure clearly visible.
The sun set was magical, well worth the strenuous chamber up the steep steps to see it. We sat with our hearts ta wing from the climb watching the bright orange sun slowly descend beneath the horizon. Orange streaks covered the sky before darkness surrounded us.
That evening I went back to the street food market. I had a burrito, tostadas and fried bananas for desert all for £1.50. They tasted amazing, possibly the best food yet. The burrito was a tortilla wrap, rather thin filled with chicken topped with guacamole and tomato salsa. The tostadas are crunchy circular crackers topped with a dish of your choice, I had one guacamole, another noodle and a third with cabbage. All so flavoursome and mouth watering. Not sure how I am going to top these. I sat overlooking the lake munching on these delights when I was approached by someone from Honduras. We chatted in Spanglish. I learnt some more words before heading back to the hostel very satisfied with my dinner and new vocabulary.
I woke up early as usual not able to have a lie in and decided to walk around a bit. I went too the water edge and again made another friend who I spoke in Spanglish with. I also made friends with this little dog named Bobby. Guatamalas are so friendly, more than happy to practice their English and teach you some Spanish. I headed back to the hostel and got on the bus to Semuc Champey, Gutamala.
Top tips for travellers:
-There is a bus from bacalar green monkey hostel to mira flores which stops in Belize city. It is organised by the hostel and costs $720 pesos (£33). It is more expensive than taking chicken buses but much easier and still fairly cheap for the long distance you will be travelling (full day on the bus).
-When crossing the border always have cash sometimes there is tax for leaving / entering countries by land. Leaving Mexico cost ($350 pesos / $25 us dollars) and leaving Belize cost ($30 Belize dollars /$15 us dollars). So always always always carry US dollars when traveling.
-Mira Flores is definitely worth visiting. It is beautiful, has a great vibe and provides tasty, cheap food. I spent a full day there, staying two nights. I managed to squeeze everything in I wanted to do. However, if you don’t want to rush it would be better to spend a day at Tikal and a day exploring the small town and neighbouring island rather than cramming it all into one day.