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Guatemala; officially the Republic of Guatemala / República de Guatemala is bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. The name "Guatemala" comes from the Nahuatl word Cuauhtēmallān (nahwiki), or "place of many trees", a derivative of the K'iche' Mayan word for "many trees"
The territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica. Most of the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, becoming part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Guatemala attained independence in 1821 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved by 1841.
14 eco-regions ranging from mangrove forests to both ocean littorals with 5
different ecosystems. Guatemala has 252 listed wetlands, including five
lakes, 61 lagoons, 100 rivers, and four swamps. Guatemala is home to at
least 8.682 species of vascular plants, of which 13.5% are endemic.
Guatemala has created 118 wildlife reserves.
Bit of a bummer, but my hotel is real close. 15 minutes walking back to the first terminal, then a single street back - I thought. But here are no Hotel Sinaloa. While I look around, a real friendly man and his boy stand in their doorway. He know of no Sinaloa around here, but look it up on his phone. This is Zone 1, and it is in Zone 11. As he is a friendly man, he actually drive me there. When he drops me off, he warns me; this is not a friendly area.
The sign say Sinaloa2, and it turns out, this is NOT my reserved hotel. It is in Zona 1 - somewhere. I have seen five banks, and all their ATMs have been closed. No chance I get a taxi anyway. I end up paying US$ 25 for a average room, but I don't really feel like walking around here with my back-pack, in a dark city. It have not really been the best start of a country so far. And I am even further away from the terminal I have to use in the morning. And their internet does not work, and I could do with some new facts. At ten, I just give in, and go to sleep.
11/1. It is a bit cold during the night, and despite I use the blankets from both beds, I freezes. Well, it is above 1500 metres height. Up at six to find a bus for Flores. The internet works long enough to upload my Facebook-update - and that is it. I ask at the hotel for the bus, and they say it asses their door all the time - and that is a clear indication of: They don't get the question.
Around the corner, I find a gas station where numerous local busses are gassing. I ask a bunch of the drivers, and they point me towards a terminal. I walk through the real busy market area. People are actually running here - a first! And here are goats with muzzles on. Another place, an Eiffel Tower-like construction covers the road. I guess I will return one day, and head on. I find the terminal, but apparently, this is not from where the Flores busses departure.
A real helpful man get my wish, and guides med to an taxi-like car. He drive me 3-4 kilometres to another terminal than I thought, but at least, he accept US$5 for payment. And as an unexpected surprise, they actually have a bus within half an hour! I try to find an ATM, but fails.
The bus is not too cold, but they have a tendency to let in some insane people, giving loud lectures for half hours, holding a black book in their hands. I actually think I would prefer accordion music! It is a long drive; close to 500 kilometres, and while I could do it in around seven hours, the bus manages to do it in eleven; not bad.
The first part is down the mountain Guatemala City is found on. Then it is a long stretch in around 700 metres height, and here are so many huge cacti! Some Cereus, some Opuntias. I surely have to go back, when I get a car. I try to make some photos the entire day, but bus, tinted windows and speed does not improve the result.
In general, it seems like the mountains of Guatemala are bigger around here, compared with the recent countries. Then we reach a plain below 100 metres, and everything turn green. It is still fields with cattle, but here are also some rubber tree plantation and pineapples.
In Morales, we make a lunch break, and I manages to find an ATM. After the turn in Morales, we pass the Lake Izabal, which seems like the place to have your boat. Then we drive a long time on a plain with small but steep volcano cones on. Here start to quite some small huts with wooden walls and palm-leaf-roofs.
As the light fades, we reach San Benito, and as the bus continues to the centre of town, a little car bring me and two German girls out to the island of Flores. I had a rather expensive hotel at the mainland, but tag along with the girls, as they have found a hostel. It seems like a real cosy place, and the tourists know! I find dinner next door, and return to get things sorted out. I guess I will be back here, and head on towards El Remate. From El Salvador border to Guatemala City and Estern Guatemala to Flores.
12/1. I'm not on the top in the morning, and get a late start. Well, seven is a bit late. I walk pretty much all the streets of the island Flores, and here are some pretty houses. When I pass the church on the peak of the island, is is real full his Sunday morning. And a man is firing up huge firecrackers right outside.
The water of the lake is pretty clear, but do have too much nutrients, it seems. I return to the hotel for my bag, and while a recent hotel had a cat that was hard to de-attach, here, it is the young receptionist. On my way over the dam to the mainland, I spot a pair of Green Iguanas - although they are not green. The smaller one have had its tail almost bitten over.
I walk a kilometre thought the mainland town, and it is fare from interesting. At the terminal, I wait five minutes, and set of alone in a medium-bus with driver and ticket boy. We drive in through the narrow market streets, under the covering, and reach a small square with small busses. After 20 minutes, we are a few more, and set off towards the north and El Remate.
It is through real green cattle land and some dense forests. I jump off in El Remate, and head out along the betyful lake; Petén Itzá. The most friendly receptionist this morning recommended Allice's Hosten, and that is way out this road. But is is worth the walk, as it is real nice. I get a dorm room, and head back to the village to organise transport to Tikal.
Right away, an resident American pull over. He is not offering a lift, but a delicious freshly baked cake. I buy a half - around half a kilo of sweet cake with cinnamon, chocolate and raisins. At the main road, I ask a receptionist at the first little hotel, and he sell tours as well. One is within an hour.
I see the little line of houses along the road, called El Remate, get a big mug of coffee with a great lake view, and catch the bus. The first 30 kilometres is through green farmland. Then we drive among the same length within the national park the Tikal pyramids are found in. The entrance was €20, and I have to pay additional €20 for the sunset tour - or wait at the parking lot for the others.
I skip the guide, figuring I can find the pyramids myself. It is through dense forest, with quite some orchids and other epiphytes. Here are also some animals like the coati, wild turkeys, Amazon parrots, huge woodpecker and a bunch of other birds.
The first pyramid I find is Tempel no 5, which is really impressive. It is 57 metres and from 650 AD, found in a real small clearing. I have it all to my self, and it is a great experience. I walk around from one huge pyramid to the next, and find so many other constructions in-between. Some are just green hills, but a lot have been restored - or remained in former glory. I hardly meet any other people, but crosses the path of a guy from southern India a few times.
Several of the pyramids are fitted with staircases, and the top offers a great view over the rainforest canopy with the tops of the other pyramids sticking up. I end up at the Grand Pyramid shortly before I have to meet the rest of the group. The sunset tour is with mandatory guide. We stand on the top of the pyramid and watch the sunset - which is a bit dull this evening. But the tranquil and experience rather good anyway.
On the way down, the rather good guide find a birdspider, and lures it out. every one get to hold this furry and gentle animal. We look for snakes on the walk back, and jaguar on the drive. They saw one last night, but we are not in luck.
I'm home at eight, and kind of fail to enjoy the camp and surroundings. I skip the photos and diary to get some sleep at ten, but get to chat with an interesting Italian about my age. And then it is midnight.
It is an hours drive through incredible green cattle fields and a bit of other crop. We reach the border, and have to change bus. The border crossing is real swift, as I'm the first in line, and the procedure is real quick. Then I am in Belize. I will return to Guatemala in some time. Flores, EL Renate and awesome Tikal Pyramids. And to the border.
I'll be back!