Day 13 - Flores

A not insignificant amount is charged when you leave Belize, payment on entry would surely be a more reasonable system. We'd stopped in San Ignacio on the border the night before and received Guatemala pointers from a charming French girl named Lila. As soon as we'd walked across the border we were beset by Taxi Drivers and Bus Drovers bellowing "Flores!" and "Tikal!". Going alphabetically we chose the former. A familiar buzzing noise greeted our arrival into the town, the hairs on my travelling partners neck stood up. Tuk-tuks. His deep seated and impassioned loathing for the machines (or more accurately their operators) was salved by a few jars with some chickens. The Mayan ruins at Tikal were widely touted (and not just by the aforementioned) so a tour was booked for the following day.
We waited on pre-dawn streets silent but for the shrieks of bats diving in and out of the eaves. Our transport was exactly on (Guatemalan) time and we were soon heading north to a city reclaimed by the jungle. A hummingbird buzzed beside me as we loitered at the entrance while Occelated Turkeys strutted the dewy grass. Step pyramids rose through the mist their angular forms piercing the soft white vapour. We climbed one of the ancient ziggurats and looked over fogged canopy and distant (very distant) toucans. It takes a leap of imagination to see these ruins as a functioning, teeming city-state, the plazas thronged with people hundreds of years ago. What I'd give to step back just briefly to the golden age of Meso-American civilisation.
Next on the skimpy itinerary was a place in the mountains called Semuc Champey. Crystal clear water cascades down over turquoise pools. I swam a gentle stroke while looking up at steeply rising jungle all around. Already wet from a torrential downpour the cool waters washed the dirt of travel from my weary body. Our lodgings were perched above the river and once the electricity went off at 10pm a pitch blackness descended among with a present feeling of isolation. Danes lulled us to sleep with The Beatles greatest hits. The sun wasn't long up and we were bouncing down the mountains in the back of a goods van with the aforementioned Scandinavian songsmiths. Rocky roads threw us up and down, left and right until my senses were almost entirely loosened from me. Still, it beat for comfort the minivan from the other day packed to twice it's capacity, 30 people in a space designed for 15. We changed in the village of Lanquin to a more luxurious form of transport - one that had seats. Picking up a couple of South Africans the van sped off towards Antigua. Up into the clouded hills again we ascended, the roads a sticky mush from recent rains. Our driver decided speed would be our ally through these muddy passes even when the vehicle was fishtailing alarmingly from side to side. Near sideways and skidding towards the precipitous edge, I think collective hearts skipped a beat. Will we make it to Antigua or be a mess of expensively repatriated bodies on the valley floor? Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment!

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