Day 6 (Saturday): I was treated to a lovely lay in today until 5:45 am. It’s amazing what those extra 45 minutes of sleep can do to you! The reason for the early start was all down to starting our long travel day to our next hotel in Guatemala, around 124 km away. To start off we drove to the passport office where we had to obviously show our passports, get a pretty stamp and pay our Mexican exit fee of 390 pesos (approx. £15/$21). Following this, we took all our bags and ourselves to the same boats we got on yesterday and travelled up the Usumacinta River, however this time the other way, and arrived at the border of Guatemala where there was literally nothing telling you that you were now in a different country or that you had just crossed a border. It was so strange! It makes me wonder how many people just turn up there thinking their still in Mexico to eventually find out that they’re not! (Actually I doubt many people do that at all but still…). After we all got off the boats, and retrieved our luggage from another, we all hopped into our private bus and drove to the Guatemalan passport office where again they checked our passports, gave us a pretty new stamp and paid the Guatemalan entrance fee of 10 Quetzals (approx. 90p/$1.30), then carried on with our 4 hour drive to our new hotel. It literally did not feel that we were in a different country, but we were. We were finally in Guatemala!
The bus ride was hot, sticky and bumpy and not in a good way at all. Thankfully the 4 hours had passed and we finally arrived. With a free afternoon to ourselves, I could finally relax! The hotel was a beautiful little place, situated right on Lake Petén-Itzá, so I spent my afternoon swimming in the stunning lake and sunbathing. It was actually the first time I’ve ever swam in a lake, I think I was a bit privileged to start off swimming in such a beautiful one.
For dinner, we had a group meal at our hotel and it being one of girls birthday our CEO treated us all to an ice-cream cake and a shot of tequila. I’ve never had ice-cream cake before but it sure was delicious, and as for the tequila? Not too bad itself. They actually drink it differently in Mexico (not that I was still in Mexico, but I was still in the spirit). Instead of licking the salt off of your hand, downing the shot and biting the lime straight after, they bite the a bit of lime, inhale deeply, take the shot, exhale deeply and finish of biting the rest of the lime. Now I don’t know if this is down to the fact that the tequila was of better quality than I’m used to, or the new method of taking it just shook things up but it didn’t actually taste as bad as I’m used to!
And to carry on with the theme of firsts (first time I’ve swam in lake, first time I’ve had ice-cream cake and not to mention first time I’ve stepped foot in Guatemala!) I saw my first blood moon today and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.
Day 7 (Sunday): Not kidding, today I actually got a lay in and was lucky enough to be able to sleep in until 8am! Absolute bliss! We had a free morning today so just relaxed and went swimming in the lake for a bit. After lunch, which consisted of a stone oven baked pizza (the best pizza of this entire trip may I add) we went on a boat trip to the island of Flores. On this trip I tried my hand at another Central American beverage, this time from Guatemala (where else?) and had a Quezaltec which is fermented sugar cane and hibiscus flower. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t realise at first that it was actually alcoholic, I thought it was going to be like cranberry juice. It is not. I didn’t like it, it was ok, I just wasn’t too fond of the flavours. It was very sweet.
After a nice little cruise on our boat around Lake Petén-Itzá, we arrive at Flores. It was nice, very pretty. Separated from mainland Guatemala by the lake, it had a very different vibe and look. It was quite colonial and had lots of bright, colourful buildings. I splurged out a bit here, buying a ton of stuff from earrings, to bags. Their stuff is just so cheap but at the same time so beautiful. I couldn’t resist! I also tried a traditional Guatemalan dessert here called Rellenitos, which is fried plantain with frijoles (black beans) and chocolate inside. I didn’t like it at all, but then again I’m really not fond of plantain so maybe that’s why!
Day 8 (Monday): Today we left Guatemala and emerged into Belize which I will talk about more in my next post. However before we left Guatemala, we took a trip to the well-known Tikal Ruins. In the middle of the jungle, these ruins are almost similar to Palenque but much, much grander and larger scale. With numerous temples here, some you can climb some you can’t. I climbed all the way to the top of temple number 6 which stands 230ft tall, it being the tallest one out of any I’ve visited so far. It was hard getting up, but the views from the top were spectacular. You can just see overhead of all the jungle, and see the other temples in the skyline. It’s such an incredible sight. Fun fact: They even filmed a scene from the newest Star Wars movie here! And with the other, smaller temples they were just as pretty. I could actually envisage a community of Mayans and the life they may have lived much more in this site, probably being some of the ruins were very close together, sort of surrounding one another. It’s not hard to see why so many people travel to see Tikal, it’s just so worth it.
After several beautiful hours spent in Tikal, we went on to continue our border crossing and journey into Belize which you can catch in my next post!