So, the journey from the Guatemalan border to ‘The Green Monkey’ hostel on Flores Island, took about two hours. The road was bumpy and we passed several ‘shantytowns,’ as well as pigs roaming freely, cows, horses, dogs and cats, people playing football and lots of stalls selling drinks and snacks along the side of road. Now, this hostel would be our first hostel experience. I had read about ‘Los Amigos’ on fellow travellers blogs and heard great things so it seemed only right to check it out. Our marline espanadas coach dropped us off at the Green Monkey then we grabbed our luggage, got a FREE beer then walked to our hostel. After all it wasn’t a big island. You could walk the whole island in about 25 minutes!
We arrived at Los Amigos and were greeted by a blue iron gate that can only be opened from the inside. At least it’s secure! We checked in and opened a tab to charge everything to and pay at the end. We had a deluxe room which cost a whopping £9.47 each a night!!!! Say whaaaaat!! We had gone from spending £50+ a night to less than £20. Here was where we were going to make up some money that the USA stole from us!!
The guy took us to our ‘dorm’ which consisted of bunk beds!!! I have never had bunk beds except for a trip to Cornwall as a kid so I was so excited! Then it was the fight about who got top bunk. I lost so had the measley bottom one. We dumped our stuff then headed to the restaurant to make use of the free wifi and the food and drinks. There is an expansive menu covering breakfast to dinner and they even do lunches for you to take on day trips. I opted for an easy pizza whilst Nathan had a burger. The best part about this place??? The prices!!!
£2 beer. £2 wine. £3.50 pizzas. £3.50 burgers and wedges. The sodas were £1 but we thought we’d treat ourselves as it’s my birthday in a week 😂 to a few beers and wines, after all, £2!!!!! It’s like my heaven!! It tasted good too. The food was delicious. I think all in all we spent £12 on a pizza, burger and wedges, and 3 beers and 3 wines. Can’t get that back home can ya!! Excuse the excitement but we were stoked things were looking so cheap. USA and Belize had both been relatively expensive/we were naive and spent too much to begin with, so now was our chance to reclaim some of that!
The hostel had an amazing vibe. It’s actually got an open air garden section, a bar/restaurant, a night lounge, a spa and different quality rooms. We chilled in the restaurant and booked our ridiculously early trip to Tikal for Saturday morning. Restaurant areaHammocks in the chill out areaThe garden area inclusive of a pool table and really cool lightsArt deco on the walls outside the dorms, quail and dogs roaming round
We retired to our room relatively early Friday night as we had a crazy early start Saturday morning. We met our other two roomies, a posh girl from London and an American girl. Both pleasant and had done the 430am Tikal tour that morning so were also going to bed relatively early. The shower was freezing. Ok, very cold, not quite freezing. Oddly, refreshing yet wouldn’t want one every night. It made a delightful change from the humidity outside. Once showered, it was very hard to change in a room with four strangers without putting everything on display. Succeeded though! The hostel clears the bar area at 930pm and moves everyone to the nightlounge as to not disturb those early birds. It’s totally soundproof too. Unless you have three British girls and a couple of guys outside your dorm talking about deep dirty belly buttons??
The horrible alarm went off at 4am😩😩😩. Time to get ready by torch light and try to not wake the other four people up. Thankfully the Spanish mum and son woke up ten minutes after us. To say I was a zombie is an understatement. I couldn’t find anything. I was cold so emptied my bags looking for my jumper. Failed. So grabbed my hoody instead. Not that I needed it outside the room. We had instructions to wait in the restaurant area to get picked up. About 445am the shuttle arrived and took us on our way. We all tried to get a bit of extra sleep en route. Failed.
When we arrived at the main gate we exited the shuttle and walked to pay our entrance fee. It was 150Q per person and you needed your passport number too. Receipt given, we walked back to the shuttle to wait for everyone else. About 16km down the road we disembarked and headed into Tikal National Park, a UNESCOHeritage Site.
Our guide (Julio or Hanoi???) took us from the shuttle into the museum where they have a scale model of Tikal.Only 20% of Tikal has been uncovered. They haven’t uncovered all of the temples or pyramids in this section. There is some architecture that dates back to 4000BC, however most prominent are those in the classic period which was approximately 200-900AD. Tikal comprises of several Mayan ruins and discovery began in the 1840s. Once a city occupied by many Mayan people, it became abandoned in 900AD due to lack of water and resources to trade, and then became covered in jungle. The jungle we were to walk through this morning to admire the amazing structures.
I have been lucky enough to also visit Chichen-Itza in Mexico a couple of years ago with my mum. It was mesmerising and the Mayan philosophy is truly fascinating. For instance, I learnt today, the pyramid that is Chichen-Itza, has 91 steps up each of its corners. 91 x 4 corners = 364 +1 for the top = 365 = one year! Our guide was incredibly intriguing about all things Mayan and the sacred numbers, which il left into further in the blog. The national park covers about 550 square kilometres, we walked about five miles.As we embarked on our journey through the jungle, we first came across the sacred tree of the Maya and the national tree of Guatemala, the Ceiba, pictured above. We were also lucky enough to see spider monkeys in the trees and Caotes (think that’s how’s it’s spelt). The journey was long and arduous, stopping every now and then to listen to Guide talk about Mayan history, which was fascinating. If only it wasn’t such an early start, I may have been able to retain more of what he said. Plus side, it was every so slightly cooler, probably by like 0.000001 degree. Still hot, still sweaty. That’s gonna be my hashtag for this trip! We first visited the only restored pyramid of the five sets of twins here at Tikal. The climb to the top featured 39 steps. The importance of this, as shown by Guides laser to a fellow tripper’s genital area..the woman’s cycles. 13 x 3 = 39 and something like the moon has a new cycle every 28 days which is 365/13?? I can’t remember the exact figures it was 6am!!! The view from the top of the pyramid. There are 9 altars and 9 stelae at the bottom. The Mayans had a relatively simple way of working out their numbers. Three easy symbols. A dot for numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. A line for 5, 10, 15 and a shell for 20. Aliken the dots to your knuckles when making a fist, the multiples of 5 to your arms and legs, and the shell to your whole body. In the Mayan world, there were 18 months, 20 days long, plus 5 days for making the calendar….18 x 20 = 360 + 5 = 365 days in a year. Clever.This was gated off but on it were carvings of a man with a feather headdress a belt and that where Guide talked about the Mayan numbers. He also said there was a man laying down as an offering for winning/losing a ball game. On the Guatemalan 100 Quetzal note, in the corner is a shell and a line which signifies 5 x 20 = 100. It was incredibly clever how everything Guide was saying made complete sense, even at that time in the morning! There are five sets of twin pyramids in the park. Why twins? Because in Mayan culture they’re considered to be the strongest. This stems from the Maize God retreating to the Underworld with two hero twins whilst battling monsters etc to then get reborn. Maize to this day is still very important to the Mayan community.Alongside the caotes and the spider monkeys, the jungle was full of creepy crawlies. Yuk! From florescent caterpillars to the largest grasshoppers I have ever had the misfortune to see, to hanging black furry caterpillars and a toucan!Seriously, this guy was friggin ginormous! There was another one which had bright red wings that the Guide was putting on our group to take pictures…no thanks! Although I do think I am going to have to overcome my fear of all things jumping and flying over the next 3 months!! We shall leave that for now though!So when I say jungle trek, I mean trekking along a dirt trail with roots sticking out, rocks aplenty surrounded by tall thick leafed trees. How people navigate this park without a guide we do not know.We finally arrived at the first temple. After a monumentous climb to the top, in the distance we could see the top of Temple 1. We had climbed Temple 4, the highest structure in the park, standing at 64m high. The view from the top, whilst mainly trees and jungle, was epic. The fact we could see the tops of other temples truly gave us an idea of just how tall these structures were.We climbed down the however many steps there were, to meet Guide at the rest area. It was so humid and the air swarming with mozzies waiting to attack. And attack they did. I am so covered in bites despite spraying myself thoroughly. I don’t think I have ever been bitten so much! Our journey continued after a purchase of ‘aqua’ through a terrible language barrier at a pop up bar, after about half an hour. We would journey to the lost lands. This area consisted of two pyramids and three ball courts.Mundo Perdido, looks a bit like Chichen-ItzaHere Guide told us they uncovered pornographic material next to the pyramid. We then wandered round to the Plaza of the Seven Temples, situated east of the lost world. Here was where we saw the toucan previously mentioned. There were three main structures.Not a very good photo but in the middle is a tall structure, the main temple. To the right, there are three temples and to the left there are three temples. The one in the middle is March. As you look at the structure, going to the left, the altars signify April, May and June, then going back to the middle, July, August and September as the main temple. These months have the longest days and shortest nights. Going to the right, you have October, November, December then January, February, March back to the centre. Months with the shortest days and longest nights. As Guide was explaining it, it was fascinating. There are 13 levels of heaven . The building pictured above has 9 steps which respresents the nine levels of the underworld, and another structure had seven steps which is the Mayan mystic number for Earth. I can’t be exact on the above but the Ancient Maya are so incredibly fascinating from their avid astronomy to their predictions and the way everything makes complete sense. I must take notes next time!
From the Plaza of the Seven Temples we went on to the Grand Plaza. Here lies the famous Temple of Tikal, or Temple 1, facing temple 2, the temple the King built for his wife.The Grand Plaza only has Temple 1 and Temple 2 fully restored now but their used to be a third one and they were built directly under the stars of Orion’s Belt. They were great believers in Astrology. The third temple used to be where the cemetery is, where archaeologists uncovered 200 skeletons.The tomb of King Jasaw Chan K’waiil I was uncovered in Temple 1 in 1962 and it was adorned with masonry and jade. You can no longer climb it as people have fallen to their deaths from it. Below is a panoramic view of the Plaza. Temple 2 is on the left, the cemetery in the middle and Temple 1 on the right.The tour round Tikal was truly fascinating and everything about the Mayans too! The tour was about 5 hours long and we headed back to the museum where we would wait for the shuttle back to Los Amigos. We waited and waited for the 11am shuttle but nothing turned up. It got to 1130am and Guide said the driver wasn’t there so we would have to wait for the 1230 one. We went off exploring round the shops that were now open and for a drink then waited. Finally it arrived and we piled on only to realise three girls were missing. They hadn’t taken the Guide round Tikal either but met us ready for the 11am shuttle but had now disappeared. None of us wanted to wait as we were hot and tired so after a lap round the parking lot and Guide telling everyone to look out for them, we left.
We all tried to get a bit of sleep in the way back but the ride was so bumpy it proved near impossible. Still, it wasn’t raining for a change. We got back to the hostel at about 2 and I immediately headed for the shower to wash any bugs off me and to soothe my million bites. I forgot the shower was cold though so it was more like dancing in and out of it. Who puts shelves in a bathroom above a toilet? Seriously? Surely they go next to the sink or above it but not over the toilet!! I was in the shower and reached out to grab the soap and what do I bloody knock in? My toothbrush. Yep my toothbrush fell into the toilet because some idiot thought it was a good idea to put shelves above it!!!
Good job we decided to walk round the island in the afternoon! Flores is very pretty with coloured houses, the sea surrounding it and a bridge to take you back to the mainland passing right by Burger King, McDonalds and Pizza Hut. I was now holding out hope for a Taco Bell!! Found a church! It still hadn’t rained either!!Colourful housesLos Amigos hostelThe hostel really was beautiful. We had food then just chilled out for the evening listening to the chatter of fellow British backpackers. We wanted to go to Antigua Guatemala on Sunday so we walked back to the Green monkey hostel to see if they did tours their. They did. The guy behind the desk was so helpful he had another guy from the actual bus company come and book us on to it. It would take about ten hours to get there and would cost 300Q changing from a big bus to shuttle in Guatemala City. Sorted. We booked, then walked back along the sea front to our hostel.Our next journey would be from our hostel to Antigua Guatemala…
Until next time…