Friday, November 25, 2016

Tikal Adventure Part 3

Part 1 - From Panajachel to Flores and our first day
Part 2 - Tikal
Part 3 - Last day in Flores/Santa Elena and our trip home
I thought maybe this post wouldn't be long enough to be interesting but it turned out that our last day in Santa Elena/Flores and our trip home was more exciting than I thought it would be!

To start off, we had to leave the hostel at 10 am. Our bus home didn't depart until 9 pm. How do you pass 11 hours???
Well, we should have stayed at the hostel as long as we could and abused their lounge and free WiFi. Alas, we were hungry and headed out to eat and then felt weird about trying to get back in. So we just spent the day wandering, checking the time, walking, sitting, eating, checking the time, walking some more, etc., etc. Somehow the day passed!
green heron Guatemala
A green heron. I love how still the waters are. We saw lots of birds at the lake plus turtles. We even had fun throwing cheezies to the fishies!
almond tree
Almond tree!
Santa Elena Petén Guatemala
The streets of Santa Elena, Petén. Blah. Not my kinda city.
Posing with the fake Mayan statues outside the mall!
Bert pretending to have casually discovered an ancient Mayan carving. :)
Flat boats that will take you on a tour of Lake Petén Itzá.
Cormorants, a seagull (??), and an egret in the back.
TIP: If you're going to Tikal and want to pack a lunch, there are two grocery stores in Santa Elena. There is a Despensa Familiar on 4a Calle (walk or ask a tuk tuk to take you for Q5 per person), or even easier, there is La Torre supermarket right in the little mall by the Burger King at the causeway to the island of Flores. It's a bit hard to find in the mall, You have to go to the end of an aisle and there is only a small doorway. We only found it because we kept seeing people walking out of the mall with grocery bags!

Our stroll through the grocery store was the highlight of our day. HA! We were so goofy and stood out so much that the security guards were following us.

Frozen pupusas??? Interesting idea. But why buy frozen when you can get fresh?
Cherry Coke, Vanilla Coke, Coke Life? I didn't think they made these types anymore.
I think we ended up at the bus station at, like, 4pm. Ugh, Five hours to go. We just sat and talked and watched people going by. At some point, I sat in some oil and my shorts were COVERED in black. All over my butt! So I snuck between two big buses to change.
Also, don't go in the bathrooms in the bus station if you can help it. Icky icky icky! Probably the worst I've been in so far in Guatemala. *shudder*

Around sunset, a whole bunch of folks came and set up barbecues and taco stands near the bus station. It smelled so delicious! And it was only Q15 a plate. But we had bought ham, cheese, mustard, and bread at the grocery store to make sandwiches, plus a ton of snacks, so we didn't have room for BBQ.
Smokey barbecues set up at the bus station. Great food for only Q15.
Finally, our bus was ready and we climbed on at just past 9 pm, relieved to be finally on our way. The ride from Santa Elena to Guate City was a lot more peaceful than the ride there. There was no fruit inspection on the way back. Sweet! We stopped once at that gas station/FDN station at 1:30 am, then arrived in the city at 5:50 am. Our shuttle driver was right there waiting for us, but it took ages for him and another driver to get all the passengers organized.

FDN bus station Fuente del Norte Guatemala City
The FDN bus station in Guatemala City in early morning. This picture is as blurry as I felt!
Our shuttle went fairly quickly from the city to Antigua, and then dropped us off at a closed travel agency. The driver told us to wait there for a half hour. Another couple, who spoke little Spanish, were told to wait as well. They were going to Pana too. We grabbed coffees from a hostel nearby and chatted while we waited. We started getting nervous when a half hour passed, then 40 minutes, but soon enough the same driver came back with the same shuttle and loaded us on again. We drove around town picking up tons of passengers from all over, and eventually headed out of town at 8:40 am.

Our shuttle from Antigua to Panajachel was a very interesting ride. There was a young woman -- 29, she said -- who was so super chatty! She did NOT STOP the entire ride. She talked with the passengers around her about politics, refugees, world travel, Northern Ireland, teaching, and on and on. It certainly was fascinating to listen to...but I was tired and just wanted some quiet! I wish I had met her in a bar or restaurant instead of on a shuttle home after 12 hours on the road. I think we would have had some great conversations. :)

Another unexpected thing about our shuttle ride home was that we stopped for things. Every other time I've been on the shuttle from Antigua to Panajachel, we just went straight through, no stopping. This time, our driver pulled over at this neat place called Chichoy and let us stretch our legs for 10 minutes.
I've always wanted to stop there. It's so different from everything nearby. It's in a pine forest. PINE! It smelled like home! The buildings are made of wood, which is highly unusual. (Wood is for cookfires.) I didn't get a good picture of the huge building but you can go to TripAdvisor and see some more pics and a review of the restaurant there. It seems like it serves some pretty amazing barbecue.

Chichoys Tecpan Guatemala
The grounds of Chichoy.
The bridge was so bouncy that I felt wobbly for several seconds after getting off it onto the pavement!
This goose was none too pleased at sharing his personal space with so many tourists. :)
Chichoys Tecpan Guatemala
Each door at Chichoy's had amazing burls built into it.
Chichoys Tecpan Guatemala
Inside Restaurante Chichoy. Wow! So much wood!
The other fun stop we did was for a quetzal bird. The driver was booting along the highway when suddenly he got very excited and started pointing up the cliff into the trees. He started talking rapidly in Spanish about a female quetzal bird. He pulled over and we all piled out the van. The driver gestured and pointed and explained and pointed again...but none of us could see it! We were all standing on the side of the highway, shading our eyes from the sun and staring like dummies up at a hill! It was awesome. We all had a good laugh that we couldn't see this amazing bird that the driver was so enthusiastic about. I wish just one of us had seen it!
Do you see the Quetzal bird? No, neither did we! We said it must be because we're not Guatemalan. :)
Our awesome driver even stopped at the second mirador after Solola so everyone could marvel at the beauty of Lake Atitlan. I was super excited to be home! I pointed out a few landmarks to the people on the bus. It lifted my heart to see the lake again.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Lake Atitlan and Panajachel in the bottom left.
I spent a few minutes on the shuttle talking to the passengers as we descended to Pana, just helping them with simple questions. Once they learned I lived there, they wanted to know all sorts of stuff. I was happy to help. Some of them were only staying a few days, others were staying a few months. One couple was considering moving there so we had a good talk. I hope I see them around town so I can find out they're enjoying it.

So that's the story of our Tikal trip. It was awesome but too short. I would love to go back to Tikal and take my time seeing the park again. Not looking forward to so much travel time but it's worth it once you get there!

Thanks for reading and happy trails, everyone!

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