After some busy days in Belize, it was time to take it a bit slower again and go for some more culture so we headed over to Guatemala. We decided to go to Flores and make this our base camp so we could visit the town and drive back and forth to Tikal in one day. When we were near to Flores, we thought we couldn’t believe our eyes, Honda motorcycle had put up a tent just to welcome us to the city…no just kidding, they had a motorcycle event later that day with some Honda motorcycles (most of them were small bikes) and they were already setting everything up. It still gave us a great opportunity to put a spiffy ‘biker-chick’ on Seb’s bike to get a nice picture.
Flores is the capital of the department of Petén and the old part of the city is located on an island in the Peten Itza lake and is connected to the mainland by a short causeway. Because the old part is situated on an island, it is subject to flooding as you can see in the picture below. The footpath is completely submerged in water.
A lot of the people on the island live off of tourism, so you find a lot of hotels and hostels, restaurants, boat tours on the lake and souvenir shops.
The lake itself is used by fishermen to gather some food and by the local youth to have some fun on a hot day.
In the evening, we decided to go out for a bite to eat and when we walked back to the hotel, we saw a huge traffic jam in the street going to our hotel. After a few meters we got a bit worried, thinking our bikes were blocking the traffic in the streets, so we walked a bit faster towards the hotel, but after a while we saw that the traffic was blocked by a police car and that it was still about 100 meters before our hotel, so we could breath again. When we got to the police car, we were asked to stop and told that we couldn’t go any further for the moment. When we asked the police guy what it was all about, he said that there was a family argument going on. We saw one guy standing in the doorway with a knife in his hand, yelling to a policeman standing in the street. We could follow most of the conversation, even though it was in Spanish and it went a little like this:
Policeman: “Come outside, you don’t have the balls, come on, come and fight with me. I’m taking off my jacket, so we can fight man to man!”
Bad guy: “I will, I will come outside and kick your but, but who guarantees me that these guys around the corner will not jump in to help you.”
(guys around the corner, heavily armed with assault rifles step a bit away from the door, but still ready to move in)
This went on for a while and it was evening entertainment for a lot of people in the streets, until finally the bad guy was fed up with it and locked himself in the house again.
We were still waiting in the streets when all of a sudden we felt an itchy feeling in our throat and we knew that they had used teargas on the bad guy to take him out. We covered our nose and mouth and waited for a while until the police gave the green light and we were able to head back to our hotel again. This is the first time since we started this trip that we have been in a situation like this, but be honest, this can happen in every country in the whole world (although I can only imagine the repercussion of the government in Belgium when a policeman tries to handle it like the first one did… 😉 )
Bright and early the next day, we headed over to Tikal to soak up some more Maya culture. Tikal is an ancient Maya city and the name means ‘at the water hole’ and is a UNESCO world heritage site. On our way there, we saw some more evidence that the water level in the lake was higher than it was supposed to be, but we learned afterwards that the region had had very severe waterfall a few days before.
It is the first time that I have seen signs like these, but we are still waiting to see the real live animals that look like this to cross the road…
Seb had read about a guy who saw this sign and at the first glance he thought that he was coming to some real nice curvy roads, but after coming closer to the sign, he saw it for what it really was. The guy had put an Overland Magazine sticker on the sign and after all this time, it was still there, so go Overland Magazine!!!
The ruins of Tikal are one of the best maintained ruins in the region and they are smack in the middle of the jungle. Tikal was one of the most powerful Maya cities back in the day and has some real tall structures that you can admire.
Some of the climbs between two structures can be really breathtaking, literally!
The residential area of Tikal covers about 62 square kilometers and the National Park covers an area of roughly 575 square kilometers, just to give you an idea of the hugeness of the area! One of the monuments towers 70 meters above the ground and from the top you have an amazing view of the site and the jungle around it!
Small Seb and Kim had a blast riding up the temple and they enjoyed their view to the fullest.
This temple is one of the most photographed temples in Tikal, and it reaches an amazing 47 meters above the ground.
The structures in the area sometimes feel like they come out of a fairytale book.
There are thousands of structures at the site of Tikal and they believe that they have only excavated a fraction of it. Archeologists believe that it only took the people about 2 years to build a complete temple.
After walking around the area for more than half a day, we still hadn’t seen half of it, but we had a fair impression of the site, so we decided to call it a day and head back to Flores. On our way back, we saw Karla and her husband standing by the side of the road, together with their riding companions. We had met Karla at the Belize biker meeting and they were making a detour to Tikal and Flores before they would head back home to Mexico. When we came closer, we actually saw what the problem was. One of the guys from the group, who was riding two up, had been hit by a truck tyre that came rolling down the hill, had taken the impact on the windshield and had gone down. The owner of the land from where the tyre came, told the police that one of his cows had knocked the tyre of his shed, but we all thought this was a very strange story. This is what the bike looked like after the collision with the tyre!
The police came to register the accident and we offered to help ride the bike to the nearest town since we were two up on Kim’s bike so Seb could ride the beaten up GS, but the guy was stubborn (the same as Seb would be in that case) and said he was ok to ride it himself, so after patching up the pannier a bit, he took off in the direction of the nearest town, and one of the guys from the group followed him to make sure that nothing else would happen. His pillion got on the back with one of the other members of the group, so we said our goodbyes and wished them a safe continuation of their journey.
The very safe and sturdy police bike that they had to push to get it started again. We passed him a bit further down the road and I think he had some problems of his own because the bike was almost going slower than a running cow…
Meet Lou. Lou’s mom was Belgian and he’s living in Flores and calls himself the bicycle baker. He’s just cycling around selling good tasting home made cakes to people, so obviously we had to try this and yes the applecake was really nice!
After two nights on our lovely island, we said farewell and headed off to explore some more of what Guatemala had to offer.