I decided at 6 a.m. it was time to move on, to the water taxi back to the mainland and onwards it was. This is where I learnt how incredibly freeing it is to be a solo traveler, although I do wish I had said good-bye to a few people.
Heading to Flores, I was planning on seeing Tikal the next day. I wasn’t sold on it though. I was going because it was the ‘sight to see’. It seemed there was another plan for me though. The bus stopped for two girls hitchhiking and they turned out to be the two awesome girls I met in Caye Caulker. I quickly learnt they were heading to Semuc Champey, after a night in Flores as well – that instantly sounded much more appealing! Trust your intuition and follow where your soul goes, you wont be disappointed.
Flores is this adorable little island town, or the ‘old’ part of the city is on an island rather. It felt very calm and homely compared to Belize. We ended up staying at the Aurora Hostel – it wasn’t top rated but we wanted something cheap for the night and it was actually pretty nice. Quiet, private washrooms, really cool rooftop area! I did hear from other travellers though that one of their favourite hostels was Hostel Los Amigos in Flores. Perhaps we missed out there.
Here is the first (and last time) I got ripped off by a local shuttle bus driver! He sold the three of us bus tickets to Semuc Champey for the next morning. Now he also talked me into buying a ticket from Semuc Champey to Antigua. As this was my plan, and I thought why not – he is offering me a cheaper price. There was a poster in the Hostel lobby showing shuttle prices from all over, one of which was Semuc Champey to Antigua. He also added one night free at the hostel I was heading too. Anyways, I learnt later that I paid way too much, and the hostel I went too wouldn’t take his note as a comp for my stay (shocking, right? Sounds brutally obvious talking about it now) and I hardly got my bus out of Semuc at the end of the trip anyways. Just buy your bus tickets as you go, unless there with a larger company I would say!
Anyways, off on an eight-hour bus ride adventure to Semuc Champey. When I jumped on the bus, I believed it was around four hours. I think someone told me it was only 300 Kilometres. Turns out its closer to 8 hours because of the roads, oh the roads! The roads a filled with potholes and drivers on a mission! The drive through Guatemala was beautiful though. Lush, vibrant green rolling hills. The last bit seemed to have taken the longest, as it was all unpaved down a windy canyon. It was clear we were headed for more remote land than I anticipated – after all, I decided to make the journey the day prior, no time to research.
When we got to Lanquin, we were bombarded with young children yelling in the vehicle offering hostel accommodations and transportations. It was a quick change of pace form our quiet bus ride. We finally sorted out who was taking us to El Portal hostel. We had to transfer here to small, tiny, trucks as they were the only vehicles that could handle the rest of the road terrain. There was six of us, and of course us girls voted to pile in the back of the truck – open to the adventure right! We had a blast trying to talk Spanish to locals hitching a ride and high-fiving backpackers as they pass in similar trucks. But after thirty minutes, 11 whole kilometres, of this we were excited to stand on solid ground.
The hostel was amazing. It was eco friendly, cute little bunks, no power in the rooms – in fact the generator was only turned on from 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. for power in the . Best of all, no cell phone service! The moisture was so intense that it almost ate my cell phone though. I was tempted to buy a bag of rice for all my electronics. A few cell phones did die, and a friends eReader.
I would recommend going to this hostel because you can walk up to the pools, caves and jump off the bridge! If you stay in Lanquin you have to take the trucks back and forth.
We decided to do the pools our selves, without the tour guides – and that was a good call! We hit the pools first thing in the morning, almost had the whole place all to our selves. I am almost certain this was the most beautiful place I have ever been. The water is crystal clear, and the trees lush green, amazing viewpoints from the hiking trails. I could go on and on! Catching some sun rays in the water that morning, while the little minnows bit at my feet was a highlight from my whole trip. I think I could have day dreamed here for days…
The cave journey that afternoon was quite the change of events. A group of around 15 of us head into this cave with our bathing suits on, runners for our feet and candle stick in hand for light and one guide who only spoke Spanish. Needless to say I was feeling anxious. I did find a limit of my own – must be in control of my own safety and wellbeing! To sum it up, I had a few tears of joy when I made it back into the open air.
After tubing down the river from the caves, I was still holding onto some negative energy. I had to shake it off. What better way than to jump off a bridge that’s 50 feet (12 meters)!
After two nights it was time for me to head onto Antigua… after the eight hour delay due to a local protest. The locals barely let us through. They parted ways ever so slightly, I thought the bus was going to run them over. They would have defended themselves I am sure, as they made their machetes and machine guns very visible.
It was this bus ride that I decided every experience was one to take note on, even in the most uncomfortable seats possible. I had been meeting the most amazing people all the way through, and this was no exception. The poor Kiwi sitting next to me had a seat made for a child, a child that had the short end of the stick at that. She was lovely though! We ended up traveling for about a week together. After a very short time on the bus it was clear we must have met in another life. Great vibes. Lots of yarns.