Sunday, 14 October 2007

Flores, Guatemala

Flores in Peten Itza Lake
Flores in the lake

We approached Santa Elena with sun bursting through the leaden sky of clouds after a rain-soaked journey thinking this a good sign for better weather until the rain came back in time for us getting out of the collectivo. Santa Elena is the muddy (or dusty depending on the weather), busy, noisy, polluted mainland cousin to the historic island town of Flores which is joined to the former by a causeway. Santa Elena guards the approach to Flores like Rapunzil’s mean father. Both are on Lake Peten Itza, the largest lake in northern Guatemala. It is surrounded by jungle-covered hills where villages nestle against the shore.

Painted Street
Bright Street of our hotel

We were whisked through the ugly to the good by another collectivo who just happened to be waiting at our drop-off point. Our arranger drove us around a few hotels until yes we agreed with him, the one he recommended was the best. This was the Mirador Del Lago at 60 Quetzals for a fan double with a private bathroom. As it was at our price with a decent room and warm water from the shower we happily took it and he presumably happily received his commission.

Typical Flores door

Flores is a town of narrow cement and limestone-cobbled streets lined with brightly painted buildings. The island was the ancient Mayan city of Taxapal and still today bits of Mayan buildings and burials are found during construction work. At least some, we were told, were found by archaeologists working alongside the builders.

Casa Vieja
Casa Veija - an old house hidden in a backstreet of Flores

Today, Flores, is a major tourist hub for backpackers and holidaymakers visiting the ancient Mayan city Tikal, just over an hour’s drive away. This means lots of gift shops selling Tikal t-shirts and traditional clothes, internet cafes and many, many restaurants selling Western specialities for prices expensive compared to local. Where a meal of squash and salad in Santa Elena would be 15 Quetzels, in Flores a meal costs twice as much. We found a great street taco place near the lakeside with a cheap buffet of salads and salsas.

Picasso´s Pizzas
Pizzeria wall advertising

No comments:

Post a Comment