Getting up for our 6am departure from Flores was the easy part of our day when we travelled to Lanquin. The van was so full that any extra person would have had to sit on someone else’s knee as Tom was already sitting on a broken seat. The air-conditioning was only in the form of open windows and the seats all had low backs so nowhere to rest our heads for a nap. At least it was cheap (for us at least, some of the other passengers paid more than double our price).
The drive was quite scenic as we travelled south through the centre of Guatemala through forests, up mountains and along valleys passing through very few settlements. After a few hours of driving the shuttle driver pulled up on the banks of a river and turned the engine off. We had no idea where we were but were told that we would be crossing the river after a short wait. Hopping out to stretch our legs we investigated the scene: a muddy looking river with vehicles queuing up on both sides and a strange looking car ferry doing laps across. This would be a new experience. Eventually it was our turn and we drove onto the boat and laughed at the operators moving between two outboard motors which were steering and powering us across the river. Tom tells me that the motors were quite small to be doing this, especially with 6 to 10 cars on board.
Waiting to get to the other side
The car boat crossing the river. Only two small motors on each side
Once this was accomplished we continued on our way stopping in Coban, which is the largest city we would be passing through. We were all recommended to withdraw cash here as Lanquin is tiny and has no facilities for this. As we were all non-Latin American tourists we were dropped at the McDonald’s for lunch before the van driver took off. A few people were quite concerned at this but we figured he was just off to find a cheaper local lunch or fill up with petrol during our break. Soon we were back in the uncomfortable van and on the last leg of our trip. On the map it didn’t seem like far but the roads eventually turned into dirt and the landscape was mountainous. We all spent this time staring out the windows as the view was beautiful.
The alarm woke us up at 3am. Not a nice time of morning night to be getting up but we had booked a tour and couldn’t sleep through the pick up time. The tour we had booked was three days long, started in San Cristobal and ended in Palenque. At 2500 peso each this was by far the most expensive excursion we had been on in the last eight months and although enjoyable, looking back we are unsure if it was worth that amount of money.
The van driver picked us up and it was soon obvious that he was a crazy driver. This set off my motion sickness and throwing up into a bag I always keep close during transport I was glad of the darkness before managing to get some extra sleep. The whole van of tourists was abruptly woken en-route as the driver clipped another car while he was performing one of his many dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. Even worse was that he didn’t stop. I’m glad this mode of transport actually had working seatbelts which has been a rarity. Over the next three days we would be visiting the waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol-Ha, Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak archaeological sites and the final day would be a jungle walk in the Lacandon jungle. Continue reading →
After leaving Mazunte in the heat of midday we arrived by colectivo ute within 30 minutes to Zipolite, another small coastal town renown for it’s great beach, which also happens to be one of the most well known nude beaches in Mexico. Never fear, you can keep reading because you won’t find any mention of us going starkers or any photos of naked people on the beach (I hope). Zipolite if possible felt smaller than Mazunte with one main road which loops around in a semicircle to rejoin with the main road.
Zipolite main street
We set of to locate the places we had found online which looked promising for our accommodation. Along our walk through town we found heaps of dirt cheap places to stay but they all looked a bit rough so we kept walking. Our goal was a place Tom had looked at online which was off the beach in a jungle setting. After arriving and getting no answer from the bell we hung around for a while investigating a huge stick insect on the gate. It was probably 30cm long! While we were amusing ourselves with this (I promise we only touched it once each so we weren’t being horrible to the wildlife) the owner showed up. Perfect timing. He showed us to an individual cabaña with a small outdoor kitchen and while we were thinking about it he let us leave our bags so we could investigate other places. So nice! It was great being able to explore without our packs but he must have known we would return and accept the place because it was a great price.