“The tourist may complain of other tourists, but he would be lost without them”. Agnes Repplier.
Prior to Flores, I had spent nearly twe weeks without meeting another traveller. Whilst this was good for my Spanish, and my budget, (places ‘off the beaten track’ tend to be less expensive) it got lonely. This all changed once I arrived in Flores. Unsurprisingly, lots of tourists meant higher prices – a theme that was to continue right through my time in eastern Guatemala. Thankfully, the trade off was meeting some really interesting fellow travellers.
One night in Flores, en route to Tikal, had satisfied my curiosity for this interesting but expensive town. On the return journey I decided to check out the small town of El Remate. This idyllic spot, at the eastern end of Lago de Petén Itzá, makes a good alternative for Tikal visitors – it’s more relaxed than Flores, and closer. El Remate has a ramshackle charm all of its own and I really enjoyed it. The two lakeside hostels I wanted to stay at were both full and so I opted for a hotel. Aruma Hotel opened up just under a year ago and I was the only person staying at this pristine 30 room set up, complete with swimming pool. The 4 members of staff looked after me like a prince.
Taking place the day I arrived was a ‘first’ birthday party. The fiesta lasted all afternoon and it was a wonderful experience. Lots of children from El Remate were there – I’ve never seen so many presents handed over to a 12-month old baby.
El Remate also offers some great hiking. Biotopo Cerro Cahuí nature reserve, at the northeast end of Lago de Petén Itzá, covers 651 hectares of subtropical forest. Within are mahogany, cedar, ramón, broom, sapodilla and cohune palm trees, as well as many species of lianas and epiphytes (including bromeliads, ferns and orchids). The views from the Mirador, across the lake, are stunning.
The appeal of enduring a 6-hour bus journey these days has waned; pain on the wallet is preferable to a pain in the backside. As such, I made a midway stop, en route to Rio Dulce, at Finca Ixobel.
This friendly, relaxed 160-hectare farm www.fincaixobel.com offers tent sites, bungalows and ‘tree house’ along with good homemade meals with veggie options galore. Swimming, horseback riding, caving, and other options are available. Meals here are excellent, including the all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. After 9pm many people move on to the pool bar, where reasonably priced cocktails and other drinks are served. Volunteer opportunities exist for bilingual English-Spanish speakers. I met a delightful French girl by the name of Albane who was volunteering with her friend. I also met Erica from Finland who spent 10-hours, in one sitting, doing one of the most difficult jigsaws I have ever seen. This was despite many of the pieces missing!
Next stage: Rio Dulce.