So, how is Guatemala like, you may ask. Well,… There are a lot of tourists. When I came from the Mexican border, I was the only foreigner in the bus. That was like in Mexico, where you could easily be the only tourist on a very long bus ride. However, when I finally reached Flores in Guatemala, I realized that there are other backpackers in this country, too. And Guatemalans seem to love tourists. They want you to have the best and most memorable stay ever their country. So, when asking them how to get here or there, Guatemalans are always very helpful. There is always one or another minivan going in every possible direction, leaving twice a day. But when you ask about public transportation, Guatemalans tend to get rather uninformative. Yes, at some time from somewhere over there, there is also a public transportation. As already said, they want the tourists to enjoy their stay at Guatemala and minivans bring you from door to door, have air-condition and your are not sitting half on your neighbors lap.
Riding in a (tourist) minivan means to be protected in a secure bubble. It means to be tucked in a van with ten other tourists, while outside the window the real Guatemala passes by. It means to sit in a well cooled-down van only wearing a t-shirt, watching sweating and hard-working Guatemalans in the streets. Basically it means to feel like a privileged tourist, which has the money to buy the luxury of an air-conditioned, uncrowded minivan.
I went like this to the Tikal ruins. I refrained from taking the whole tour to Tikal with a tour-guide and only booked the ride to and from Tikal. Sadly when booking a minivan there are fixed departing hours. So I only had five hours to see the ruins. Five hours seem to be a lot of time but regrading the fact that Tikal extends over 16 square kilometers it is not. The ruins are situated in the middle of the wilderness. There is jungle on the right, jungle on the left. On top of the trees the howler monkeys are screaming, a coati crosses the way, it smells humid. The slippery, moss-covered path makes walking difficult. Mosquitoes are flying everywhere, trying to get human blood. After a 20 minute walk, the first pyramid appears. All pyramids and temples in Tikal are widely scattered around the area, so, when visiting the ruins a lot of walking is involved. An overview of the whole site can be gained from the top of temple IV.
After that, I went to Semuc Champey. Also in minivan. Semuc Champey is supposed to be one of the most beautiful spots in Guatemala. And maybe I am the only person you will find on the whole planet, who did not really enjoy it. No doubt, the nature is wonderful over there. The best part of the whole journey is the ride through the mountains from Coban to Lanquin, when the clouds partly cover the mountain-tops. The lodge in Semuc Champey is like a tourist hub. The old guests welcome the new arrivals. Nobody stays there longer than 2 nights. So, its one of the most remote areas I have known so far, but you are definitely not alone over there. It should have been a warning to me, that so many travel agencies sell trips to this area. Once in the hostel, one is totally dependent on the hostel staff, which is not really willing to give any information except on their tours, minivans and food. Everything totally overpriced of course. So, it is not really possible to do much over there on your own. Best is to buy the day-tour to the ponds and the caves including river-rafting. Well, I did not do it. I went to the ponds on my own. Actually, there was also no need to go to the caves anymore. I had heard so many stories that I knew what I will see, or rather not see, what I can do, where I have to jump from a cliff, and what I should not do. In the end I could picture it very well on my own.
|The ponds in Semuc Champey|
From Semuc Champey there was no other option than taking a minivan to Antigua. The hostel only offered three routes: the one I came from, one was not my direction at all, and one to Antigua. Asking them for local bus-connections from Coban was like asking a McDonald’s staff member for the best Burger King burger. They just would not know. So, I booked the minivan to Antigua for double the amount it actually costs when paying directly at the driver, how I found out later.
Antigua is a colonial style city and the former capital of Guatemala. Because of too many earthquakes they changed the capital to Guatemala city. The city is an Unesco heritage site. Many of the buildings collapsed during the earthquake and have never been rebuild. So Antigua is a mix between renovated colonial style houses and buildings and huge ruins of former cathedrals, churches and convents. But also overcrowded with tourists. The average age of the people living and working seems to be between 20 and 35. An equal mix between locals and foreigners. Also English seems to me the main language spoken over there. If you start talking to them in Spanish the locals are able to reply in Spanish, but once they know you are German they just switch to English. And they will never ever stop speaking in English to you, even though you talk in Spanish to them. So just do not even try it.
|A small bar in Antigua called Y… tu piña tambien.|