My Narrative-Free Week

For the first time on this adventure, what happened next did so without any tangible narrative and so consequently this journal entry takes a slightly different form to that which we are used to. Instead, I present what happened next simply as a series of caption-laden photos.  

And it starts with the Sumpango Giant Kite festival.

I left Lake Atitlan just in time to make it to the Sumpango Giant Kite Festival with Eduardo who had suggested I come along a few weeks back. I hadn't heard of the festival before him mentioning it but it was definitely worth the visit. Taking place in the run up to the Day of The Dead, the brightly decorated kites contain messages to the dead which are then flown high in the sky so that the departed can see them.

Flores. Following the kite festival I took an overnight bus to the north of the country and the small island town of Flores. For the first time ever on an overnight bus I had a surprisingly good night's sleep and when we arrived into town shortly before 7am I felt weirdly refreshed and ready for the day. 

Almost everybody that comes to Flores does so to use it as a base from which to visit the nearby ruins of Tikal. Originally, I had planned to come here so that I could visit both Tikal and El Mirador, the latter of which is a four-night, five-day long hike to largely unexcavated Mayan ruins set deep in the jungle. However, due of my recent ankle injury, the hike was off the cards. That said, this definitely remains something I would like to do in the future and being so close to Belize - somewhere which I haven't yet been but would like to one day visit - I decided I would get round to visiting both Tikal and El Mirador on a future trip along with Belize.

Yaxsha. With the star attraction off the itinerary I instead headed elsewhere - Yaxsha (pronounced YAH-SHA).

Less than 90 minutes from Flores, Yaxsha featured dozens upon dozens of temples and mounds, many of which had been excavated from the surrounding jungle. Some however still remained very much buried in the jungle - covered in earth and soil, trees and vegetation - and it was nice to see the contrast between those which had been excavated and those which had not. 

What I particularly liked about coming was just how quiet it was. In fact, we only saw two other small groups in the whole time we were there and this gave the whole experience a real edge.

For me, the highlight of the trip was watching the sunset from atop one of the temples. This little video clip does it no justice whatsoever but the combination of the water, the jungle, the temple, the sunset... it was majestic. 

Kayaking in Flores. Back in Flores and the next day I was desperate to do something active and without yet being able to run, I found myself renting a kayak. After circling the island I headed a few kilometres across the water to a tiny little zoo which despite its size had a really nice collection of animals. On the water, in the Sun, listening to music... I was happy.

Sunsets in Flores. Flores was small. Really small. In fact, it was so small you could easily walk around the island in 20 minutes flat. As such, there wasn't really a great amount to do there and so apart from taking the kayak out each day, I largely did not very much except for making sure that by 4pm I was down on the waterfront with a beer, ready to watch the sunset. On two such evenings I was joined by a couple of guys from the UK (whose names I have since forgotten) and together we spent the evenings drinking bottles of beer than we collectively had fingers and toes. It was fun.

Utopia. I took a different route back to Antigua and went what is effectively the long way, via Semuc Champey. Unlike the journey North, this one was made during the day and after setting off at 8am I didn't arrive in Lanquin (pronounced LAN-KEEN) until 4pm. From there, I was picked up by a 19 year old lad with a 4x4 who took me the remaining 45 minutes along the roughest of tracks to my hostel.

Apty named Utopia, the hostel was in the middle of the jungle, in the middle of nowhere. Whilst it had electricity and running water, it had very little else. The whole site was beautifully built from scratch by their owners over the past 5 or so years and with no real walls as such, you felt totally part of the natural surrounding which was unspeakable beautiful. For sure, I've never woken up to such an incredible view, not ever.

Semuc. On my only full day here I went and did the only thing that people really come here for and that was the activities at and around Semuc Champey. 

The day started with caving by candlelight. 

We were just a small group, just 5 of us, and in the complete absence of any health and safety we headed into water-filled cave close by to Semuc Champey. At some points the water was only ankle deep, but at others you couldn't touch the floor. Whilst there were ropes with which to hold on to, it was not easy keeping afloat with one hand on a rope and another holding a lit candle. The craziest bit (and by crazy I mean just damn right dangerous) was having to climb up and down wet slippery ladders right next to and over underground waterfalls. Whilst most of the people there seemed to be having a really good time I couldn't stop wondering what would happen if somebody slipped or fell or injured themselves. 

Out of the caves, next up was a rope swing which ended with me unflatteringly slapping the water crotch first. Just watch the first 20 seconds and you'll get the picture just fine.

Semuc Champey. Finally, after lunch we headed to Semuc Champey itself. 

Before heading to the falls themselves, we first headed up above them by hiking precariously for 25 minutes or so up to this impressive outlook point. I definitely hadn't seen anything like this before and well worth the hike. Oh... on the way down we got to see howler monkeys up in the canopy which was pretty cool. 

The pools were equally impressive from below as they were from above - a real spectacle. If it wasn't for the constant pecking from the fish in the water, it would have been perfect. 

As days went, this was a good one and for sure it could not have ended any better. For instead of taking the 4x4 back to the hostel we were each given a rubber ring and allowed to float the whole way back to the hostel. With a couple of beers to enjoy along the way, this was one of those moments you really had to pinch yourself.