Journey to Belize: Arrival in Flores

This post continues the retelling of my recent trip to Belize: participating in an archaeology field school and learning about jaguar conservation. The rest of this series is located in the Travel category of this blog.

A distinctive building on the island of Flores that I walked by several times. Flores by Kent MacElwee. CC BY-NC 2.0

June 15, 2017 marked the beginning of the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project’s (PfBAP) sightseeing tour. It was the day we left for Tikal.

We got up early and grabbed a quick breakfast from Texas Camp’s dining hall. We then piled into a modified school bus driven by Abner Chell of Chell’s Bus Service – the same man who had taken us to Lamanai. I had to struggle to get a seat, but I eventually found myself sitting next to a tall, middle-aged man with a bald head.

In an earlier post, I wrote that a friend had confused me with another person who shared my first name and hairstyle. In contrast to myself, this other Josh had previously worked in Mongolia. I was eager to find this doppelgänger and talk to him about his experiences.

Now, nine days later, I found myself sitting next to the only other bald man I had seen at Texas Camp. I asked him his name, and it was Josh. I had located the usurper.

Dramatic language aside, Josh turned out to be remarkably friendly. We chatted about Mongolia, where he sometimes performed archaeological work during the brief summers. As we talked, visions of windswept mountain plains danced through my head.

Mongolia: how could anyone not want to go there? Landscape in Western Mongolia by Bernd Thaller. CC BY-NC 2.0

We rode in Abner’s bus until we reached the Belize-Guatemala border. Here we disembarked and went through the border crossing process, and found three white vans waiting to take us to the island of Flores in Petén, Guatemala.

Riding in the clean, air-conditioned vans felt like luxury. As we drove through the Guatemalan countryside, I spent most of my time gazing out the window.

The landscape on either side of the road consisted of lush, green hills. The trees seemed to have a deeper hue of green than the ones I had encountered in Belize, and I remember thinking that they were especially beautiful. Signs of human habitation increased as we neared our destination of Flores, and before long we were on the island.

Our arrival in Flores was a jarring affair. We hastily got out of our vans, grabbed our luggage, and then were left to find our accommodations on our own.

I cannot overstate how chaotic this period was. Everyone shot off in different directions, looking for lodging. At some point during this melee I found myself being the only person in a group of students who knew any Spanish. I tried to talk to the receptionist for them, but I had to ask him to repeat himself several times. Eventually we worked out that the rooms were beyond our price range.

After running around Flores for some time, I somehow linked up with my friend Ellen. Originally from Australia, Ellen was a much more experienced traveler than I was. 

We began checking out hostels on a quieter side of the island, and eventually settled on Hospedaje Doña Goya. The rooms were basic, but the prices were good. One of Doña Goya’s more charming features was the rooftop terrace, which was an excellent writing spot. The staff was also exceptionally nice, and an employee named Carlos proved to be a great conversation partner.

Later that night, several of the PfBAP students and I went to dinner at a restaurant called La Luna. The food was good, and this time I was not the only student who knew Spanish. But after living in the rain forest for so long, I was completely overwhelmed by the built environment of Flores.

On that first night, Flores felt hostile and threatening to me. The cobblestone streets were hard on my feet, the lights were too bright, and the few cars that drove by were enough to frighten me. Most of all, I found the noise of ‘civilization’ to be unpleasantly harsh. I longed for the more rhythmic music of the jungle.

I quickly retired to my room after dinner. As I lay in my bed, my thoughts turned to the rain forest. I felt comfortable there, and wanted to return. Fortunately, all the stress of June 15 would pay off tomorrow. We were going to visit one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the New World: Tikal.

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12 thoughts on “Journey to Belize: Arrival in Flores

  1. Not been to any South American countries, which I really should rectify, but my partner and I travelled around Mongolia a couple of years ago. It is vast! The grasslands, steppe and sand dunes are endless and we got to drink fermented mare’s milk, which is an experience I hope to never repeat! I’ve just posted my photos, which I hope will inspire you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hopefully now we can both inspire each other to visit new locations ;)

      I only spent 2.5 days in Guatemala, so I can’t say much about it. But I found Belize to be an excellent travel destination. According to people I’ve talked to who have traveled much more extensively through Central and South America, the whole region is great. If you’re honest and respectful, the people there will treat you wonderfully. As with all regions though, there are some areas that can get a bit dicy. So definitely do your research about safety before traveling to Central or South America.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d love to visit Mongolia too, one day! It looks so beautiful. Also really enjoyed watching the series Marco Polo mostly because of the images.

    How’s your Spanish nowadays, have you kept practicing?

    I’m really happy you got to experience all this – the jungle, the archaeological sites, the people and places in Guatemala and Belize, the adventure and the chaos. Thank you for sharing it with us :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Monika! Let’s go to Mongolia in the winter, when no other tourists will want to be there ;)

      I’ve barely used Spanish since coming back from Belize. It really is a shame, because I got a lot better while I was down there. But I just have too much else to worry about right now.

      Like

      1. hahah for some reason I always visit other countries when it’s winter there, sooo – no objections from me. let me get a Russian hat first haha

        oh, I hope everything will be fine. You seem to have a lot to do.. Is it your studies, if I may ask?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh yes, those Russian hats look quite warm!

          I’m sure it’ll all be fine; it always seems to be. Yes, my studies are keeping me busy; starting to do some real work for my thesis. My blog is also getting bigger than it was before, and is consequently consuming more of my time than it used to. And somehow I also need to find a way to make money. I think I might need to decrease my posting frequency for a few weeks…

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