Monday, December 7, 2015


After spending five hours at the ruins of Tikal, I got back on the motorcycle and headed for my next destination: Flores, the city on an island.

As I got closer, the scenery changed from the jungle of Tikal, to open fields next to a lake, to a sprawling, dirty city on the edge of the lake. I got closer and made the turn to the bridge, and as soon as I got across the bridge everything was different - pastel buildings, hostels and hotels and restaurants replaced the shacks and dirty storefronts, and cobblestone streets replaced the pothole-ridden pavement. I found a hostel that had been recommended to me and parked the bike out front around noon to go ask about prices and parking.

When I walked inside, who should I see but the Belgians. They told me that while they weren't staying at this hostel, but they had stopped by to ask about renting canoes to go out on the lake for a little bit. Well three isn't a great number for canoes, and four works pretty well, so I decided to join them as well, after a customary post-ride shower and a little food (I'd been up since 4am and hadn't eaten anything).

An hour or so later, we walked down to the water - well, actually, down to the street that rings the island, which was under about 8 inches of water! Apparently the lake level has been rising over the past few years, so the very outskirts of the island are underwater now. We moved our canoes from where they were locked up - floating in the street - and hauled them over the curb and into the lake proper. After that we headed out towards the other side of the lake where the hand-drawn map we were working with said "beautiful beach."

As it turns out, the "beautiful beach" was pretty rocky, and not all that beautiful, but we decided to go ahead and go for a swim anyway. The water was perfect, the sun was out, and while we could see rain clouds occasionally drifting over the other side of the lake, none of them ever got close to where we were. We even did some fun acrobatic stuff in the water, too. Dan lifted one of the girls up in the air, and I recognized the hand position he was using from acro-yoga. Turns out he'd done acrobatic gymnastics in the past, so he was pretty good at balancing people on his shoulders or hands, even when they weren't the best at "flying" as it's called.

We headed out a little later to go to a rope swing at another part of the island. I was in a canoe with Mylène who speaks very little English, so my withering French got tested pretty hard. Turns out I forgot a lot in ten years of hardly speaking any French, but little by little it started coming back, and she worked on her English some as well.

When we'd gotten a little way away from the beach, Delphine in the other canoe realized she'd left her sunglasses behind at the beach. So they turned around to go get them, and Mylène and I let the canoe drift around a bit while we waited for them to get back. And then... disaster struck.

Mylène started to stand up to turn around or something, and our already unstable canoe started to tip. I wasn't in a good position to keep my balance, and went straight into the water.

I rushed to get my camelback off my back and back into the boat, because I had my phone, my wallet, and Dan's wallet in there and I didn't want them to get soaked. That done, I relaxed and treaded water... until I realized my phone wasn't in the camelback, it was actually in my pocket from when I'd taken some pictures of the lake. I pulled it out of the water and tossed it in the canoe, and then climbed back in. I quickly tried to dry it off, and I saw the lights on it going a little crazy. If Samsung had made the S6 with a removable battery, I would have popped it out, but for some reason the decided to remove that feature from the S5 to the S6. Grrr. I later realized my sunglasses had come off my head as well and were now at the bottom of the lake.

When Dan and Delphine made it back to us, we told them what happened - "I thought it was a little weird that Eric just decided to go for a swim in the middle of the lake," Dan said, as he'd seen me treading water next to the canoe.

We continued onward to the rope swing where, after paying a minimal fee, we found a few other people from the same hostel as I was staying in. With a few tips from them, Dan and I immediately headed to the ropes to start swinging. My first swing ended with me landing flat on my back, which really didn't feel too good. Dan's first one ended with the rope whipping up right at the end and one of the knots hitting him right between the legs.

Delphine followed soon after, a little more timidly than Dan or I, but she still enjoyed it a ton. Mylène took a look at the swing, and refused to try it, no matter how much Dan and I coaxed her (okay, heckled her, really).

After a number of runs on both the smaller and the bigger rope, we relaxed in the hammocks and chairs there for a bit and talked with the other people. As the sun started to get low, we decided we should head back soon. Right as we were about to go, Mylène said to wait, took a look at the smaller rope swing, and decided that maybe... just maybe she can give it a try.

So she starts out sitting down on the edge of the slope, not quite having worked up enough courage to stand. And she sat. And sat. And we counted down from three, and she didn't move. So finally, on one countdown where she almost looked like she was about to go, I gave her a little push, and off she went. And she loved it! The next time she went all on her own, and the third time she even did it from standing up.

We got back in our canoes and made our way back across the lake as the sun set in the distance. I lamented my inability to take pictures, but it really was a picturesque view with the pastel buildings on the island, the mountains in the background, and the colored clouds reflecting off the water.

When we got back and transferred the canoes back into the street where we got them, and headed back to the hostel. I bought a bag of rice and put the phone in it (mostly to get people to stop telling me to, since it likely doesn't help), and we went out to get some dinner.

We ended up having quite a few drinks with dinner since our waitress was kind enough to extend "happy hour" until 9pm for us, and a band came out and played some really awesome covers too - just a guy on guitar and singing, and a guy playing melodica. When the melodica guy came around with a hat to collect tips, I told him I used to play melodica, and he offered to let me play a song. So I played along with "Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor," which I know from Gillian Welch (but goes farther back than that).

The Belgians hadn't made their way to Tikal yet, so they planned on doing that as a day trip next day, and I planned a day of errands, since I had a bunch of things that I needed to get done. But sometimes days don't quite work out how you want.

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