Travels with V
Guatemala, Belize, Mexico
Like a Sicilian fishing village
It’s a six-hour drive from Semuc Champey to Flores by minibus, Some of that time on the same terrible road that we got there on. But now we’re here where we plan to get some rest and sleep some road dust off. Flores occupies every square inch of an island in the Lago Petén lake, connected to the “mainland” by a causeway. Mayas were here first with a settlement, now it’s a charming town with a mediterranean atmosphere.
The streets are narrow and the brightly coloured houses lie close together. Flores has a welcoming air and clearly many tourists find their way up here. Hotels, restaurants and bars are everywhere. But the islander’s own lives dominate the streets.
The streets can be very busy here. We were caught up in a traffic jam as we arrivet, it turmed out to be caused by a noisy and swirling street dance with lots of spectators and fireworks. We had unknowingly arrived in the fiesta week when “La Chatona” a doll dressed as a young woman is danced through the streets of Flores, day and night.
La Chatona is very popular, our hotel had its very own doll parked in the reception. Nobody knows exactly where this tradition has its roots, but according to one legend she was a beautiful mexican cook working in a mining camp. And she was so highly appreciated that they honour her with a week of celebration in Flores. Which means that we can’t sleep very good, firework bombs go off outside the whole night thorough. Guatemalans love fireworks!
We hop on a lancha, a passenger boat and hop off on a woody beach on the opposite shore. Here they have a rehab center for wild animals taken care of after being subjects of illegal trade. We see some beautiful cats like ozelot, puma and jaguar. And the adorable little margay, a leopard-like cat. Here’s also lots of birds, parrots, macaws and others.
But we too often find it depressing to see such majestic animals in this sad state, with too small auspices or cages. The puma and the margay are not well, that’s obvious, and the spider monkeys, usually so lively sit still and hang their heads. Some of these animals will be released into the wild, but many have been in captivity for too long and can’t cope with freedom. We wonder if not at least some of them had a better life when they were mascots on farms.
But of course there’s wildlife here as well. Flores is surrounded by water so there’s lots of fishing birds here.
Lago Petén is a peculiar lake, it’s surface level slowly rises, probably because of some volcanic activity under the lake’s bottom. This process has continued for many years and now whole islands have sunk under the surface ond so has this posh bridge, built only some ten years ago.
Next we take a taxi and drive from Flores down highway 13. After just under an hour’s drive we stop at Cooperativo Nuevo Horizonte, a commune built by former guerilla soldiers from the civil war. Come with us!