Back in the spring we popped over to Guatemala for a few days so we could reset our visas in Mexico. That nearly ended in disaster, with us stuck between borders for several days. I hate to say it, because I want to love every country we go to, but for whatever reason we weren't all that impressed. The roads seemed more congested and chaotic, the drivers crazier, and the prices higher. Most of all, even though it's always exciting to go to a new country, I think we just weren't mentally prepared to be out of Mexico yet.
Coming back for round two was a much better experience. Most borders are pretty hectic affairs, but the crossing between Belize and Guatemala was a little less chaotic than most that we've been through. We usually try to avoid the pushy helpers that are always around, but when a pair of young brothers casually insinuated themselves into our path, we just couldn't say no. Frankly they were just too cute to tell them to go the hell away. In the end, they were able to skip us to the front of all the lines, and smoothly led us to the four different offices we needed to visit in the correct order.
Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala, are a short drive from the border. However, having seen five ruins in Mexico and Belize, we were a little “ruined out.” So, we opted to head straight to the island town of Flores on Lake Peten Itza.
We ended up at Chaltunha Hostel, located on a bluff above the lake with an incredible view to town. Even though it's a hostel, the very friendly owner, Neal, is an off-road enthusiast and allows overlanders to camp (I think he really likes checking out everyone's rigs).
The best and worst part of Chaltunha had to be Paco the Attack Rooster.
Neal had bought Paco for his son's birthday the previous year and he had become a kind of fixture around the place. Our first day in camp he came around to check us out. By day two he was letting us pet him. I believe this was all a clever ploy to lure us into his confidence, because by day three he was lying in wait beneath the Vagabroad's truck to attack Karin's foot without warning like a ninja assassin. From that point on it was like playing The Most Dangerous Game every time we left the camper. We took to carrying around a stick to fend him off if he happened to come charging around a corner with his wings flapping and his neck fluffed out, or when he would be waiting outside the bathroom blocking the path to camp, or when he would appear like a ghost next to your camp chair clucking menacingly. Although there were many thwarted attacks, nobody else got hurt, and the fact that we were being stalked and terrorized by a chicken was so ridiculous that it had us cracking up the whole time we were there.
To get some much needed relief from Paco, we would take the short seventy-five cent water-taxi ride over to town. Only once did we have to wait for the boat captain to finish his beer before he was ready to take us. Flores is a beautiful town full of brightly colored buildings, somewhat resembling an upside-down bowl of Skittles.
It's small enough to explore in a day, but it had such a slow-paced laid-back feel that we kept going back.
This time around we were ready for a new country and almost instantly fell in love with Guatemala.