Gill, Matt, Sean and I are drunkenly exploring a bizarrely sunken part of Flores on our first night in town. We’re walking along the shore wall with the road (under water) on one side and Lago Petén Itzá on the other. It doesn’t seem flooded, just… sunk. I don’t question it – you learn to accept these things in certain parts of the world. And as we walk along the wall and a voice floats out of the darkness, I don’t really question that either. “Hey! Wanna go for a ride in my boat and smoke some weed?” Uh… yes mysterious stranger, yes I do want to go for a ride in your boat.
Matt, Sean and I jump on the boat and turn around to see… no one. We convince our two boat buds to motor along the shore and look for Gill. Byron is working – ferrying folks from different towns around the lake to Flores where there is a big Christmas celebration happening (in November? Don’t question it…) and Antonio is just hanging out to keep Byron company. With no Gill in sight we figure she’s bailed and gone to bed so we join our new friends for a couple of trips back and forth across the lake. The next morning Gill has a different story – she was waiting for us and turned around to see us sailing off across the lake without her. Oops. Love you Gilly.
Getting into tiny boats with strange men became almost a habit in Flores. The next day I found myself sitting in an inflatable tube in my bikini in the middle of the lake, half a kilometre from where I wanted to be, paddling backwards against the wind in a fierce rainstorm. I swear it had looked much closer half an hour earlier when I looked out at a tiny island and casually decided to paddle to it. And the skies were clear.
I wasn’t too worried – My progress was slow but every time I checked over my shoulder the shore was a little closer and the rain couldn’t make me any wetter than I already was. I was embracing my new mantra “Dignity is a renewable resource” so as I back-paddled ineffectually through the downpour I laughed to myself. I’m sure I looked ridiculous. The next time I looked over my shoulder I spotted a tiny beat-up white dinghy painstakingly making its way in my direction. One of the three guys in the boat was using a broken oar to paddle backwards across the lake (don’t question it). They’re weren’t moving much faster than I was.
When we finally crossed paths the three guys just stared at me for a few seconds like they were trying to figure out whether it’s possible someone could be this dumb. Eventually they invited me into the boat and I awkwardly hauled myself over the side and grabbed my tube before the wind sent it flying across the lake. The boat belonged to César, the man with the paddle. He and I made halting conversation in Spanglish and he explained that he needed to drop his two friends off across the lake before returning to Flores to let me off. His friends had already lost interest – perhaps rescuing tourists from their own stupidity is a common occurrence here.
If I’d stayed a few more days I might have developed a real habit with the boat thing (although it would be much more impressive if we were in the Caribbean, the men were gorgeous millionaires and the boats were yachts). Either way, the main reason we were in Flores was to visit the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal.
We ponied up the extra dough for the sunrise tour for Gill’s 25th birthday. Unfortunately the gods were not impressed enough by our 3am wakeup to do anything about the heavy cloud so although we sat patiently waiting at the top of the temple the sunrise was a complete no-show. We pulled through with élan, toasting Gill with Oaxacan Mezcal and debating whether the terrifying territorial screams coming from the jungle were monkeys or jaguars (or dinosaurs).
After a tour of the rest of the temples and some free time to explore we headed back to Flores for a well deserved nap before continuing to celebrate Gill’s birthday like the young punks we are, ie. with only slightly more drinks than strictly necessary, several rounds of cards and a couple of daring games of Jenga before passing out fairly early in the evening.
Soundtrack: The Lonely Island – I’m On A Boat