|Well, a last-minute decision finds me in Guatemala instead of Belize!
After the coldest bus ride of my life, we arrived at the Chetumal bus station at 4am, where I found out that the bus to Belize City didn't leave until 10:45am. I had read that there were earlier departures at another terminal, but you never know with these guidebooks, and I didn't think it would be a wise idea to explore Chetumal by myself before sunrise, so I resigned myself to waiting around in the bus station until daylight. An Australian guy named Jack noticed that I was reading my Belize guidebook and said that he wanted to get to Belize City too, so we had the same problem. His Spanish was better than mine, and he is NOT a solo female traveller, so he went outside to ask around, and ended up finding a guy who ran a shuttle to Belize City leaving at 5:30. It was a little more expensive than the bus, but much more appealing than potentially waiting around a bus terminal for six hours, so we decided to take him up on it. I wouldn't have done it alone, but I felt safer travelling with a boy and there were a few other backpackers who were also on board with us.
The border crossing into Belize was pretty easy, except for the mosquitoes. We had to get out of the shuttle and cross on foot, passing through some checkpoints inside a building first. I had approximately 25 mosquitoes biting me at once and swatting them away accomplished nothing. Jack had some insect repellant with him, so I put some on along with a long-sleeved shirt, but not before I had gotten several bites.
After we arrived in Belize city, my plan was to go to the bus station and get a bus to San Ignacio, but it turned out that the shuttle I was on was continuing to Flores, Guatemala. The driver said he could drop me off in San Ignacio on the way, but I thought about it for a bit and decided, what the heck! I really wanted to see the ruins of Tikal, so I decided to stay on and go to Flores. We crossed the border from Belize to Guatemala before noon, and I was in Flores by 2pm.
Flores is a REALLY tiny town on a little island on Lake Peten Itza, and it's often used as a base by people visiting Tikal and other sites in the El Peten region of Guatemala. The island of Flores is connected to its sister town of Santa Elena by a short causeway.
Just outside of Santa Elena, we switched vans and had a new driver who was really friendly and spoke wonderful English. He let us stop at an ATM and then told us that he would take us to whatever hotel we wanted. I was hot and exhausted at that point, and I thought I deserved a bit of treat after 6 weeks in hostals, so I decided to splurge on a $30 room at Casona de la Isla which had a pool and came highly recommended. Our driver said he knew another place that was cheaper and just as nice, so he took us all there to check it out, but after seeing it, I wasn't too keen and said no thanks. He then asked if I wanted to book a shuttle to Tikal in the morning, but I wasn't sure exactly what my plans were and the price he was quoting me (60 quetzales, ~$8) sounded like a lot, so I said I wanted to have a look around. He wasn't too happy with me and said "fine, you can take your bags and walk." Not so nice after all. He did the same thing to some of the other backpackers in my shuttle. Well, no big deal, you can walk around the circumference of the island of Flores in 15 minutes, so I walked to Casona de la Isla and checked into my room with AIR CONDITIONING and CABLE TV and then went for a swim in the POOL WITH TWO WATERFALLS! Heaven! The hotel was right on the lake and I ate dinner at a restaurant next door on a terrace with an amazing view of the sunset. All in all, an exciting day.