We were told that in Bethel we could get a bus to Flores. The 9 a.m. bus did not show up. Neither did the 10 a.m. bus. Finally a bus arrived at noon, after waiting since 8.30 in this tiny village. We spent our time here watching all the animals that were roaming around the village. We watched the cats having sex, the dogs chasing the cats, the chickens looking for food and the male turkey strutting about with his tail feathers spread out to make sure everyone knew how wonderful he was.
Bethel is in the Guatemalan state or province of Petan. In Guatemala they call it the Petan Department. It is a huge area that is mostly uninhabited except for a few villages and towns and only two cities.
In Bethel we changed our pesos for quetzals. There are approximately two pesos for one quetzal. Besides being the name of their money, the quetzal is a very beautiful bird with a long flowing tail. They are very rare and I don’t expect to see one.
The bus was not an antique school bus like the ones in Belize but the ride was far worse. The road was dirt and full of potholes. We had to have the windows open because the heat was unbearable with them shut. The bus weaved from side to side to try to avoid the worst of the potholes, the pigs and other obstacles on the road. All the while, dust is pouring in the windows and we were getting filthy. There was no overhead luggage rack so we had our backpacks in our lap for the whole trip. At one point the bus hit a large pothole and the read window shattered and glass fell in on the people in the rear seat. We were in the sitting second row from the back. The driver stopped and patched the window with packing tape.
After about 2.5 hours we finally came to a paved road and after about three hours we arrived at civilization in the form of a large town named La Liberdad (Liberty) We stopped here for a few minutes and the bus was immediately swarmed with children selling drinks and fruit. We moved on and after about four hours we finally arrived at the twin cities of Santa Elena and Flores.
The terrain along the way was what used to be jungle but was clear cut to create farmland. However the jungle soil will not support crops. The people plant corn and other crops but after two or three years, nothing will grow anymore. So then they clear-cut more jungle and start again. I have heard a lot about the clear-cutting of the jungle but this is the first time that I have seen the destruction first hand. This went on for most of the 2.5 hours from Bethel to La Liberdad. In many places they have given up on farming and switched to cattle ranching.
Currently the indigenous people have a delegation in Guatemala City to petition the government to give them more land to clear for crops. They would cut down the whole jungle if they could.
What a horrible day. I have been off the beaten path before but if I got anymore off the path than this, there would be no path at all. If one was going in the opposite direction it would truly be a road to nowhere as it comes to an end at the Usumacita River in the village of Bethel.
After the bus ride from hell, we finally arrived at Santa Elena and Flores. In the whole of Petan there are only two cities and they are within sight of one another. Santa Elena is on the shore of Lake Petan Itza. Flores is located on an island in the lake and is the capital city of Petan Department. Santa Elena is a large, noisy city. Flores is a quiet, peaceful and pretty place. Almost all of the tourists stay in Flores.
We arrived at our hotel in Flores called Casa Amelia. A great place with a view of the lake. I was so dirty that I could not get a comb through my unruly hair without first taking a shower and shampooing it.
Flores is just an overnight stop. We will be up early in the morning and continue on to Tikal.