Antigua: A tree-house away from home

We took the overnight bus from Flores to Antigua via Guatemala City. We shared the double-decker luxury transport with locals and a troupe of God-fearing Christians. Although the two are normally synonymous in Latin America this particular religious group were fresh out of the United States ‘to make a difference’, one of them had said.
They were instantly recognisable as they all wore the same outfit; bleached pure white shirts, sinfully black ties and shiny laminate name-tags that clasped to their top pockets bearing their name and ‘Jesus Cristo’ in large bold italics.

I mention them because the ten hours south to the capital consisted of a chorus of incessant babbling with Bible anecdotes as a theme.

Ancient Cities: Tikal

We were woken minutes from Tikal to the screams of ‘Monkey!’. A man, who we later found to be an employable tour guide, was frantically jumping around, wildly gesticulating and shouting excitedly at us from the front of the bus. As we waited for his next animal impression, ahead of us a family of howler monkeys were crossing the road. The five furry mammals were marching in unison with their long black tails tucked in a tight spiral. The driver slowed down so as not to disturb them and we watched in wonder as they disappeared one by one from view into the thick jungle.

We ditched the poor charades player at the first opportunity as he was demanding more than we were willing to pay for his services. Leaving him to entertain the other guests we set off on our own.

The promise and the sunny road to Tikal

We woke at 4am under the promise of watching a sunrise over the Mayan ruins. Edy, the smooth linguist, who arranged our hotel room also sold us ‘the once in a lifetime trip to Tikal’. The jack-of-all-trades was quick to recommend the first bus of the day to catch the sun rising over the horizon and hitting the ancient city. ‘The jungle wakes up when sunrises’, Edy said, beginning to count the benefits on fingers. ‘Howler monkeys, exotic birds, insects fill air with the noises. There are also less busy, not as hot as afternoon and not too much rain.’

Waiting in the moonlit street surrounded by a dozen other droopy-eyed tourists, the door-to-door speech echoed in our minds. The semi-darkness hid our sleep deprived faces as we waited in silence for our ride. The realisation that we had all potentially been duped in a 3rd world country was worn on our faces. However, the doubt soon vanished as the distant roaring of an engine cut through the quiet.

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