Welcome to Guatemala: Tikal and El Remate
While having breakfast in San Ignacio, Belize we spotted a tallÂ CaucasianÂ couple walking in the street. Someone commented on the girl’s cowboy boots. We turned our attention to something else and kept eating.
After breakfast we went to retrieve our bikes, and that same couple came up to talk to me.
“Are you riding solo?” asked the very tall man (even taller than Phil).
“No I’m with my brother.” I replied pointing down the road to where Phil was uncovering Jugs.
“I’m Erik and this is my girlfriend Tanya, we’re from Vancouver. I’m also riding a KLR.” A few more minutes of chatting, we exchanged details and parted ways, with the usual “I’m sure we’ll run into you somewhere again soon”.
Hey presto – new friends. I love that riding motorbikes long distances creates this instant bond between riders.
The next morning we had an email from Erik telling us that he and Tanya had safely arrived in Guatemala, Â rented a house in El Remate, near Tikal, and that there was a room waiting for us there if we were interested.
As we were on the internet checking border procedures for entering into Guatemala that very day, and our first stop was the ancient ruins of Tikal, this was perfect. We had a destination for the day – El Remate.
We missed the turn for El Remate, but that wasn’t a problem, because we pulled into a gas station and who should wander up to us? It was Erik! I didn’t recognise him at first, I think because I simply wasn’t expecting to see him there. He’d been working on his bike, trying to figure out why his fuel consumption had suddenly risen dramatically. He’s riding a 2009 KLR, one of the newer generation, so we aren’t as familiar with how his bike works.
He led us to town, and to the house, where Tanya was feeling under the weather due to an ear infection. They welcomed us into the simple, but clean and lovely house they had rented, and Phil pulled out his medical kit to find some medicine for Tanya’s ear.
What a treat to meet two more people from Canada! We must have made quite the sight wandering around town. Tanya and I both just shy of 6 feet tall, and Phil and Erik towering above us.
We saw our first of many beautiful sunsets over the lake that evening.
Whilst Erik is travelling on his KLR, Tanya doesn’t ride and so is taking the bus from place to place. They are also avid Couchsurfers. We found that we have much in common.
The four of us rode into Santa Elena and Flores, twin towns on the edge of the lake. Santa Elena is the business end of town, with Flores being a quaint tourist-oriented village on an island connected to the mainland by a causeway. We needed Quezales you see, and there are no cash machines anywhere near El Remate.
We bought groceries and I also bought a SIM card so we could make calls and I could stay in touch with Christian. The rest of our visit involved huge ice cream sundays and swimming in the lake off a dock in Flores after driving down a one way road the wrong way past several police officers, none of whom seemed to care. It was aÂ restauranteurÂ who eventually pointed out the error of our ways!
Tanya rode on the back of my bike, because Erik has had a problem with his rear shock and it is stuck on the lightest setting. This means having the weight of an extra person would be pretty tough on his bike. She wore shorts, which made me nervous, as I have scars on my leg showing where the exhaust of a bike in Turkey burnt my leg and the other side was scraped on the ground… All because I didn’t wear jeans when Phil told me too. I’ve definitely become an ATGATT girl (All The Gear All The Time). I completely understand the temptation not to though in this heat. It’s hard to motivate yourself to put on long pants, boots, jacket gloves and helmet when you feel like you are melting wearing nothing but a bikini!
We were also trying to find a sunrise tour of Tikal. This had been highly recommended to us, but as seems to be a trend, anything I really want to do, doesn’t end up happening.
Phil decided to still get up really early and head to the ruins, but as the gate didn’t open early enough for us to get in for sunrise without being on a pre-booked tour, the rest of us decided we’d get up at a more civilised time and meet him there.
As you can see, Tikal is a pretty stunning site. Even though I’ve now seen more Mayan ruins than I had ever dreamed possible, I still really enjoyed Tikal.
The four of us really settled into the house together. Tanya is a fabulous cook and made us delicious meals for the duration of our stay in El Remate. We were all pretty comfortable, and got to know the small town fairly well. We had a favourite dock where we spent most sunsets and swam many afternoons.
I was finding it difficult to stop thinking about Christian. I chatted with him as much as possible online and I was missing him terribly. Whilst I kept reminding myself that I had only known him for a few days, it didn’t stop me from being mentally split between being present where I was and communicating with him. Erik in particular hated that I had my phone on my all the time, and made several comments about it.
Erik also kept talking about some other, bigger, but much lessÂ accessibleÂ ruins in Northern Guatemala, called El Mirador. Phil loved the sound of the challenge of getting there, and so early the next morning the boys disappeared off and left us girls to our own devices.
The first day they were away, Tanya and I took our books and some sewing projects to our dock. The stuff sack for my sleeping bag had split almost all the way up the seam and desperately needed repairing. We brought some music and had a really peaceful vibe going until a bus full of French tourists including kids showed up and started being loud.
Luckily they left before sunset and so we could regain our vibe.
The next morning I got a text from Christian saying that he had inhaled chlorine gas and was headed to hospital! There is nothing worse than a friend being in trouble and you being absolutely powerless to do anything to help.
How did he manage this you ask? He was cleaning a seashell intended as a present for me, and he unwittingly mixed bleach with hydrochloric acid as part of the process.
After an hour or so of me being extremely worried, he told me that the doctor sent him home to rest, and I felt reassured that he was not so badly poisoned that he needed to stay in hospital.
Tanya and I decided that we needed to get out and do something active, so we went and hiked for a few hours in the local nature reserve.
We hiked up the mountain through the jungle to three different miradors (viewpoints). At the first one we heard a jaguar chasing a monkey. Although we can’t prove it as we didn’t see either the jaguar or the monkey…
The next day was the third day the boys had been gone and I was starting to get very bored of El Remate. I was ready to move on, but Tanya and I couldn’t move out of the house, because Phil and Erik had left a lot of stuff there, which there was no way we’d be able to move without them.
So we decided to head into town and find some massages. This turned out to be a lot harder than we imagined. We drove into Flores, imagining that because it was more tourist oriented, we’d have a few choices there. We found one salon that simply wanted too much money, and the other place we found was closed. During this search, Cricket overheated. There was coolant shooting out the back (where the overflow hose leads to avoid slippery coolant coating the tires). The fan fuse had blown. Luckily I had a spare.
After changing the fuse, we decided to try our luck in Santa Elena. After a couple false leads, a sweet gal asked her tuktuk driver to lead us to the only massage place she knew of.
Â It looked a lot like someone’s house. As we walked in we realised that it was. The family was in the kitchen eating. In broken Spanish I explained that we wanted massages. The older gentleman told us we would have to come back that evening. I tried to ask if there was anywhere else nearby we could try that may be able toÂ accommodateÂ usÂ immediately. He was prettyÂ adamantÂ that they were the only place in town.
During the tail end of this conversation his wife came out and joined in. She decided that if we only wanted small massages on our shoulders, they could do it for us right then. We were willing to take whatever they had on offer by this point, especially when they told us it would be free of charge!
The lady led us to a building behind the house, gave us towels and suggested we shower. We complied and then were given some of the best massages we have had the pleasure of enjoying. Ever.
What an incredible surprise. We were so grateful, however they refused all our attempts of paying them.
The boys returned that evening victorious, but looking very dusty and worn out.
We were pleased to see them, and to hear their tales. I was beyond ready to leave El Remate, but first Phil needed a day to repair his bike…