Guatemala. The name had a mysterious ring to it and I pondered what might lie ahead as we drove down the bumpy dirt road from Belize to the border of Guatemala. The landscape instantly changed from flat sugar cane fields to mountainous jungle at the border, and I welcomed the change of scenery. I didn’t know it at the time, but the experiences I had there would become the inspiration for a novel, The Beginning of Knowledge.
We arrived in Flores in the late afternoon. Matt and I grabbed our bags from the roof of the small bus and made our way past the street vendors into the first hotel we could find. Hotel La Canoa was clean and comfortable enough, so we grabbed a room for the night and headed downstairs to eat tons of food from the restaurant below. We decided to book a sunrise tour of Tikal, the famous Mayan ruins of Guatemala for the next day, so we didn’t stay out too late that night.
The tour was amazing. We awoke at 3 am and caught the bus out to the ruins so we would be there in time for the sunrise. We climbed to the top of a Mayan temple and watched the toucans fly over the tree canopy far below. The eerie roars of the howler monkeys as they boomed across the jungle sent chills down my spine and I felt somehow connected to the Mayans from years gone by. Despite the early morning, we were incredibly grateful for seeing the sight.
We stayed in Flores for several days. I think we both fell in love with the place. We rented a canoe and hung out on the lake for part of the day and then went back and watched the sunset in Flores from the Sky Lounge, a bar with an outdoor patio on the roof. We had some ceviche and when the bus came to pick us up to take us to Antigua, we were sorry to be leaving so soon.
We struck up a conversation with a couple guys from the UK on the bus, Amar and Scott. Upon arriving in Antigua, we decided to book a room with them and split the cost. The next day I booked a hike of Pacaya, an active volcano about an hour outside of town. It was a steep hike of about 1500 feet culminating at about 7,700 feet above sea level. We made some friends along the way, and spent most of the hike talking about our plans for the future and where we wanted to be in the next few years. We watched the sun set from on top of the volcano, and roasted marshmallows from the heat of a lava cave alongside the trail. It was a beautiful night. The distant mountains were shrouded in clouds and we looked down on them from the height of Mount Pacaya. We hiked down in the dark by the light of a flashlight and got in the bus for the trip home. We had already booked another bus ticket to El Salvador for early the next day, so after a good dinner we said goodbye to our new friends and went to bed early.
Guatemala was amazing. I don’t know why I liked it so much, but if I had to guess I would say the culture, the food, the people, and the beautiful scenery have made it one of my favourite memories from that trip. Not only was it the inspiration for The Beginning of Knowledge, it also laid the foundation for my personal travel philosophy which I only recently put into words and published in the form of a short e-book called Crimson Morning after coming back from Peru. Check back soon for part 4 and my adventures in El Salvador! If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below.
Jonathan Beam is the author of Crimson Morning - The Philosophy of Travel, available on the member page by signing up above. He is a blogger who writes about travel, adventure and philosophy. He has also written a novel that is currently under consideration to be published!