The Caribbean, Tikal, Petén Itza, Flores, and more! Days 18-24, July 14, 2016

Wow! We did so much the last few days, this will either be a really long one or a medium one depending on how much detail I get into.

To start with last Saturday and Sunday, we mainly worked on assignments but some people (not me) went to Pana on Sunday for tourism and then in the afternoon they went to the Catholic Church in Santa Catarina to see the differences between here and the U.S.  I guess it was much much longer and also they mixed both the Spanish language and the local Mayan language.  It sounds like there was also some of the Mayan cultural influence on the Mass too.

Monday morning (2 AM) we left to go to the town of Rio Dulce, which is on the other side of the country.  We got there in the late morning and checked into our hotel, which was literally on the river. After we got checked in, we took a boat through the river Rio Dulce to the Caribbean and a little north of the outlet.  We went to La Playa Blanca, a very pretty beach, and had coconuts, played cards, swam, and lounged around.  After that, we took the boat back towards the river and stopped at a place called Siete Altares (7 Altars), and wasn’t what you would expect the name would imply.  It was this amazing river with limestone that looked like a slow lava flow.  We walked up through the river to a small waterfall and swam in the pond underneath it. After that, we went back to the river outlet where a town called Livingston is.  This region is not majorly a Latina population like the rest of Guatemala and there is more of a Jamaica feel to it.  We had some amazing fish for a late lunch and we saw a few different statues and things there.  After Livingston, we took the boat throughout Rio Dulce and saw mangroves and people living within them.  There was this one time we slowed down near water lilies to look at them and these two girls in two canoes came on either side of the boat and tried to sell us things.  After touring this area of the river, we went up to Castile de Felipe (Felipe’s Castle) at the base of Lake Isabal.  It was getting dark by this time, so we went back to the hotel.  After cleaning up a little, we went out for dinner and got this crazy authentic local soup called Topada that came with a whole crab, a whole fish, and smaller whole crustaceans and shrimp.  It was messy but one of the best soups I’ve ever had.

The next day, we left at 6 and drove five hours to Tikal, the really large ancient Mayan city.  It is more than 2,000 years old and is 24 square km (sorry I’m speaking in metric, it’s how we learn things here).  The temples were enormous!!! The largest was 65m high (195 ft.) and we were allowed to go to the top of it!  The view was astounding and I am so happy we got the chance to go there.  After Tikal we drove two hours to Flores, which is an island on the lake Petén Itza.  We had a whole fish that night too, one of the best fish I have had.  All of the fish I’ve had here has been white fish and they don’t really tell you the name of it, but it’s all caught locally and has only been dead a couple hours by the time I’ve eaten it.  After dinner we walked around and stopped at a few other places to explore local crepes and drinks.  There was this one place we went to that had the best crepe I’ve ever had, which was a Nutella, cinnamon, and banana crepe.  It was agreed among our group that it was even better than Crepeville, for those of you in Davis.

Yesterday, we went to the other side of Petén Itza and got a tour of the headquarters of the environmental division monitoring the lake, AMPI.  It was really cool because they had all these recycled tires as pieces of art and they also had a nursery of native plants for forest revegetation. They had this stuff to try and set an example of what you can do to help the environment. After touring their headquarters Gerson, someone who was trained by Davis and UNR to monitor lakes in Guatemala, took us on the lake and showed us common macrophyte species and other things to know about it.  We docked at Flores and had my now second favorite soup, the name of which escapes me right now.  After lunch, we drove for 12 hours back to Atitlan and got back around 2:30 am.  Now, as you can tell, the past three days was a ton of driving, but it was definitely worth it to have the opportunity to experience what we did.

Today, we woke up at 8 and worked on the decomposition bags.  I was chosen to go on the lake with Eliska and Jenise because I helped put them in a certain spot that they needed help remembering, while the rest of the students worked on decomposition bags in the mesocosms. We got back around 2 and had lunch.  The rest of the day we all worked on our assignments. 

It's possible this will be the last post I upload while in Guatemala, because I will be leaving on Sunday. Two more days, yikes! I do intend on doing one last one once I have arrived back home, but hopefully (probably not) I will have time to write one before then.

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