On Jan.29th, I left Finca Ixobel, the 400-acre farm and hotel near Poptun, to head north to Flores. It was hard to drag myself away. The atmosphere was completely relaxing, and the people (travelers and staff both) so friendly that it was just an all-round lovely place to pass the day, even considering that it rained for one full day of the three that I was there. I also spent a small chunk of my time talking with Carole DeVine, the owner, and others on her staff (special props to Mario and Robert!). I’m writing a piece on local food culture for Good Food World (www.goodfoodworld.com), and learning about Mayan culture and tradition and the depth (or lack thereof) of fruit and vegetable farming in the Poptun area made for a fun assignment.
The road to Flores was paved in gold. Okay, exaggeration, but it was smooth. I spent the first part of the tip watching the landscape, assessing whether there were more tree-covered or corn-planted hills. The latter ended up with the higher count. Actually, there wasn’t always an active crop on the cleared hills; sometimes they were fallow. This means that the farmers are waiting until another corn crop can be planted there. It’s a seven-year cycle, which means that farmers often need to find a new area of land on which to plant, so then they cut down more trees. The problem is that soon there won’t be any more trees left to cut down. Local environmental organizations like ProPetén are working to mitigate this and are even working on a program with Finca Ixobel. My sense is that they have a far higher chance of success and sustainability than the international NGOs that have come and gone over the years.
I arrived in Flores after about two hours on the bus. I immediately spied a lone white tourist and hopped in to her tuk tuk. We headed to the same place, the Los Amigos Hostel, which was reportedly the hippest game in town. It also has a passel of doggies, so that sealed the deal. My new companion was named May, short for Malin. She had left her home country of Sweden about 15 years earlier to take a dog au pair job in England (I was immediately envious) and never left.
Once settled in to our rooms, I went upstairs to check out the rooftop deck, a common feature in Flores as most tourist accommodation is built to feature lake views. Lying on a yoga mat on the ground was a dreadlocked dude that was in a complete state of mellow. I noticed that the yellow, green, red and blue paint spatters all over his legs corresponded to the color of about one-sixth of the bricks in the terrace wall. “Been paintin?” I asked. “Yeaaaaaah,” he said, “but it’s not going very fast. I’m finding it kinda hard to stay focused. Yeaaaaaaaah. I just need to see it and then make it happen.” With that he lay down again.
I sort of cleaned up (splashed face with water, did armpit sniff check) and then went out with May for a walk about town. Flores is a small island on Lake Peten Itza, and we circled it in about 20 minutes. There’s not a whole lot going on, but it’s cobble-stoned and cute, and would make quite a nice place to live, I think. The way that each row of attached houses and shops were painted in different colors reminded me of Granada, in Nicaragua. It was really clean, and not at all crowded, so we had a leisurely stroll during which I completely lost my bearings at least four times. Good thing that May came with a built-in GPS. Flores has also seemingly taken up the grand tradition of Happy Hour, too, so that’s another point in my books, and yes, we did partake. Just a little, though, as I’m on the road to Tikal tomorrow.