Lancha Man on Lago Petén Itzá
Miguel was our lancha pilot for an afternoon’s adventure on Lago Petén Itzá. Way up in the remote jungles of northern Guatemala, El Petén is the department most famous for the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Yaxhá and the mystical El Mirador, featuring the tallest pre-Columbian structures in the Americas. This lake sits at a crossroads – a paved road comes up from Guatemala City, via Rio Dulce, another road heads east to Belize and traveling slightly further north takes you to the mighty Mayan site of Tikal. The waters are very warm in this lake, the crocodiles don’t interact much with the people (whew!) and the island city of Flores is a perfect homebase from which to explore the region.
Along the lake, Miguel took us to a wildlife preserve, that in reality turned out to be more of a zoo. Local flora and fauna in abundance, but it’s hard to see monkeys in a cage…in the jungle. We took a float around to a lovely beach and dove off the dock a few times, afterwards sampling fresh cocos from a nearby palm tree. Miguel then took us to an ancient Mayan site called Tayasal, still covered in jungle vine and crumbling rock. Legend has it, the Itza Maya people were so protected from the dense jungle, their island fortress and the sheer remoteness of this location, it took until 1697 for the Spanish to conquer them, some 150 years after most other Mayan cities had been taken.
More from Flores and Lago Petén Itzá in upcoming posts.
Lago Petén Itzá, Guatemala, 2011.