At a Fork in the Road

One of the strange and interesting things about traveling the way we do is having almost complete freedom of choice. We rarely plan or book things more than a day or two ahead, so (theoretically) at any point we can head in any direction. Right now we’re in Flores, a pretty little lakeside town in northern Guatemala. This is jungle country, and it’s hot and sultry. We’re finding that—great wildlife and Mayan ruins aside—we’re not really keen on the jungle.

With the weather forecast showing ever-rising heat, we face two choices: head for the coast or head for the mountains. Specifically, go southeast to the Honduran islands of Roatan and Utila, which are supposed to be great for snorkeling and diving, or go west into the Highlands of Guatemala. We intend to visit both places, but geography is such that whichever one we choose now, we probably won’t get to the other until the end of our Central America trip, in April.

For the past 24 hours, we’ve been waffling back and forth. The weather is good in the mountains now, and there´s supposed to be a great little school where we could make some much-needed progress on our Spanish and stay with a local family and really get to know a small village community. However, we’d have to keep lugging around our day pack full of snorkeling gear for another month and a half before we could use it again.

The islands are compelling, though getting to them from here would require several long days of bus rides. Plus a few more days in sweltering jungle or humid coastal towns. And the mountains could be awful in April, if we wait until then to see them. Several reliable sources have told us that that´s when the subsistence farmers burn off their fields before planting. Depending on the weather, that can mean smoggy, smelly air and bad visibility for looking at or photographing the mountain scenery.

After all of our backing and forthing, finally, a sign: this morning CNN news showed a clip of similar slash-and-burn fires in Thailand right now. The visibility is awful! We have to avoid that in Guatemala if we can. And then, when we went out for breakfast, we passed a travel agency advertising a good rate on a bus to the main town to the west. On impulse, we went in and bought tickets. Tomorrow morning, we´re mountain-bound. The fishes of the Caribbean will just have to wait for a few months to see us again.

Photo Galleries