Saturday, January 30, 2010

Written 1/29 - Finca Ixobel - from my top bunk at camp

We have spent the past few days at sleep-away camp at Finca Ixobel.  Its been wonderfully relaxing and has taken me back 20 years to Camp Sabra...complete with Israelis and frisbee and bunkbeds.  Ok, the food is better...way better.

It was only a couple of hours bus ride south from Flores and the landscape was quickly covered with lush green hills and corn  farms.  For this ride, we opted for the "1st Class" bus which was only about $2 extra for each of us.  Rather than a school bus, this was an old "greyhound" type touring bus.  The seats were confortable and the bus was not stuffed to gils like a chicken bus.  We made a long stop in the town of Poptun for those continuing on to Rio Dulche to use the bano and buy snacks.  There were some little stores but the lovely thing here is that as soon as the bus stops, children and adults immediately climb on the bus, each calling out what they are selling...fruit, chips, tacos, drinks.  Some of the children were only 7 or 8 years old...helping their families earn a living and learning the serious business of hard sales.

The bus continued on for a few minutes from Poptun, when the drive called out to tell us that we would be stopping soon at the Finca Ixobel.  We hopped off the bus, grabbed our packs from under the bus and started walking down the road that the driver pointed out to take us to the Finca.  We didnt know what to expect at all.  It was a 10  minute walk, down a shady road until we saw the main gate and then another 10 minutes until the road opened up into a wonderful clearing with a driveway and buildings.  We found the reception area and they showed us some of the different accomodations.  There is a camping area where you can tent camp.  This area also has some "Tree houses" which are little cabanas on stilts for 90Q (around $10US a night) and some with bathrooms below for more than that.  There were also cabanas with bathrooms.  Full to capacity, this place could easily hold 100 people but seemed to have only about 10 to 20 people staying at the moment.  We had discussed checking out the dorm situation to try to save some money and were happy with what we found.  For 35Q (less than $5 each) we have a bunk bed in a room that has 3 bunk beds and a single.  It was only occupied by a quiet french couple who are traveling guatemala by bicycle.

We were happy to find that they serve breakfast and lunch all day with eggs from the chickens on the property and fresh baked bread for a very good price.  They offer some caving and horseback riding and discussed horseback riding.  There was nice sized group of favorite...just enough to have interesting people to talk to but not so much that it felt crowded by any means.  We met an interesting set of characters, one British magician and an American who is working is way to south america with his dog, Banjo.  Of course, I was interested in the logistics of traveling by bus with a dog...which is apparently possible although the dog had a few rides in the cargo area under the bus.  It was nice to spend time with an American dog since they have such a different confidence than the Central American dogs.  We wandered down to the laguna with plans to swim.  It was nice and sunny until I went down to the water when the sun hid behind a cloud.  The water was chilly so I didnt spend a lot of time but mostly we chatted on hammocks in the shade.  Finally we were starving and went to see about dinner.  This was the nicest suprise of the day.  They have a delicious dinner with salad and veggies and a choices.  Most of the food here has been pretty bland, the meat is always cooked very well done...which we are ok with after seeing the meat market...although steak is generally pretty chewy.  This place was different...a stewed beef with sesame and squash and green salad and bread.  They filled the plates themselves with twice as much as I would ever put for myself but we ate every morsal.  Then we went down to the bar at the laguna and had some beers by the campfire, talking to the different people and listening to music until Rob and I were the last 2 and we went to bed.

We woke the next day to rain.  The french couple was pretty anxious to hit the road...the rain would let up a bit and they would load up their bikes and then the rain would get harder and they would come back in.  They even tried to check out but ended up staying the rest of the day.  Nobody wanted to leave with the bad weather so everyone took a nice day..reading, napping, chatting. We had an even better dinner last night but stayed in the main area since the walk the laguna would have been very wet.  An exhausted British girl checked into our room later in the day...ate and passed out immediately having had a long day of travel from Honduras.

This morning, the French couple left very early and silently...with all of us hoping for theirs and our sake that the rain would hold off.  We awoke and enjoyed our real (not instant) coffee with real milk and sugar and said goodbye as most of the people headed off for Rio Dulche.  We decided to spend 1 more day of camp and great food.  Rob and I wandered the property this morning, happy that the rain had changed to mist which was a huge improvement.  The finca was then inundated with 17 RVs on a caravan tour from Texas to Panama.  There were so many of them and it was a very different crowd than we have dealt with so far.  They came in for lunch and baked goods and then we happily waved as they left as quickly as they came.  I've spent the rest of the afternoon reading and rob wandered around some more.  I see sun out the window even though a little sun shower came through a few minutes ago.  It looks like tonight, the room will be us, the recovering british girl and another girl who has obviously worked here or spent a bit of time here in the past...Lucky Rob, just him and the girls.

This brings me to something that I've been wanting to mention for a while but now that I have nothing at all to do, I will menion.  There are more single girls traveling Central America than anyone else.  Sure we have met other couples and some single guys but mostly it is single girls or a pair of girls or 2 single girls that have met and paired up.  This definately has us feeling very confident to travel the rest of the area.  Dont get me wrong, when a group gets together, people definately share stories of being robbed and ripped off but most of these stories are first hand from people who were pissed at the situation but in no way put off to travel and happily and more cautiously continuing on their journey. Everyone else takes note of where the person thinks they made the mistake and we all move on, smarter and more safely.

I'd hoped to practice our spanish here but as we were warned, once we reach our destination, we are surrounded by travelers who find English as the common language so we have ended up speaking English the whole time here.

We've gotten great information about our next stop...Rio Dulche and Livingston.  We will head out tomorrow with 2 really nice Israeli girls who had been traveling South America with some bad luck and were supposed to go to Peru but because of the major flooding, they changed plans and came here.  We look forward to another big change of scenery.  This is one of the places that we have really been looking forward to.