Christmas when travelling is always a bit of a hit-and-miss. In 2001, we spent it in San José, Costa Rica, in a hotel full of cockroaches but Feng managed to make a nice pasta dinner. In 2003, we were in Antigua, Guatemala, and the atmosphere was very festive. In 2008, we were in Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica—not so festive but nice location. Last year, we had our Christmas dinner in 1776 and I learned to joggle with fire sticks in Rainbow Beach, Australia.
Yesterday, we visited Tikal and hiked in the rainforest. Our small hotel in Flores is so quiet that since we are the only guests, the owner basically gave us the key to the front door. Since we started this trip 11 days ago in Cancún, we keep on wondering: ¿Donde son los gringos?
Indeed, there are very few backpackers and travellers around. A few tourists here and there, mostly from Germany and some families from the U.S. But no Japanese, no Israelis, no British—the usual crowd of backpackers. Is it the end of an era? A few years ago, we met hundreds of people on the road and hotels were often booked. People were travelling for months, years sometimes even. And now there are just a handful of tourists taking tours from one place to another and travelling for a couple of weeks, three maybe. Should the economy be blamed, once again? Is the new generation not as curious about the world as we were? Do people feel the world is more dangerous?
Anyway, we quickly understood there would be no party central in Flores. We had dinner in a small restaurant—that gave us free shots of Rum—and headed to the central plaza. People were gathering, waiting for the midnight mass. We walked around the island, peeking into people’s living rooms as they were finishing their Christmas dinner.
Bang! Most kids had gathered in the streets and were playing with firecrackers. It didn’t take long for the entire town to be all smoky and smell of gunpowder. A few people hand-threw actual fireworks, in between power lines. Ahem… But again, most were probably drunk—to hell with safety!
At midnight, Santa Elena, on the other side of the shore, had one of the longest and most impressive fireworks displays I have ever seen, not from one but ten spots at least. The town was literally on fire. Meanwhile, right beside us, the firecrackers frenzy continues and each minute, a car alarm went off.
Today, at 10 a.m., drunks were still making their way back home, kids were blowing the last firecrackers and pieces of newspapers and gunpowder were in the street.
Christmas, Guate style.