The boy, who used to swim with crocodiles.

Guatemala
VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

A view onto the island of Flores

This is a story about my youth, when I was still a bean sprout who was living on a little island somewhere in the jungle. A rather rare story, which I had not shared often. Let me tell you about crocodile lake, Orphanage, guns and the most craziest journey I’d ever done in my life, where I made one of my absolute favorite pictures of all time.

  • 01.10 – 04.10
  • Three months

We were in Tulum at that time and since we came from the north, could not go east, west was too far into the same, it was concluded, that the south was the only option. We had crossed Belize in transit and entered Guatemala until our arrival in Flores. We’ve lived there 3 months, because the visa was only validated to a maximum time of 3 months.

My Story and an understanding of Guatemala

Guatemala was, and is still in 2016, a country in a terrible state. We’d be taking a look at smuggling traffics through Central America, inexistence of women rights, high crime and corruption rates, a former civil war and genocide. The capital, Guatemala City was not recommendable as well. I was on the way to leave Mexico, Tulum through the Mexican/Belizian border, Chetumal. The same border, Nobu and I had greater issues to solve 6 years later. I’d crossed Belize on transit and entered Guatemala, all by a minivan. By the border of Guatemala, we were forced to pay an inofficial fee of 20 USD, else they’d just keep our passports. We’d arrived on the island of Flores and rented a room for two nights in the hotel “Casona de la isla”. We immediately started to ask locals for apartments and it took not long, to discover our future home.

Flores

These moments of my life, already had their play in the second year of my ongoing world trip. I had turned from a shy boy into a maniac with no limits, so dear everyone that had to suffer until today of my mental overtrip actions: You’re welcome. We could get an agreement for a little apartment close to the center, well everything was close to the center. It was clearly a life for the living. These 3 months were spent only on the island of Flores and were absolutely different, than the journeys I took, like the RanikVlogs-Journey. Let me now tell about the great adventure of El Mirador and the astonishing experience of the orphanage in St. Helena.

El Mirador

Datei 13.12.15, 17 28 47

A View from “El Tigre” all across the Jungle until “El Mirador”.

So this is one of my favorite picture of my life, which resembles the one from Grenada a bit. It had been taken in the rainforest of Petén, on the peak of the highest temple called “el Tigre”, on my way back to Flores with my last juice on the Sony Ericcson. We had to walk 6 days through the wild and for one day, be taking a look at the largest city ever created by the Mayas. Because of a slight interest on a girl from Switzerland (which was rare to meet, cause I was always living in Junglestan), my immature head told me to join her on this “oh so romantic adventure” along with her mom… and I decided just in the previous evening before departure, that I would join this journey. I ran home, told my mom about how intelligent I am, got into a tuk tuk and drove to the super market, before I’d be lost with just the all inclusive food on the road. I bought a lot of snacks, a few apples and headed back home, where my mother prepared me some clothings, which I could take with me. who would have thought, that not did only did the girl not matter afterall, but I experienced a journey, beautiful and unforgettable.

Departure – We rode on a pick up truck direction north, until a village called Carmelita. There we were: The girl and mom from Switzerland, an American student guy (probably 25), a French student girl (probably same age) and me. Maybe there were more, but I can’t remember anyone else.. But I get the feeling, that there could have been a few more. I should have mentioned the fact, that I had incredible large feets and there was no opportunity to get shoes in such sizes, because the natives in Guatemala were quite shorter than I. Since my shoes were hurting my toes after some time, we had this idea of cutting the tips of my shoes off. Now, the trip can be harsh under the circumstances of rain, and even a possibility of having water up to your knees was a fact. I was laughed at, by the natives and the guides in Carmelita, until one said, that he’ll be looking in his house for larger shoes, which he could borrow me. I knew, that he’d be wasting his time about my size, so I did not understand, how he was able to hand me large boots in my size, even though I was looking everywhere in Mexico and Guatemala. With the borrowed boots and confidence, I’d entered the jungle with the others and the native tour guide. Let me tell, that I had my backpack filled wit snacks and everyone was laughing about me again. Soon, everyone realized that lunch consisted of can beans or weird ham slices in bread. Water was rare and other tours, that were booked to a cheaper price, also offered less, like lack of water on another group we saw.. You really don’t want that. It took not even a day to shut the mouths of my companions, as soon as they realized, that bringing food to the jungle is actually not so dumb. As soon as the night had taken over the sun, it was on me to share the tent with an American. I still remember, how I switched clean socks with old ones during the night, to prevent a total feet smelling apocalypse.We used to play at night some card games with the American and the French. The girl thing died during the trip. Of course you could hear monkeys screaming like maniacs through the forest, but I never saw a tiger or tapir. There was another animal, that had my attention, but I’ll be talking about it later on.

We also passed by many ruins of former Maya civilization. Traces like temple parts were spread all over the region. Absolutely unbelievable. On our way to “El Mirador”, we’d passed by some ruins and stopped once in a while, to snap some nice frames and let me tell you: I guess I always had that cocky smile on my face, hahaha! I discovered this picture, far behind folders of mine, sitting on the Maya ruins.

Arrival – On the third day, we’d arrived in the evening’s atmosphere of “El Mirador”. I was in aid of a shower, so I asked around and was told to go further to an abandoned house and look for a big kettle, that should have collected water. After short time, I’d discovered a kind of a wooden kettle in the middle of the jungle and I started to shower straight, naked in the wild. I don’t know, if I was clean afterwards, but at least I could get some dirt off myself. A cliché of an Indiana Jones film would be great. We entered on the forth day and discovered “El Mirador”. The city was just absolute incomparable to anything else I’d seen previously. We’d been walking on a raised, wide built road with fascinating chiseling artworks below, on the sides. There were tables with numbered items, framed by strings, like in movies. Grave robbers had already made use of the goods and riches of this sacred city. This large city had been discovered in the 30s, as far as I can remember and was until today, only reachable per helicopter or feet. I have almost no pictures of the trip itself, but that makes the few ones even more precious. We climbed the top at sunset and closed our case with this spectacle.

Return – On our way back, I, the American and the French girl took a walk in an evening, after setting up our camp. As I was conversating with the French for fifteen minutes, the American, who was upfront, made a call like: “Guys, you gotta check this out”. We both rushed to him and discovered a huge Python next to the path, slowly moving in the thicket. We stood, in natural manners and a certain distance, away from this weird creature, as the French girl was so fascinated by it, that she had the best idea in the Guatemalan jungle: let’s touch it. Now, I already knew a story of someone, who got attacked by one and had the chance to free himself with a machete. Simply place the blade, with the sharp edge, pointing away from you, on your body and wait until the snake is about to wrap itself into the blade. Since the blade is sharp, it will realize, that it has no chance of suffocating the victim and it will leave again, giving you only bruises and balls of steel. However, I had no machete or such there and the camp was too far away. The snake noticed the fingers and made a reaction, that surprised me: not caring much. Afterwards, the American touched it as well and since my Guinea pigs had survived, it was my turn to feel it. We were told afterwards, that the snake had no intention of eating her, cause it had already eaten something. Something with meat. The next morning, I got up onto the temple of “El Tigre”, which was just next to the camp and I took with my last juice on my phone the best picture: me, gazing over the endless jungle of Central America and noticing, from the highest temple, the largest city. I was a train wreck on my arrival, but dear reader, I had just witnessed and felt one of the best adventure I ever had.

The Orphanage of St. Helena

I can’t remember, how we got in touch with this man anymore, but he was someone, who wanted to build a little orphanage for street children or children with other desperate occasions. One day, we were taken to this raw little house with a garden on suburb terrain, and we could see over thirty people, sitting in the shade, playing and running or just conversations between people. Since free time was a greater good we had, we’d decided to help them in the best way we can. Collecting money for fundraising is a general mistrust issue, since the general thought is: will my money be where I’d be expecting it to be? That’s why I’d created a folder with pictures of the orphanage and me and my family started to wander around the little island of Flores, talking to tourists and telling them by first hand about the critical conditions that lie beyond the city. We encouraged people to act and even collected a 50 euro bill from a person, that wanted to do something good with it anyway and just looked for a non corrupted spot to invest.

I must say, I heard many NGO stories that give me a certain glance on their works with a clear and understandable distrust. I personally only give money or else to something/one if I know the outcome of it. But nevertheless, I shall continue my story. One day, a French man, who was traveling, took a special interest on the project and asked for an invite, to look at the orphanage as well. Of course, he financially supported the orphanage as well and as it was growing better and better, we really started to see a flower, blooming in the dirt of the poor world. However, the flower had died, as we showed up in the later days and only discovered the helper of the orphanage, standing in front of the building and saying, that the orphanage must be closed and remain so. He explained: During daylight, two men with pump actions showed up and made him choose to close the orphanage. It were the drugs. The cartel, who was doing businesses did not appreciated our actions in their turf. There was no choice, but to back up and leave. We hadn’t seen anyone after that incident and so it came to this sad ending with no happy end because: Welcome to planet Earth.

Our life

When I wasn’t swimming in the crocodile lake, then you could have found me on the top of the island, playing soccer or basketball with the locals in the evening. I used to call me “Kim” there, so I had to listen to this damn reference of “Kim Possible” every time. And the “Kim Jong” crap made me switch my thoughts, about naming my future kid “Kim” for good. That’s where I had my general encountering a with locals. “Los Amigos” was the probably most known hostel around the island with a jungle interior design and terrible vegetarian food (I doubt that they could fix this matter). We spent many hours there and used the place, in order to get in touch with foreigners. We also had the job offer to play some music in the evening and to collect the tips and free dinner as the payment. However, another restaurant had way better food and style to offer, so we played there as well, for the same conditions. I did swim in the crocodile lake and some people in the past got injured indeed, but if you know where to swim, then it’s not a problem. That is a joke of course, there are damn crocodiles in the lake, but I just didn’t give a damn. #BallsOfSteel

My Final Impression

The one week trip to “El Mirador” by crossing 140 Km terrain of jungle and sensing the most extraordinary city of the Mayas. The little colorful island, placed on a lake, where life was so randomly different. These two will appear in my mind, if I hear about Guatemala. It had a major impact into who I am and what I do today. I was a wild, happy and insane teenager, who was neither Swiss nor traveler. I was someone who’s been on a two year trip already;

Adventurer

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