Day 44: Flores - Poptún

Poptun Travel Blog

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the road to Poptún


At 9 in the morning Robbel and I were picked up by a minivan which would bring us to Poptún. We said goodbye to our dad who would take a taxi to the airport half an hour later. It was strange that we were leaving earlier than he was, but our bus only ran once a day.

We spent the next two and a half hours in a tiny, cramped minivan, travelling to the village of Poptún in the centre of the country. We had gotten the idea to go to Poptún after reading a sentence in the Lonely Planet that it was a great place to stop for a couple of days on the road from Flores to Guatemala City or vice versa. I must admit that I never really bothered to read further to see just what exactly was so great about this place, and this caused quite some confusion in the end.

entrance to the great Finca Ixobel

It actually started a few days ago, when we were in the bus from Belize to Flores. I was chatting with the driver and told him our plans for Guatemala, first to Tikal and then to Poptún. His immediate reaction was: "Finkawishable"
"Uhm, no, Poptún", I said. "Si, si Finkawishable"
I figured I’d better leave it at that.
But that very same afternoon, I mentioned Poptún again to another Guatemalan guy, and he too responded "Finkawishable". I figured it was some kind of secret code or something, you know, one says Poptun, and the other replies with Finkawishable. Funny people those Guatemalans.

However, when we bought the bus ticket for today the guy at the ticket counter also confronted us with this secret code, so I decided to open the Lonely Planet and try to find the answer to this quiz in there.

our treehouse!

The entry on Poptún didn’t give me much information, really. In fact, it didn’t really say anything about the town at all. I didn’t get it, why does it say elsewhere in the book that we should go here??
I continued reading and finally I found it, under places to stay: ‘Finca Ixobel’, which is located 10 kilometres outside of Poptún and has a full two pages in the Planet about just what great camping/hostel/hotel this is, and all that can be done here.
And I was really impressed by this experience. No less than three different people had tried to correct me when I told them I was going to Poptún (albeit incomprehensible, but never mind). If I compared this to the average mentality I had experienced in Mexico, I was sure in Mexico someone would have simply reacted like "sure kid, you go to Poptún if you want to, here’s your bus ticket".
our treehouse!

I was really impressed by the people in Guatemala.

Unfortuanetly we also got to know another aspect of Guatemala. I think I already mentioned the country has a reputation for theft and robbery. No, don’t worry, it was not that bad, but it was close. Once we arrived in Poptún everybody got off the minibus. It was just the two of us continuing to the Finca, 10 kilometres on. As is common in these countries, our luggage was tied on the roof of the minivan, and because the van was now empty, all luggage was taken off the roof, and our bags were put in the back of the van instead. And so we continued.
As we drove off Robbel said to me "I think I saw someone walk away with my backpack". Nah, don’t be ridiculous, we had two backpacks and a daypack on the roof, and all three came down and are now in the back of the car.

our treehouse!
But she was clever enough to have a look, and indeed, there were only two backpacks there.
I told the driver to stop, and explained what had happened. The driver turned around immediately, drove into a little street, got out and walked into a little alley and less than two minutes later he came back again with Robbel’s daypack. Just as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
And we were actually too flabbergasted to complain. Normally we guard our bags like hawks, but they had been unloading the luggage with two people, and the total distance from the roof to the side door was about half a metre, you don’t really expect that luggage can still disappear unseen!

Anyway, we arrived safe and sound at the Finca Ixobel, which is an old coffee plantation that has been a traveller’s hangout for the last couple of decades.
It is a fantastic place. They have the choice of all types of accommodation imaginable: camping, hammocks, dorm, private room, bungalow, villa, or, the best of all, a tree house! Obviously we opted for the latter, how often do you get to sleep in a tree house? OK, they only have one tree house that was actually in a tree, but what we got was basically a wooden shed on stilts. No electricity, no running water, just a very basic shed with a bunk bed and wooden panels in front of glassless windows which served as curtains. Really, really cool.

There was a tremendously relaxed atmosphere on the Finca. Ordering was based on an honesty system. After check-in your name was written into a book, and your page number was your account number. So you could order food, take beer from the fridge, coffee and whatnot and all you had to do was write it on your page in the book, to be paid upon check-out. Very dangerous though, as it is very easy to spend more than you are planning to if you don’t have to pay anything during your stay.

We had been here less than five minutes and already decided to change our itinerary - for the umpteenth time. We had been planning to stay here one night and then travel to Copán just across the border in Honduras tomorrow. However, travelling to Copán meant three or four times changing buses and in Honduras we would have similar issues with getting local currency as we’d had when we first arrived in Guatemala. Then we would stay in Copán for two nights, while the main attraction there is ruins which we’d probably be able to see in a couple of hours, and then try to get back into Guatemala with several buses again. And worst of all, we were now less than 300 kilometres from Copán, but it would be more difficult and take longer to reach it than from the city of Antigua, on the other side of Guatemala, which lies 700 kilometres from Copán. We decided it was too much really. This is Robbel’s last week and to spend two full days in a bus to see some ruins (not to mention the fact that we’d seen many ruins already) was just too much. We figured we’d better spend some more time at Lago Atitlán and Antigua instead.

Naturally our itinerary changed once again less than a few hours later. We met a Dutch girl who had been looking at booking a three-day jungle trek. However, that trek required a minimum of 2 participants. We had cancelled a similar jungle trek in Mexico a few weeks ago, to spend more time in Belize, but due to the visit of our father that whole jungle thing never happened in Belize either. And despite the fact that we’d seen quite a bit of jungle these past few weeks, we had never really *really* been in a jungle and spent the night. Worse even, we hadn’t even done any multi-day excursions this whole trip, and for me that alone was reason enough to have a look and see what this three day trek comprised of.
The description talked about horseback riding, walking through the jungle, swimming in rivers, visiting caves, wild animals and whatnot - almost too good to be true, really. So to cut a long story short, we changed our itinerary once again in order to free up time in our schedule to go on this three day trip.

But first we had almost a full day to spend at the finca. One of the best things: the food. Every evening they have this huge buffet with local dishes prepared with locally grown fresh (as in really really nice and tasy fresh) produce. Every evening people are welcomed by the owner of the finca, Crol DeVine, after which you can gorge on the food from the all-you-can-eat buffet, sharing large tables with the other people staying at the finca.
The owner was a great woman as well. Originally American, she had been living on the finca for decades. And despite the fact that her husband was killed in the civil war in 1990, she still keeps running the finca, providing work for many local people in the region.

The finca also has a very nice bar, where beers and cocktails are also logged on your tab, rather than paid directly. Very very dangerous... especially when there is a three hour happy hour!

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the road to Poptún
the road to Poptún
entrance to the great Finca Ixobel
entrance to the great Finca Ixobel
our treehouse!
our treehouse!
our treehouse!
our treehouse!
our treehouse!
our treehouse!
Poptun
photo by: Biedjee