The sound started off as a deep howl. I knew it was coming from the howler monkeys because I’ve heard the same haunting sound before in other parts of Central America and in the jungles of Palawan in the Philippines. I’ve even had to dodge shit thrown by a family of them in Nicaragua! It was the Darth Vader-like hiss that made me go outside my room to get closer to the source. If you don’t know what it’s like, imagine standing next to a jumbo jet taking off without wearing any headphones. As far as I can tell, it was only early afternoon–I swore off checking the time the moment I checked-in–so I was mesmerized by how long the monkeys made their noise. I realized I’ve never heard them this loud and this close before.
I look around me and I see an inviting hammock. If I look past the trees, I can see a lake, the Lake Peten Itza of Guatemala. I’ve just checked in La Lancha, one of Francis Ford Coppola’s three resorts in Central America. Alone. I’ve planned four nights here, including Thanksgiving, to spend time by myself, collect my thoughts and just be at peace. I’ll try not to play too much Cat Power–there is an iPod speaker in my room; how brilliant!–and enjoy my time alone with the bottle of Crianza I brought with me.
My flight landed at 7:30am local time after a quick connection from Guatemala City to Flores. Funnily enough, I didn’t go through Customs before I made my connection. With this trip, I am completing Central America, but I won’t have that stamp on my passport. But I also swore off worrying about trivial things as soon as I got on a cab to the airport. I did get a little nervous when the security dogs were placed on the conveyor belt to sniff all the luggages that came through, but as soon as my backpack cleared, I waved at Henry, the La Lancha driver who was holding a piece of paper with my name on it. I was on my way to my small bit of paradise.
We drove the 45-minute journey to the resort. I was groggy from lack of comfortable sleep on the plane. Looking out the mini-van window, my first reaction was: how green! My surroundings was so lush. Past the tall trees, a thin sheet of fog covered the hills. When we finally reached the first town, I had my first glimpse of the lake. We continued to drive along its side, on rocky road, until we reached La Lancha.
The staff knew I was going to be alone and it showed. Ernesto welcomed me as “Miss Cia”–I got used to it easily–and showed me my room. You’ve come to the right place, Miss Cia, if you wanted to relax, reminding me of my first email request to book a cottage a couple of weeks ago. My room smells of fragrant soap, and the slow movement of the ceiling fan seems to dance with how I am feeling: it’s quiet, and inside, I feel completely relaxed, even subdued.
From outside my cottage, steep steps lead down to the lake. As soon as I changed to an outfit more appropriate for the 80-degree weather, I walked down until I reached the water. The lounge chairs were wet because it had been raining on and off for the past few days. There was a smaller chair that was dry, so I used that to drift in and out of sleep the rest of the afternoon. When I woke up and started to feel the pangs of hunger, I walked back up to my cottage and to the restaurant.
Carlos served me a bowl of hot carrot soup and homemade tortillas with spicy longaniza. Both filled me quickly, but I had watermelon juice with rum to push everything down. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading by the pool and then napping on the hammock. It’s raining now and it’s quite peaceful to hear water pelt on leaves; an occasional lizard tsk-tsks to remind me that I’m far away from any concrete at this moment.
I am that type of person who reads a travel-related article, looks it up online and bookmarks the results for just-in-cases. When I was planning my getaway, I looked through numerous Web sites I’ve saved to help me decide where to go. I was going alone, and I figured, I should at least check one thing off my list while I’m at it. With this trip, I consider Central America completely crossed off that list, and oh, “travel alone” accomplished, too.
La Lancha Resort photos on Flickr