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While I’m getting over my bronchitis, I took the opportunity to hop on a ‘chicken bus’ (so named, as chances are someone is clutching a chicken or two under their arm) and headed down the road to Poptun, a settlement half way between Flores and Rio Dulce. There’s not much to see in the town itself, but just a few kilometres away lies the haven of Finca Ixobel, a farm/hostel set up by an American couple, Carole and Michael DeVine, in the ‘70s. Back then, the roads were rough and unpaved and the finca became known as a staging post for adventurous travellers making the long, bumpy journey north to Tikal. In fact, I first visited this place when I was hitch hiking across Guatemala in ‘94, so I was curious to go back and see how it had evolved.
Ixobel refers to a local plant, Obel, with heart shaped leaves that’s rich in medicinal properties. The hostel uses it to make a herbal tea.
The Finca’s set in a clearing in a forest they're working to replant. I just hung out, but there’s all sorts of hiking and horse riding trips you can do to the nearby caves, rivers and waterfalls. At 600m, it’s noticeably cooler than Flores, and I found it far easier to concentrate and work here than anywhere else I’ve been to recently. It’s an incredibly calm, cleansing spot.
I hankered to stay in these romantic, rustic tree houses.
The camping area – more my style and budget – though for this short visit, I stayed in the dorm for 35Q a bed. That’s just over 4 US dollars.
Everyone is given a sheet in a folder during their stay at Ixobel. It’s a trust system – you just add to it as and when. As you can see, I’m a creature of habit. Granola and fruit for breakfast, a sneaky pastry for lunch, and the Cena Completa (which is the all you can eat organic buffet) for dinner… And repeat.
Meander through the forest to find the laguna…
It’s a natural swimming pool, fed by spring water.
Fresh veg from the garden… Munch munch. The hostel also bakes its own bread.
The Jungle Shower. Ixobel uses a mixture of solar energy, a wood burner that burns dead wood from the forest, and a ram pump system to pump water to the tanks.
Sadly there’s no Monkey anymore. I remember how when I was last here, he loved to root through backpacks, pull out tubes of toothpaste, unscrew the caps and artistically squeeze out the contents… Cheeky Monkey!
Mysterious tropical fruit. Or a baby dinosaur ready to hatch?!
You can sling your hammock in one of the huts.
These plants help filter grey water.
Just a chicken bus ride away.
This is where everyone gathers for dinner. A warm, communal atmosphere and delicious, natural food. What more could you want?