This morning started at 3 am – we couldn’t sleep on account of the previous days excess of napping. This was fine actually as we had to be up and ready to leave for Tikal by 4:30 am. Around this time we wandered down to the main lobby to meet the bus. To our surprise the lobby door was locked, so we knocked and after loud banging noises which sounded like water jugs falling everywhere we were greeted by a shirtless night watch man. He escorted us to the door and we sat waiting on the stoop for about half hour until the first bus showed up. We have learned now that the first bus is never going to be the right bus. Shortly after the first bus came and left our minivan appeared. They packed 12 people total into the van and we were off.
Roughly an hour later we arrived at the front gate of Tikal. The tour began with a coffee break at the outrageously priced restaurant just inside the park. Pawel and I sat contentedly eating our oatmeal cookies and bananas we had preemptively purchased for the hike. Admittedly we they were mushy because of a misplaced water bottle.
We learned so much today – too much to even share. The most astounding part of the entire thing is the infrastructure. It’s truly incredible how much work and how many years of labour went into building the temples. Our guide, Donald, told us that the Guatemalan Mayans are short because by the age of five they can and are expected to carry their own body weight in materials. By the time they reach adulthood they can carry twice their own body weight. This is the apparent reason that the majority of the Guatemalan population is short.
In addition to the beautiful ruins there is a large amount of wild life, making the jungle hike all the better. We saw toucans (or flying bananas), spider monkeys, howler monkeys, an amazing amount of leaf cutter ants and various other colourful insects. However the one that stole the show was the tarantula. Pawel was one of the first few spectators to muster up the courage to hold this frightening thing. Though the more you watched it, the less scary it seemed, in fact it really was quite beautiful.
We ended the tour at Temple IV and ascended the mounting stairs to the summit of the temple. This temple was around 600 feet higher than the front entrance of the park making the climb a bit daunting. Once we were up there at the top of the jungle over looking the entirety of Tikal, it was all worth it. The view was sobering and took our breath away. We did not stay long as it was scorching hot and we still had a few places to check out and a 45 min hike out of the park.
Waiting for the bus we saw the days first of four rain storms. The rain here is so beautiful, it washed away everything and leaves it all looking so fresh. With weather like this the breeze that comes along with a downpour is always welcome.
On the way back we had the driver drop us at the mega shopping center in Santa Elena, the town across the bridge from Flores, so we could get some cash for the rest of our journey. We found our first Supermecrado (Supermarket) and it was stacked with the freshest looking fruits and vegetables. We took this opportunity to stock up for our trip to Semuc Champay tomorrow.
After a much needed nap we set out to find a place for dinner – a nice evening stroll to close off the day. Or so we thought, out of no where we were stuck walking in the torrential rain! And the best part was that we were on the opposite side of the island that we needed to be on. We made our way back ducking under awnings and running from store to store. It was really quite fun.
Now we must pick our bags and prepare for the eight hour mini van ride to Lanquin/Semuc. Buenos noches amigos!