North to Mayan ruins
Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
332Trip End Jan 19, 2007
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We did find some people eventually and even a couple of stalls as we approached the bus station for Fuente del Norte bus company. They had kindly sold our special De Luxe bus tickets (no idea what difference was to normal but was only a couple of quid more and Dave likes his legroom) for the 21.30 bus and put us on normal class at 22.30 instead. We weren´t best pleased as it meant sitting around in a very busy and uncomfortable waiting room with lots of people staring at us ominously.
Bus was fine though and very reclinable seats plus as we left later it meant we arrived at a slightly more reasonable hour in Flores.
5.30am and the sun was inching its way up here in the cloudy sky. We got a taxi to San Juan tours to get a minibus straight up to Tikal, the Mayan ruins and our home for tonight. The minibus was in a pretty shocking state. Windscreen had possibly the biggest crack I have seen in our whole trip and believe me we have yet to see a bus without a decent size one. Not only was this directly in his sightline but I later noticed the 2 inch sticker covering part of the crack was actually covering a stone hole in the screen. Obviously on top of that it was rainy, misty and the windscreen kept misting over. All in all a relaxing journey. Plus half way through we got a puncture. Wondered why he put two new tyres on the roof. The road wasnt even that bad!
Anyway, enough of boring transportation. Got to the Jaguar Inn in Tikal which is v pricey at about $50 a night but we reckoned it was worth to see sunset and sunrise here without getting up at 3am. Had a sleep for a bit in the biggest bed I have ever seen (definitely wider than it was long) and then went out. Rain had now stopped and was very humid. It is basically the jungle here, tree canopy, the sounds and smells of wildlife and trees around you.
We paid our 50Q to get in the park (not without a row as thought if we entered after 3pm it covered the next day too but apparently only if its just entering the whole national park which is a good 20km away) and hired a local guide, Hector. He spoke great English and was a lovely guy. He took us around the various ruined complexes which were pretty fascinating and told us all about Mayan beliefs and culture. In today´s society people tend to merge Mayan traditions and catholicism and we saw a few Mayan ceremonies taking place in part of the ruins. Mayans also believe that on 22 Dec 2012 it will the the end of another era in the world, or some believe the end of the world. Apparently they have correctly predicted global warming, earthquakes, volcanoes etc so who knows? A lot of the temples are still under mounds of plants and earth and they only know that there are literally thousands of buildings here because NASA have done their stuff here.
Walking through the jungle we spotted spider monkeys, a couple of small toucans, loads of birds and heard the eery howler monkeys in the distance. We were never quite sure what was going to jump out on us. Hector also told us about the various plants and trees including the ´tourist´tree which basically has a goes red and then peels when exposed to sun, we liked that.
Back at the the hotel there was power until 22.00 so we had our first Guatemalan beer, Gallo, and read before going to bed early for yet another early start.
Up at 4am half hoping it was still raining so could go back to sleep. It wasn´t, we dragged ourselves out of bed thinking, yet again, that we should make the most of our time here, esp as it was so expensive. Went to the guard hut and met one of the guards who was going to escort us in for sunrise at a much cheaper rate than the tours. We were the first ones in which was cool and the first ones up Temple IV. We had it to ourselves for all of 5 minutes but enjoyed the peace of everything apart from the odd bird who had got up too early.
Within 30 minutes there were about 30 tourists on the top of this pyramid, which wasnt too bad and most people were just quiet waiting for the sun to rise. Unfortunately it was very cloudy so it was more of an undimming of the lights but it was still cool to see everything come alive again. Particularly nice to hear the really loud howler monkeys again, first time since we were in Brazil.
After our breakfast at the top once the hordes had left we explored the main plaza and surrounding temples in total solitude which was great. Then went to the Temple of Inscriptions a bit further away with stone carvings. By this point we were flagging a bit and also a bit templed out.
Back to the hotel we have another sleep to make the most of 1pm checkout and then get our minibus return to Flores. Have the same damn minibus and although the sun was out a bit earlier it has started to spit a bit now. And guess what, another puncture.
Arrive in Flores which is an island that you reach via a causeway from Santa Elena. It is very small and we find a place to stay within 10 mins with a balcony overlooking the surrounding lake.
Where I stayed