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Tikal

12 Feb
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Tikal

 

The next morning I was waken up by some Norwegian girls in a nearby room that started to chat loudly, probably after some drinks around 2:00am. The bus came promptly at 3:30am and we were on our way to one of the greatest archaeological site, Tikal. The distance from Flores and Tikal is 62km and it takes the bus around 1 hour to get to the ruins in pitch dark. The sky was full of stars a great view from the top of the Tikal pyramids. There were several buses who came there and a lot of people. The guides carried flash lights on their foreheads and we started after some organization with a number of guides to the top of Templo 4 where we were supposed to wait and, mainly, listen the sounds of the jungle waking up. The walk in the forest was not so easy without flashlight, stumbling occasionally, and hearing howling monkeys that were defining their territory.

We started to ascend of the pyramid and at 5:45 am we were all, close to 30-40 people on top of Templo 4 where we listened in silence till about 6:20 am the sounds of the jungle. This was an impressive moment. You could hear the howling monkeys, the birds and some other animals, all in the darkness that started to dispel. Unfortunately, inside the jungle you cannot see a sunrise. You may be barely able to see the next temple in front because of the morning mist. The guide, Louis, gave us some instructions and we started to explore the site at 7:00am. He showed us the howling monkeys, that he make them howl imitating them perfectly, a sound that first you think that is from a jaguar. Animal abound: howling monkeys, spider monkeys, all on top of the canopy of the trees, wild turkeys, toucans, parrots, ocomundi, and lots of other animals. Meanwhile Louis was bringing us to various monuments talking about Tikal that means in the local language “the place of sounds”, its history, its disappearance, etc. What is different in Tikal is that fact that only the temples were cleaned and its surroundings and squares. The rest was left as tropical forest and you walk its paths and admire the vegetation. This gives the site a mysterious air, very different from the naked places like Chichen Itza or Uxmal. But everything comes with a price. The major disadvantage of this is the fact that is not so easy to shoot and take pictures in Tikal. The tour lasted 3 hours till 10 am. Because Tikal is so big and it was so early you don’t have the feeling that it was swamped by tourists. We visited all the important monuments and finished in the Grand Plaza in front of the Temple of Jaguar and the temple of the Mask, the only area that was completely uncovered, plaza included. The place is majestic and what is missed in mystery gains in stupendous views of temple architecture. I climbed on temple of the mask and I shot lots of video and photos here where it was easier that inside the jungle. Tikal was a huge city and I was surprised the next day to find out that Caracol was even bigger. Probably in the peak time the population was way larger than is today on a surface of 237 square kilometers. All these cities and their temples together with their civilization went in demise around 900AD for reasons that are still speculated. Louis gave us each a ticket to stay and go when we please and told us that the first bus to Flores is at 11:00 am, followed by 12:30, 2, 3, 4 and 5pm. I started to walk around and take pictures, climbing inside the side palaces and decided to take the 2:00pm bus. I walked to the Northern complex, P, Q, and R and came back tired and soaked in sweat because it started to be very hot. Drank some juice and decided to go to the bus of 12:30 still undecided if to go so early and leave from such a great place like Tikal. The bus helped me because it left just before my eyes so I returned and I went to see temple 6, Templo de Los Inscriptiones, and another Palacio nearby, the last two things that I could not see in the morning from the ruins. For this you walk inside the tropical forest again and is a delight to look at the abundant vegetation. It is obvious that is no delight when you want to clean an area inside the forest.I took the 2:00pm bus, after I came earlier not to miss it again and I arrived at 3:00pm in Flores.

I took some quick shots inside the town , grabbed my backpack from the hotel, waved a tuk-tuk who for Q5 brought me to the terminal. The night before I tried to find out how can I get by myself to Belize. There are only two direct buses at 5:00am and 7:30 am to Belize City for $20. Otherwise you can take a bus to Melchoir de Mena , at the border, walk over the border and take a bus till 5:30 pm or a taxi latter on. My minibus left at 3:40 pm and stopped in the market till 4:00pm when he left. He was driving like a maniac with 120km/hour the reason being that half the road closer to the boarder is gravel and there he was slowing down seriously. The next day I found out that this road is prone to armed robbery, a driver I spoke with being robbed 4 times on this road in 20 years, a rate that he thought that was reasonable. The bus dropped many passengers on the way, is the local bus, and arrived at the border at 6:00pm. He showed me where to go and when I got of I was assaulted by money changers, who would change money at the official rate $1=2Belize $, the Belize $ being pegged to the US$. I refuse to change and I walked over the bridge and into the Guatemala immigration office that again asked for the same Q10 with no receipt.

I went further to the Belize border where I was greeted in English, Belize being till 1981 the colony of British Honduras. No problems at the border and no money to pay. Outside there were guys with taxis, that have posted rates in US$ and Bez$ and to San Ignatio is US$15 that I negotiated right away for $10 and I left with a Guatemalan guys who did not speak English. He did not have a receipt and he was very nice to go to a store to get one. We chatted about Belize and Guatemala and I found out that many people from Guatemala leave here if they can because you make more money, 1Bz$=Q3.5. We arrived in San Ignation very fast, the distance being 12 miles from the border and I went directly to a travel office to talk about the next day tours. There were no tours for Caracol, the largest Maya site in Belize, and the only option was the famous cave ATM, considered one of the most interesting trips in Belize. I asked also about transportation and it turned out that there are no direct buses from San Ignatio to Orange Walk, and buses from Belmopan to Dagriga that run all days for about 3 hours. I had to ponder over the options so I went to find a hotel, and I looked for Martha’s guesthouse that was full and I got a room across the street at Hi-Et guesthouse where a Canadian named Steve, living there, gave some tips for tours. I took a quick shower and went back in town to check the agencies and after some research I found an agency called Pacz tours, where I am now writing this blog, who told me that they will take me to ATM for $75 but do have Caracol either. I said that is fine but I want to see if I can get to go to Caracol, and I went again for a search and research, and when I came back empty handed they told me that a guy just came to go to Caracol and he was looking for me in town. The deal was done and I paid $80 for the trip for the next day, started to write the blog and went to eat at a Sri Lankan-Belize restaurant that was really very good. I did not want to walk latter on in the city because the trip to Tikal and the whole process to come over the border was extremely tiring. I was in Tikal, walking continuously in heat for 8 hours, and this not taking in consideration that I woke up at 3:00am and I did not have breakfast. Meanwhile I read the guide and seeing the difficulties I have with the transportation in Belize, less efficiently connected comparing with Guatemala, I decided that I will skip going to the South to Dangriga, to visit the Garifuma community, and stay in the North, in San Ignatio for two days, one day in Orange Walk and two days in Caye Caulker. Final decision,,,,that can be appealed.

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Posted by on February 12, 2008 in Blog, Guatemala

 

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