After such a crazy day in the caves and pools of Semuc Chempey we were totally wiped out, but we still decided to head out the next day and inflict yet another supposedly 6 hour bus trip on ourselves. As it turned out, a whole bunch of people from Zephyr were heading out with us… could it have had anything to do with the lack of water at the hostel… hmmm?
So the local tour company squeezed a whole bunch of gringos into a van again… not an inch to spare! And off we went north. The trip was mostly uneventful, until we arrived in one small town and came to a stop next to the river. After a while a small cable ferry came over and we piled on with trucks and motorbikes and slowly made our way across.
We got into Flores late in the afternoon, and were really glad we had decided to call ahead and make a reservation at one of the hotels, for ourselves and a couple of German girls who’d stayed at Zephyr with us, so we didn’t have the scramble other travelers went through to grab the last few rooms in town. Flores is a funny old place, basically an island with a bridge or causeway connecting it to the main city of Santa Elena.
It’s a quiet little town in the middle of Lago El Peten, which is so huge you can’t even see from one end to the other. Although a little touristy, it’s very pleasant, so, unlike most of the other backpackers, we rejected the idea of getting up at 4 am the next morning to rush off to Tikal for the day trip… we’re just too old for that and preferred to sleep in!!
We enjoyed a day wandering around town and had our best meal yet in Guatemala… exactly what we’d been looking for since we got here… a good menu del dia – a very cheap (about $2.50) for a tasty plate of food and a drink. We searched out a eatery on the main square where it seem half the office workers in town were, and had chili relleno (a big, non-spicy chili stuffed with a mix of shredded chicken and veggies) and avocado and beetroot salad and fresh corn tortillas…. YUM!!
Basically, we dwindled the day away wandering up and down this hill of an island, watching all the tuc-tuc (local taxis) whiz around the cobble-stoned streets.
At 2:30 in the afternoon, we jumped on one of the emptiest shuttle vans we’d been in and headed north to the Mayan site of Tikal. We’ve been to a few Mayan sites here in Central America, but Tadd was really excited about going to such a huge ancient city as Tikal (“At the waterhole”). And even though I’ve been before, I knew how amazing the place was, so I was excited too!
Beyond rejecting the 4am tour out of Flores, we had also decided to treat ourselves and spend the money to stay at one of the fancier hotels that are right inside the national park, very close to the ruins and in the thicket of the jungle… As we spent the afternoon relaxing in the pool, we watched spider monkeys swing and jump through the trees!
First thing the next morning we joined up with a guide group and headed into the ruins… nothing less than spectacular. We wandered through the forest, while our rather amusing and very knowledgeable guide, Cesar, explained all about the location and the Maya. We passed lots of smallish temples and some big mounds of jungle that still encased other, un-excavated buildings. Eventually we reached the tallest of the temples, number IV.
We slogged our way to top… we are so unfit!!
But, of course, it was worth it for the view…
Tadd seemed dutifully impressed as we looked out over the seemingly endless jungle, as a million shades of green covered the land in every direction.
A few smaller sites, and lots more tidbits from Cesar and we reached Temple V…
Temple V has seriously steep steps!!
It’s pretty amazing considering that when they found it, it had trees growing all up the sides
As ever, the view from the top was amazing, looking across to the other complexes of Tikal, which peak out through the greenery.
But Tadd didn’t get to see it, as he opted to stay down below… That’s him in the middle in the greenish t-shirt with his arms up in the air waving at me.
Temple I… or was it Temple II… the were all starting to look alike 😉
Oh no that one’s definitely Temple II!
The local wildlife seems to like the ruins too… a very curious Coati.
Can you say, “Big, old pile of rocks”? Just kidding!
There was just time for a photo in front of the huge Kapok tree roots before heading back to the pool!