Live #21, Tikal, Guatemala
30/12/2014 Yesterday I arrived to the currently famed “most dangerous place on earth” and my second stop in Honduras: San Pedro Sula. I was supposed to leave to the Cusuco National Park today, but due to my slight delay and a booked flight to Utila tomorrow, I decided to do it after my return from the Island in order to spend two nights in the remote jungle. I will use the extra day to check out the city today and of course update my blog, reporting “live” from Guatemala for the first time. Coming from Belize, it was obvious that I would have to stop in Tikal, one of the most famous Maya sites in Central America!
Joined by Philip, a German guy I met before in San Ignacio to explore the ATM Caves, we made our way to the Border in a taxi and successfully dodged the extra fee that they are trying to squeeze out of tourists while entering Guatemala (just ask for a receipt and you won’t have to pay it). We missed the last bus due to the public holiday and were forced to take a more expensive private shuttle directly to Tikal, ending up paying a bit more than 200 Quetzales each. We arrived at 3pm and were just in time to get the 150Q entrance ticket that would be valid for the next day as well, so we wasted no time to drop our staff at the Jaguar Inn Hotel and made our way into the rainy jungle that surrounds the mighty ruins of Tikal!
Having not purchased either the Sunset or the Sunrise tour for an extra 150Q each, we were making the most out of our time anyway. The rain provided a great atmosphere and a good alternative to boring blue sky 😉 It got dark very fast and the ground was very slippery, nearly dropping us a few times. We headed straight to Temple IV, which was supposed to offer the best view. They built some staircases to reach the 64m high top plateau and the view is somehow limited as you can just see other temples peaking out. Before coming to Tikal, I was hoping to see some bigger structures from there but it was great in any case.
We only met two other people during the late hour of that day and joined up together on the way back, walking through complete pitch black darkness as the sun was gone around 6pm. Joined by the rangers that clean out the park so nobody sneaks in without having paid for the Sunset ticket – which would not have been great in that weather anyway – we made it back to the Jaguar Inn to have a suprsingly good and well portioned dinner there. Sleeping in tents they provide for “just” 15$ seemed like a good deal considering the fact that we were staying in the middle of the Park and right next to the Entrance gate. I could hear all kinds of monkeys and other animals (and also the snoring tour guide Caesar in a tent next to us) while trying to fall asleep.
The next morning, we woke up at 5:30 to make it to the entrance as early as possible to get in without the special sunrise ticket, meaning 6AM. The weather did not change since last night, so we were happy that we did not spend all the extra money. The sounds of the awaking jungle were still clearly present at 6AM, even though it should probably be even better getting in at 4AM. We walked a slightly different route this time and headed to the main plaza including the famous Jaguar Temple. Certainly a pretty cool structure to look at and a shame one is not allowed to climb it up! Some people have died doing so in the past after slipping down.
We returned to Temple IV again and had slightly better weather this time, still clouds dominated the sky though but I think it makes for a great atmosphere. Overall we spent nine hours in Tikal on both days and the rest of the second day was spent walking around through all different corners. Arriving at the Lost World Pyramid aka Gran Pyramid, we were waiting until everyone around us disappeared (it was not busy in that part of Tikal luckily) in order to climb it up. Climbing it is not allowed, but it is a very easy and safe climb, so we could not resist the temptation. The view from up there was amazing, actually it was my favorite view of them all because you could see all other major temples from a much nicer perspective compared to Temple IV. Just when we arrived to the top, some guy was waiving at Philip and we could hear a starting car engine, so we got down pretty soon after again. Turns out the waiving guy was just a Japanese tourist and not one of the guards when we saw him five minutes later to say hello 🙂
It was already pretty late and we wanted to head back to the Hotel in time to catch the bus to Flores. However, Tikal made it really hard to leave as we spotted even more great places on the way out, for example Temple V, the second tallest structure at 57m and just very impressive to look at. All of the sudden, the sun came out again and we took some more pictures from the Jaguar Temple again. Even after nine hours, I could have stayed some longer and have to say that visiting Tikal is an absolute must for anyone interested in the Maya culture! One more Club Sandwhich and a nice shower later, I was headed to Flores to stay with a new Couchsurfer and relax a bit after all the walking at Tikal…