Published: February 13th 2011February 12th 2011
Temple 5 and the dreaded stairs/ladder
Sorry-pics aren't in the right order but I'm losing patience with the website...
I had a terrible night sleep. The walls between the rooms were paper thin and I had one side with a snorer and the other with 2 blokes chatting loudly until the early hours. I think by the time they stopped, it must have been 2am, which was roughly the time when the dogs starting barking and the cockerels started crowing. I thought to myself “Why? It's the middle of the night... Aren't you supposed to start crowing when the day breaks?” In the end, I was awake before my alarm even went off, so I left the hotel at about 5.15am as it was still pitch black. I had heard that the transport to Tikal started from 5.30am, so I intended to catch the first colectivo. I had been offered a return ticket on the shuttle bus but that was Q50 and my guide book stated that it was only Q15 each way on the colectivo. Eventually, one showed up, but it wasn't going to the right destination. However, he phoned his friend and advised me that there would be one in 5 minutes that would
take me to Tikal for Q15. It eventually turned up (it must have been 5.45 by then and the 5.30 shuttle hadn't turned up yet.)
We arrived in Tikal at 6.20am and the sun was already up. As I paid my Q150 entrance fee and walked slowly towards the park, I heard a noise from the bushes and saw my first sight of wildlife: something which looked like a giant brown guinea pig. As I carried on, in my first hour, I saw another couple of those, as well as a dear and numerous birds I hadn't come across before.
I knew the place was big (the central area is apparently 16 square km and has over 4000 structures) so I would need a few hours to walk around (somebody had suggested it would take me 4 hours to see everything) and without a map, I feared I might miss some important things, but I started exploring nonetheless. As it happened I started by what seemed to be where people finished, which meant I hardly meant anyone at first. This was all sounding good to me with the idea of spotting some animals...
The first temple I came across was
temple 4 (most of the structures have numbers or letters, which doesn't really make it ideal to remember what is what), I found out later that this is the highest of all (over 60 metres) on the site. It was being restored but you could still get to almost the top, by going up some stairs winding up amongst the trees. Arriving at the top, I was over the jungle, but as it was early morning, the fog below meant it wasn't the best view, but still impressive. After that I walked to somewhere called “the lost world”, followed by “the square of the seven temples” and carried on for a few hours.
It was really quiet and I saw more animals (mainly birds) than I saw people, including lots of howler monkeys, which have a habit of pooing when they notice human presence, so I had to watch my head! One of the most impressive thing was climbing up temple 5. Even though it's not quite as high as Temple 4 (but only by a few meters), the climb is up what could pretty much be described as a ladder rather than stairs. Now, I wouldn't particularly describe myself
as having a phobia of heights, but this was well scary! And when I got to the top I just couldn't stand on the narrow platform (there was also the slightest breeze, which didn't help!) and I had to sit down. The view was amazing though and I was all proud of myself for going to the top.
After a few hours, I got back to where I'd started from and had a look at the board with the map of the site. I had only missed the most important bit: the Grand Plaza. So I went back up and when I got there, it was remarkably busy, both in terms of structures (most of them are buried in the jungle, so you only see one or 2 at a time, this was a big open area so it just felt like there was a lot more) and in terms of people. It was as if everybody had arrived and decided to stop there for the day! I climbed up some more stairs and got some fantastic views, but it was lunchtime by then and the sun was really getting hot, so I tried to stay in the shade a
Me! At the grand Plaza
After the Grand plaza, it was time to head back and I had spent over 6 hours on the site by the time I had returned to the entrance. I was really pleased with what I had seen and done and was still wondering if these were the best ruins yet. They were definitely the biggest in size and number. Also the jungle all around gives it some sort of extra magic, but I still couldn't get Palenque out of my head and I couldn't decide if it was my memory remembering it better than it really was, or if there was something missing in Tikal and I couldn't put my finger on it (maybe the oppressing rain there or the fact it was my first sight of the jungle). Then I started a conversation with a Mexican guy who was saying that Palenque was definitely better and his argument was that Tikal was only pyramids, whereas Palenque had more shapes and was somehow more creative... I still can't decide which I preferred...
By that point, I wanted to get the colectivo back towards El Remate and toying with the idea of going all the way to Flores (45
minutes further, but a bigger town) to spend the afternoon, as it was only 1.30pm and there wasn't much to do en El Remate other than enjoy the peace and quiet. Eventually, it turned out that the next colectivo wasn't until 3pm, so I could wait or pay Q25 (instead of Q15) to get on the 2pm shuttle. Call me stubborn but I just didn't want to get ripped off, so I decided to wait. And as I did so, I saw approaching, Mark, the American guy I'd met in Tulum, followed by Natalie, a German girl I had been with in Caye Caulker. What a small world... In the end Natalie went on the 2pm and Mark and I on the 3pm which ended up leaving at 3.30... By that point, I thought it was too late to go all the way to Flores just for an hour and headed back to base camp.
There, I chilled for a bit, before going out to watch the sunset over the lake. It was a sunny day, so the sunset was definitely a better sight than the previous day which had been cloudy.
With nothing much to do, I went to
Central Acropolis (I think)
bed early (but with earplugs this time), happily reflecting on the day's adventure and thinking about a long day ahead trying to go South into Coban...
There are more photos below