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Published: June 11th 2009
Day 784 (23.05.09)
We'd made our way to Flores the previous day so that we could visit the Mayan ruins at Tikal. The Mayan people settled in the area around 700BC and began to build stone ceremonial structures around 200 years later. The ruins of thousands of buildings and temples that remained were rediscovered in the depths of the Guatemalan jungle in 1848 and have since been explored, semi-restored and opened to visitors.
There were several bus times available to get us from Flores to the park but we'd been told that if we paid extra we could get the ealry bus to get us to the ruins for sunrise which, despite the early get up time, is always a favourite with us. So we were off to see Tikal on the "sunrise" tour. Getting on the mini bus at the unearthly hour of 4.30 am we spent another 45 mins pottering around the island of Flores picking up more punters before eventually leaving town on our way to the Mayan sites. Uncharacteristically for Guatemalan bus drivers, the driver drove the road out there like ”Miss Daisy” with the speedometer rarely pushing over 40kph, rather than the more normal
driving where it never seems to dip below 140kph!
As we drove along the sky got lighter and lighter and we views a superb red sun making it's way into the sky not from the ruins but from the window of a bus - not really what we had signed up for! More than a little disappointed we all wondered how the ”sunrise” bit of the ”sunrise tour” could ever be used to sell a ticket.
Reaching the gates we still had to wait for another 20 mins for the park to open at 6am before we could get in. By the time we had parked up and were stepping out of the van it was fully daylight with the big bright sun burning happily high in the sky … bugger!
Before we were let loose we were then told of another lie used to sell us the ticket. Instead of having a choice of bus back, the driver told us it was 12 noon or we had to buy another ticket on another bus. Not really wanting to pay for yet another bus we realised we had limited time to see the many temples and ruins
at Tikal and opted to join together with some of our fellow ”dodgy sunrise tour" compadres to get a guide. This would allow us to be able to see all the highlights of the site in the time that we had and give us some more understanding of what we were seeing. This turned out to be the best decision of the day.
In the early morning light the crumbling stone pyramids rising out of the jungle greenery looked spectacular. Most of the structures that can be visited have been partially restored to give an impression of how they looked both when they were built and when they were rediscovered hundreds of years later. The main sights are spread out over a fairly large area and the paths between lead you under fantastic jungle scenery literally humming with the noise of insects and creatures watching us pass by below. Through the day we were lucky enough to catch sigthings of Toucans, Spider Monkeys, Howler Monkeys and loads of other birdlife.
We took the rest of the time in Tikal following our guide and we learnt loads about its history and life in the Mayan civilizations. It was still
only 8am but already getting hot by the time we climbed more than 60metres to the top of towering Temple 4. From the top we got a great view of several other temples just poking their heads out above the jungle canopy. Chrissie was particularly impressed with this view since it was used as the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Excellent!
We had more stunning views after we climbed the extremely steep ladders to the top of Temple 5 and continued to be impressed with Tikal's many buildings and temples based around the Plaza of the Seven Temples and the Great Plaza where we finished our tour. The sun was roasting as we took some time follwing our tour to explore the main plaza area. We were just tucking into a quick snack on the grass just before we left when the local Mayan community performed a ritual in the centre of the plaza. It was a great end to our visit to see the incense burning and people praying in such an amazing setting.
Day 785 (24.5.09)
With a day of jobs in Flores we used our time to catch up on
some internet as well as do some shopping for a home cooked dinner with Devin and Leah (the American gals) in the evening.
Day 786 (25.5.09)
What a mare of a day. We were starting to discover that everyone (yep everyone no exceptions) in the tourist industry in Flores lies. Having packed up we went down the road to a chap selling direct bus tickets for the bus to Rio Dulce.
As it turned out, the bus wasnt direct and we were put on a tuc-tuc and packed off to the bus station and we were on our way. Or so we thought...
Waiting on the bus we handed our ticket to the ticket man and things went a bit tits up! We are not sure why but for one reason or another our ticket wasn't deemed to be valid by the man on the bus and if we wanted to get on the bus we could pay another 100Q each for a ticket (almost 10 pounds, although this swiftly went down to 50Q). What did they expect us to say? Sure we're made of money, can you please rip us off a little more? While
Views onto the Main Plaza
you're at it shall I give you the clothes I'm wearing too? Oh and of course there was "not another bus today" so we'd have to get this one. Eventually the bus guy admitted that there was another one at 2pm, we got our bags back off the bus and jumped in a tuc-tuc back to town to try and sort out the "dodgy" ticket. Not a great start to the day by any standards.
With a quick and slightly pee-ed off chat with the man at the travel agency we got our money back and the money for our tuc back to town and spent a few hours trying to hide from the very hot sun lazing in the plaza with Chrissie taking some quality time with her book and Mark teaching a little local lad to play snap and build playing card towers.
After a hearty lunch we were back on a tuc to the bus station before we knew it and bought our ticket at the terminal easily for half what the guys were selling it for in the travel agency. At least our troubles of the morning had saved us money!
turned out to be a pretty good one with some nice views and a cooling breeze flowing through the open windows as we hurtled down one of the better roads in Guatemala.
We arrived in Rio Dulce town as it had just turned dark and met a fella on street from the tourist association in town who phoned our pad and organised for a boat to come and get us.
Arriving at Nutria Marina Eco Lodge (our pad for the next few days) we were not only thrilled to have arrived after our eventful day but also chuffed with a stunning recommendation from some of our fellow travelling buddies, it was amazing. Dumping our bags in the room we joined Devin and Leah (who had had more luck with their bus and who had arrived much earlier) in the bar restaurant for a cold beer and some great grub. What a welcome!
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