Guatemala - Flores and Tikal


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Published: August 20th 2010
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Flores and Tikal


Monday 9th August





This morning I feel like I’m back on holiday again. I have to be packed, checked out of the hotel and on the bus by 5a.m. Today is a very long day’s travelling, crossing much of Guatemala from Antigua to Flores which is going to be our base for visiting the Mayan ruins at Tikal. The theory behind the really early start is that we have to drive through Guatemala City and we hope to get through before the city becomes gridlocked with the rush hour traffic.

The group are all wide awake and on the bus on time and we are introduced to our driver, Pedro. Pedro is an optimist. He doesn’t have a sense of direction, he doesn’t have a GPS device and he doesn’t have a map. But that hasn’t stopped him from fulfilling his dream of becoming a minibus driver.

We get to Guatemala City and Pedro is completely lost. Our plan of beating the gridlock falls through as we become the cause of the gridlock. Our group are mostly experienced travellers, though, and everyone remains in good spirits as some of the landmarks we pass
TikalTikalTikal

The Main Plaza
begin to look remarkably familiar and we contemplate a future of driving endlessly around Guatemala City. We stop to ask a few people the way to be met with what seems to be the Spanish equivalent of “If you want to go to Flores I wouldn’t start from here, mate” and Pedro phones a friend and eventually Guatemala City lets us go and we are on our way again.


Flores



We reach our destination, Flores, in the late afternoon. There had been a plan to stop and swim near some hot springs but our delay in Guatemala City has meant that we head straight for Flores.

Flores is a small town on an island in Lake Petén Itzá. It seems to be a popular holiday destination with lots of hotels, bars and restaurants.

Our own hotel, the Sabana is OK. It has a small pool, the rooms have air conditioning {although it is slightly noisier than a motorbike engine} and the staff are really nice. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk around the island. The behaviour of the local bird population is a bit scary though as at dusk they seem to collect in large numbers and sit on the telephone wires just like a scene from the Hitchcock film.


In the Footsteps of Lord Chocolate



Tuesday 10th August - my birthday!! As a special treat I don’t have to get on the bus until 6 a.m. We are going to the Mayan ruins at Tikal. The reason for the early start is that we want to get around the site before it becomes too hot and humid and before the rains come in the afternoon.

The drive from Flores to Tikal takes about an hour and there isn’t too much traffic on the road at this time of day. We spot a few wild turkeys at the side of the road. Later on, inside the park, Miguel, our guide, points out various species of bird and monkey. Miguel is a bird expert {as well as an expert in all things Mayan} and has quite a talent for animal noises. There are also jaguars inside the park but we don’t get to see any.

As we drive towards Tikal Jane reads in her guidebook about Lord Chocolate. He is one of the major figures in the history of Tikal and responsible for its re-emergence in the eighth century. It doesn’t really seem to be the kind of name to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies - maybe something gets lost in translation??

Tikal is one of those sites where there is still so much to be discovered. It seems that the Mayans built their temples on top of previous temples and their cities are all on raised platforms with so much to be discovered underneath.

I’m also surprised to find that there was no source of water at Tikal. The Mayans went to great lengths to capture and store rainwater. Although this area certainly gets plenty of rain now, I guess it must have been the failure of the rains that lead to the city being abandoned.

There are two main areas that have so far been excavated. There is the main square and, more recently, the “Lost World” has been discovered. There are seven large temples in total - as it’s my birthday it seems to be expected that I’ll climb as many as possible!

We also learn that the current Mayan calendar, which has been running for more than 5000 years, is due to end on 21st December 2012. {If you want to get really confused try Googling Mayan calendars!!} This is supposed to signify the beginning of a new age rather than the end of the world! Should I bother to book my Christmas / New Year break for 2012 though??


Happy Birthday To Me



That evening we dine out to celebrate my birthday. I eat ridiculous amounts of grilled meat and finish off with a rather large chocolate cake. {With Heather’s second hand “Happy Birthday” candles!}


Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


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TarantulaTarantula
Tarantula

Spotted at Tikal
Temple IVTemple IV
Temple IV

Rising out of the jungle


25th August 2010

Virtual Tour
Really cool Virtual tour of Tikal at: http://www.hoteltraveltour.com/guatemala/tikal-peten.html
30th August 2010

Shouldn't that be 'appy birthday candles
I kept the "H" as a souvenir
11th September 2010

'appy Birthday
Strictly speaking it would be 'ap'y Birthday because I dropped a p somewhere in Antigua! Those candles didn't make it to the next birthday.
16th May 2012

no lord chocolate!!!
there´s not such thing named lord chocolate!!! his name was Jasaw Chan K´awil
12th July 2012

No Lord Chocolate!!
So how did the "Lord Chocolate" come about? It's a name that seems to be in fairly common usage - in the guide books and at the site itself.

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