Guatemala here we come!

Published: November 1st 2011
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21st Oct ’11 Flores, Guatemala
We spent the morning visiting the local market in the town, watching the ladies making tacos and barbequing meat. We set off at 1pm in minibuses up to the border. There were lots of moneychanger men wandering around with great big wads of notes so we managed to get rid of the last of our belizian currency and got some Guatemalan quetzals. The customs process didn’t take too long and we were soon off again.

You could really see evidence of the torrential rain they had been having in Guatemala, there was lots of standing water in the fields and the rivers were really high.

Despite this being an extremely poor country we stopped on the way to Flores at a purpose built shopping arcade, complete with ice cream parlours! This was so we could get money out of an ATM which was supposed to be secure, there was an armed guard outside the shoe shop rather than the atm though which was a bit bizarre! There were lots of police, army and armed guards everywhere. We then arrived at sunset into the little island of Flores (it is actually joined to the mainland by a road causeway) and guess what….. lots of lovely little hotels and our place (Hotel Greenworld) sandwiched inbetween!! Ah well, totally grotty room. Guatemala is a lot cheaper than Belize which is good but again why we have to stay in such holes when for an extra 50p a night we could have a really nice place I just do not know! Early to bed as we have to be up at 5am to set off to visit Tikal, the largest Mayan ruins.

22nd Oct ’11
The alarm went off at 4.45am and we were up and off. It took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there so it was light by the time we arrived. We needed an early start as it is visited by loads of very large coach trips later in the day. Our local guide was really nice and informative without being too boring. I had my strap on and walking stick at the ready as we were going to be there for 5 hours and it was jungle walking again. This time I made sure I was covered up as I was eaten alive in Caracol despite the 50% deet insect

Belize/Guatemala border
We were walking along when suddenly there was this awful scary howling sound echoing through the jungle and suddenly we saw up in the trees high above us 2 howler monkeys (hence the name). They then stuck their bums out and started pooing and weeing trying to hit us, it was totally mad!!!! And absolutely hilarious, fortunately we all escaped clean!
The ruins were amazing they just appeared out of the jungle and took you by surprise. At this site areas had been fully excavated so you could see the structures in all their glory, they had been covered by trees and the jungle prior to this. There were massive tall slender pyramids, palaces and astronomical buildings, altars, ball parks and offering places, it was very impressive! Howard was up and down them all like a man possessed!! A really great site, my only regret was that by the time we reached the tallest pyramid my ankle was aching so I didn’t climb up it and so missed the magnificent view over the jungle canopy with various pyramid tops popping out. Shame but I just couldn’t risk it.
The guide then flagged down a man in a pickup truck and 4 of us hitched a lift back to the entrance rather than do the 45 minute hike back with the others. This meant we got to visit the 2 museums at the site which housed the pottery, ceramics and objects found in the tombs. There was also a skeleton of a priest with his possessions that was laid out again as it had been found. There were also stella – the original carved stone slabs and altar stones depicting the kings with inscriptions on the back telling who he was, what he did, how long he ruled for, what wars he won and when and how he died – amazing stuff! The descriptions were what was used to finally decode the mayan language as the Spanish had destroyed all the books and defaced most of the artifacts when they conquered the Mayans. It was also possible to see how they had included aspects of the mayan religious beliefs into a version of Christianity in order to force the locals to convert. I also saw an altar stone depicting a human sacrifice. The Spanish told the mayans that they should no longer do human sacrifices as jesus Christ was the final sacrifice, when he died to save us all.
On the way back from Tikal we stopped at the Guatemalan version of KFC – which was quite good actually. While we were there some local drug lord came in for his chicken and chips with his 2 armed bodyguards – now you don’t see that at Teesside Park often!
We had a walk around the island and saw lots of food stalls and a bouncy castle. The Guatemalan thing to do is to drive round the island rather than walk so it gets pretty noisy at times!! We had a meal and then wandered back to the hotel, we were in time to catch the Mayan show at the hotel down the road – which we watched from the roof top of our hotel. It was quite a sight as the boats were paddled across the water with flaming torches and the warriors and chief in full Mayan costume.

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The star wars shot

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