Trip to Tikal

Published: January 3rd 2018
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The day started again with the typical Flores breakfast. Pancakes with maple syrup, fruit juice and bottomless coffee, by the waterfront. This time we visited a different restaurant, called Casa Amelia.
I spent breakfast reading about the history of Guatemala, learning that they only recently returned to democracy in 1996, and have had difficulty enforcing rule of law and managing crime rates since.
After breakfast we had a few hours before the bus left for Tikal, so we bought snacks, water and sandwiches for the trip, bus tickets for the next day’s travel and packed for the day trip. Just after midday a very friendly minibus driver, or chauffeur as he referred to himself in Spanish called Manuel picked us up from our hostel. It was a bit of an empty mini bus with just us and four others. Manuel stopped off by his house en route to visit his family, and new born son. It was a sentimental moment, to see him happily greeting his kids, wife and new born son parking the minibus just outside his house. After he returned to the bus, I asked Manuel the name of his son and where the name came from. He told me he was named Efrem, after his best friend who died in late August. He had died of natural causes, and it was a saddening to hear that he couldn’t get the necessary healthcare and died at such a young age (probably in his 20s).
Our one hour bus journey took us to Tikal. The environment and weather changed quite suddenly, with jungle surrounding and more humidity. There was a spot of heavy rain as we entered the park. Shortly after arriving we met Nelson, our guide and expert in Mayan history. He spent the next two and a half hours guiding us around the ancient ruins. He pointed out pyramids which had been excavated, partially excavated, and still buried. It was a very impressive sight. There were a lot of wildlife noises in the ruins, with an abundance of monkeys, small animals that looked like raccoons/anteaters, parrots, falcons and other birds, most of which I couldn’t identify. This made the experience even more special.
Towards the end of the tour we approached the penultimate pyramid, called pyramid no. 4. This was said to be the highlight, being the tallest pyramid, and the one that we should climb to the top of. Upon reaching the top of the pyramid there were incredible views over the jungle, with the tops of the other pyramids poking out of the trees. I could have sat there for hours, but had to settle for the 20 minutes we had available before visiting the final pyramid to watch the sunset.
At the final pyramid, we could see a storm approaching us, with the birds moving very quickly around the trees it’s quite likely they sensed it. Unfortunately clouds obscured the sun set and the rain reached us before the sun would fall under the horizon. The skies opened, and drenched us all. The heavy rain had flooded most of the paths, so we walked along the edges back to the bus. It was a shame that we couldn’t see a beautiful sun set, although a nice and refreshing alternative experience to get caught in the heavy down pour. We reached our bus with Manuel waiting to take us back to Flores.
As we approached Flores, the rain returned with a very heavy downpours the traffic slowed down, with many cars signalling hazard warnings, a thin layer of water covering the road and the windscreen steaming

Raccoon like ant eater sninal
up with very low visibility. Manuel told us a story that the people of Guatemala believe that the first 12 days of the year mark the what the weather will be like for the rest of the year. He said “if on 1st it rains, it means January will be a rainy month, if the second it is sunny then February will be sunny. Each day marks the month.” He explained this concept was called cavañuelas in Spanish. If this is true, they’re in for a very wet month I thought.
As we approached Flores, we stopped at the lights just before the bridge to the island. A fire breather offered a short fire breathing show while the light was red.
We finished the evening with a shared 18” pizza, dining on the waterfront. The rain continued to the heavy downpour, which enhanced the feeling that we really were in the middle of the tropical jungle. The rain continued through the night. It was a great way to end a great day.

Additional photos below
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Birds circling before the storm

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