A truly magical day

Published: November 18th 2016
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Our day trip to Tikal started at 3am. This is not a time I am entirely familiar with, and I'm much more likely to be just falling asleep at this hour rather than getting up to pile in to a mini bus for an hour and a halfs drive. We had chosen to do Tikal at Sunrise, partly as we have heard it gets horribly hot in the day, and partly because it sounded like it could be a wonderful experience. I was hoping it would be worth the lack of sleep!
Once we got to Tikal around 4:30 we piled out of the bus and followed after our tour guide through the jungle in the pitch black. Luckily some people in our group had brought torches, as I hadn't thought to, not realising we would have to walk a brisk 20mins in to the jungle to reach our sunrise spot.
When anticipating Tikal at sunrise I kept thinking back to Angkor Wat back in 2014, and the massive crowds of rude tourists pushing and shoving. I am very pleased to say this was nothing of the sort! Which is quite lucky as we climbed up to sit on a temple above the tree canopy to watch sunrise. Any pushing and shoving here could easily end in falling to your death.
As Tikal doesn't open to general visitors until 6am we had the whole park to ourselves.
Shortly after we had got seated on the temple the Guatemalan jungle dawn chorus started - this is a bit different to England, with Howler monkeys playing a key role. We could hear howler monkeys from 3 different locations around us, which was great to listen to. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a sun rise as it was a cloudy morning, but just sitting above the canopy listening to the jungle come alive, and seeing the tops of temples peaking out of the canopy was well worth the early wake up and trek in the dark to get to.
After sunrise we started our 4hr tour of Tikal, and for much of it had the temples to ourselves as other visitors hadn't made it in to the park yet. Despite Tikal being covered in Jungle now it is thought in the Mayan heyday when it was built that there were no trees covering the site, giving a spectacular view of the entire complex from the 4 main tall temples. Tikal is also placed at the heart of many other Mayan sites around, from Mexico and Belize down to Honduras and other Guatemalan sites. Despite there being no water source here it was the biggest Mayan site. We also got a further insight in to the Mayan sacrificficial customs. Every solstice people would be sacrificed according to their Birthday. This was done on a special sacrificial stone in front of a temple. They would then be recorded on a large stone tablet nearby. This all sounds rather gruesome!
I am very glad we chose to visit Tikal, it is very impressive and it was very nice that it isn't overrun by tourists like Chichen Itza - which is part of the reason we avoided it! As we were heading out of the park we did see big tour groups making their way in, so we timed our visit very well.
Once our tour was over we headed back to Flores. Rather than catching up on lost sleep we headed out across the lake with some friends we had made on our tour. We took a short boat ride to a rope swing over the lake. As soon as we got there I didn't fancy taking part! There was a large chunk of concrete at the waters edge, and I had visions of snacking in to it. After watching the boys swinging I realised there was no way you'd accidentally smack in to the concrete as the rope swing swings way too high and too far out for that! I managed to summon up the courage and went from the lower platform. It was so much more fun than I imagined, and I was immediately back up to the regular platform for some more goes! I even had the courage to hold higher up the rope as the afternoon went on. We also got films of everyone doing the rope swing, which from the waters level look very impressive. I'm waiting on my videos being sent over.
We were having so much fun we managed to watch sunset from the water, and it was the best sunset I've seen in a very long time! It definitely made up for the lack of sunrise in the morning.
With the adrenaline pumping I completely forgot to be tired until much later on!

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