Powerless in Guatemala

Published: June 4th 2017
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We left San Ignacio this morning for our foray into Guatemala. Originally, the tour had scheduled for us to camp at Tikal National Park. Due the unexpected rainstorms that they region was experiencing, our campsite was flooded. Instead, we would be staying in the town of El Remate near Tikal. We made it to the border in just a few minutes and spent about an hour going through border formalities including having to pay $37.50 in Belizean dollars as a departure tax. As we drove through Guatemala, I was quite surprised with the conditions of the roads. I don't know what everyone else was thinking but I was actually expecting third world conditions with unpaved road with deep potholes for the duration of the drive to El Remate. To my surprise, the roads for the most part were nice paved and as smooth as any road back home. We made it to the town of El Remate and we checked into our hotel for the night, Las Gardenias. As we pulled into Las Gardenias, we all discovered that the town was experiencing a power outage. Since none of our rooms were ready, we all stored our luggage in one room while we had lunch at the hotel's restaurant which was still powered thanks to their generator. Prior to lunch, I walked around the main road that runs through El Remate and also to the shores of Lake Peten-Itza where I spotted a group of Guatemalan women doing laundry in the lake. Lunch at the restaurant can best be described as one big cluster-fuck. Once again, these smaller establishments showed they were unable to effectively handle a large group. That along with the annoying demands of some of the people in the group made for a very irritating lunch. It took about an hour for us to receive our orders and some people in the group just had to complain about the smallest things they didn't like about their lunch. You're on vacation in another country. People should not expect for things to go the way they are used to at home. I enjoyed my meal and washed it down with my first taste of Gallo, a Guatemalan beer.

After the disaster that was our lunch, we all packed back into our van and drove north for approximately 45 minutes to Tikal. Famous for it's pyramids that pierce the jungle canopy, Tikal is one of the major sites of the mayan world. We didn't get into Tikal until around 3pm. Our guided tour around the site would take approximately 3 hours so we knew we would be eventually hiking in the jungle in the dark. Our first stop was a scale model of the Tikal site where our guide explained exactly which sites we would be going to. The model definitely showed just how grand and sprawling Tikal is. Due to the recent heavy rains, the paths throughout Tikal were extremely muddy. Some of us in the group, were ill prepared for all the mud and wore flip flops. In no time, their feet were entirely covered in mud. Before arriving at our first pyramid, our guide pointed out some of the more interesting flora and fauna of the region including a Ceiba tree, some toucans, and a large group of scavenging coatimundi. Our guide took us to various complexes where we climbed some of the smaller pyramids and listened to him give us an explanation of Mayan history and explain the significance of the structures around us. As I normally do on any guided tour, I eventually got to a point where I tuned out and was content with just seeing what was around me. Our guide definitely knew his stuff but it was just information overload and I can tell that many in the group were feeling the same way as me. Eventually we arrived at the Gran Plaza, the central area of Tikal. After our guide gave us an explanation of the area's significance, we were given 45 minutes to explore. As I have a tendency to want to climb things while travelling, I immediately headed over to Temple 2 in the Gran Plaza. Unfortunately we were not able to climb the Temple of the Great Jaguar which is actually taller. The stairs to the top of Temple 2 were in the back of the temple and were definitely not part of the original structure. In a few minutes, I made it to the top and was rewarded with great views of the Gran Plaza and of the Temple of the Great Jaguar. After climbing back down and exploring the North Acropolis, I sat down on the steps to hang out with Melanie who seemed quite disinterested with exploring. Troy then walked over to us in what would become the most memorable moment of the trip. He came over to tell us that he had just shit his pants. Apparently, he tried to pass some gas and totally misjudged it. I know that he had been experiencing stomach issues for most of the trip. Now he is experiencing the ultimate revenge of the Mayan gods. With no proper restrooms and no change of clothes, he was starting to panic. I saw Nikki nearby and immediately went over to ask if she had any napkins or kleenex. I am willing to bet that she had an idea of what happened based on the urgency of my voice. I gave Troy the pack of kleenex and he waddled over to the makeshift restroom near Temple 2. As he waddled away, Melanie and I just looked at each other and we both erupted in uncontollable laughter. Later in the trip when Troy told everyone else what had happened, almost everyone mentioned that they heard our loud laughter and were wondering what could be so funny. Thankfully for Troy, he had a spare pair of shorts in his backpack and thanks to the kleenex from Nikki, he was able to somewhat clean himself up. We continued our tour of Tikal with our guide continuing to provide us when commentary as we walked. By now, everyone else seemed a bit disinterested and Troy was definitely struggling as he was lagging behind everyone else. We arrived at our last temple of the tour, Temple IV and were given an opportunity to hike to the top for one of the most iconic views of Tikal. Everyone chose to hike to the top except Troy and Melanie. After a few hundred steps, we arrived at the top and were treated to great views of the surrounding jungle with Tikal's tallest temples piercing the jungle canopy. This view was even used in Star Wars as the setting of the Rebel Base. Back on solid ground, we started the long arduous hike back to the park entrance. Most of the hike back was in the dark and was made even worse by the mostly muddy path.

As we drove back into El Remate, we noticed that the town was pitch black. Evidently, the power outage that ocurred during lunch had not yet been fixed. We pulled into our hotel and were given candles to help us navigate around the property. We were just given a few minutes before piling back into the van for the drive to the town of Flores for dinner. Unsurprisingly, Troy stayed behind to hang out in the pitch black hotel to deal with his stomach issues. The plan for the night was to have dinner in Flores and check out a fair that was going on. The drive to Flores was about half an hour. As we pulled into the surrounding area of Flores, we noticed some modern American style fast food establishments and large shopping malls. By far, this was the most modern area that we would see during the entire trip. The town of Flores is an island in Lake Peten-Itza connected to the land by a causeway and as we pulled into the town proper, we were all amazed at just how cute and quaint this town was. We were all wondering aloud why we didn't stay here instead of in El Remate. We had an awesome dinner at Villa del Chef which was probably the best meal of the entire trip and was made even better by some of the cheapest alcoholic drinks I had ever encountered. After placing my dinner order, I went outside to hopefully find a nearby shop to purchase some AAA batteries for my headlamp. With the power outage at the hotel, my headlamp would definitely be useful tonight. On the way back to the restaurant, I came across a souvenir shop right across the street. As Flores was rather chilly, I purchased a purple Guatemalan wool poncho as a souvenir but also to stay warm tonight. After dinner, a few of us returned to that same souvenir shop in order to pick up a few trinkets. As there didn't seem to be too much interest in going to the fair, we just went back to the hotel for the night. Thankfully as we pulled into El Remate, the power was back on and we didn't have to spend the night in the dark. I had expected Guatemala to be a bit rough but I thoroughly enjoyed the day here. Hopefully, I will return to Guatemala one day to see what more this country has to offer.

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