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Published: April 28th 2008
We think this is temple 3...
I think Amy finished her last entry the night before our 3am start to go and see the sun rise over the Mayan jungle ruins of Tikal. After a slightly bleary eyed bus journey we did a 30 minute sprint up hill through the jungle in the dark, trying not to trip over too many tree roots (or sleeping snakes as Amy thought they were) as we passed the slightly ghostly shapes of various ruins. Eventually, knackered and feeling slight stunned by running that early in the morning, we climbed the stairs up to the top of Temple 4, one of the highest, to see the sun rise over the jungle. Despite a bit of mist it was pretty magical as various temple tops appeared over the top of the jungle as it got lighter. I guess there was about 30 of us up there (a few doing sunrise yoga to add a slightly hippy feel!) but we all sat their in silence listening to the racket that all the birds, monkeys and other exotic animals made as they woke up. It was cool! Anyway once we were all suitably stiffened up we headed down to see the rest
Market people in Antigua
Amy gets to know the locals... again...
of the site. The site is pretty big, it took 4 hours to see the main bits, but only 15% of the ruins have yet been uncovered from the jungle and the rest are still hidden. Its amazing to see how the trees and other plants have just completely covered them up and it all adds to the mystery of it. Also, unlike Chichen Itza, there were no touristy sellers and pretty few other people which all made it seem a lot more real.
The following day was meant to be a pretty chilled out day just filling in time until our over night bus down to Guatemala. The book made a passing comment about some near by caves which we thought we may as well go and see. Clearly these caves get a visitor about once a month and the guy at the entrance seemed very surprised to see us rock up in our tuk tuk taxi thing. Anyway he lent us his torch, showed us a board outside with a map of the caves and said he´d turn the lights on for us so in we went. The lights amounted to a lone 1watt lightbulb every so
Trust me, its a nervous smile!
often and Ames and I, not being the most fearless travellers in the world, were a little hesitant as we wandered into these dark caves with only a vague memory of the map, a torch which was about to run out of battery and a load of bats screeching around in the dark. The caves were massive! We wandered deeper and deeper in for about 15 minutes before getting a bit worried about not being able to find our way out and so heading back out. We looked again at the map as we came back out into sunlight which didn´t seem to bare too much resemblance to what we had seen but its clear that we just scratched the surface of them so to speak. It was the sought of thing that in any other country would probably be a pretty developed tourist site but which hadn´t really quite got round to it in Guatemala yet.
So we took the night bus from Flores to Guatemala city and then straight on to Antigua which is about an hour away. Its a really pretty place of cobbled streets, coulourful houses, lots of squares with old churches and surrounded on
Tikal ruins emerging from the jungle with the sun at 4 in the morning...
three sides by volcanoes. Apart from sitting around drinking coffee in the sun, the thing to do seemed to be to see a nearby active volcano so off we went. Now we saw a few of the photos in the tour shop's but I don´t think anyone in our group was prepared for what we did. After an hour or so drive up into the hills on some pretty sketchy roads, we got dropped off in a small village and set off up the hill. I guess we were climbing for about an hour or so before we came out at the top of a hill next to the volcano and looked down onto a huge lava field with some molten lava rivers running through it. It was really impressive and we took our photos before getting ready to head back down. Bit surprised then as the guide started heading down the side of the hill and across the lava field. Now, I´ve never walked across an active lava field before but it was pretty sharp, loose and hot hot! It was the sort of hot that if you stood too long in the same place you could honestly smell
the rubber on our soles burning. We got incredibly close to the molten lava rivers which were phenomenal, apparently there had been a small leakage of lava a couple of weeks ago from the top which meant that the rivers were bigger than normal - either way they were plenty big enough for us to be feeling that we were really closer than we should be, just looking at them felt like your face might burn. The photos and the video that we took are amazing.
On our other day in Antigua we took a day trip to a town called Panajachel which is on a really pretty lake , Lago de Atitlan, again surrounded by volacanoes on all sides. To be honest, apart from trying to sketch the lake (I think my sketching is coming on - its pretty good even if I do say so myself), we didn´t do too much there. That takes us pretty much up to date. Yesterday we flew (a bit extravagent but it saved us two days and 18 hours on a bus) from Guatemala to Managua in Nicaragua and then bussed it onto Granada to continue our volcano tour. Today we´ve
Caves near Flores
Exploring the caves with only a torch and the map at the front
spent the day seeing Granada and taking a boat trip around some nearby Islands. We´ve got a week before our course in Costa Rica starts and it doesn´t feel too many bus hours away now so hopefully we´ll make it on time.
So, a month down and its been fantastic! In the last week alone we´ve been walking on active volcanos much closer than I ever thought I would, seen dawn break on beautiful jungle ruins, been snorkelling on a huge reef with amazing fish and sting rays and thats without Chichen Itza, the amazing nights of music in Cuba, etc, etc. We´re having a good time.
Sorry its been a bit long and needless to say we´re still trying with the photos and failing miserably. One day, the loyalty of anyone who is still reading our waffle will be rewarded...we hope!
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