Tikal, Guatemala

December 2008

We hopped on a bus from Lanquín headed in the direction of Flores when we got stopped in a huge like of traffic. We though it was accident but when we were let off the bus we could hear chanting, there was a large protest blocking all traffic on the highway.

Protest blocking the highway

Some people were holding signs but they were in the local language, not Spanish, and so we asked around and were told the protest was by teachers who had not been paid for months. After a delay they allowed traffic to move through and we were on our way again. I don’t know if their issues were ever resolved but I hope it worked out for them.

We arrived in Flores and decided to move on up the road to El Remate. It was a smaller, quieter town and also closer to Tikal so we could get an early start. We were sick of dealing with tourist transport, what had been a roomy convenience at first turned into a pain to find one that wasn’t a scam, so we went to the local bus station and bought a bus ticket. Our bus wasn’t going to be leaving for hours and so they suggested we hop in a combi instead but when they pulled back the doors people were packed in so tight they literally fell out. The passengers all gave us varying looks conveying their displeasure at having to squeeze two more giant people in. We passed and got a taxi instead. The taxi cost what a tourist van would’ve cost but we had it to ourselves and the driver was really pleasant. He had family that ran a hotel in El Remote so he drove us straight there and we got a room. I could be annoying to have taxi drivers take your to their friends and family for hotels but for us having no plans and staying in budget accommodation (which is basically all the same) it was a huge help.

Lago Petén Itzá
Sunset over Lago Petén Itzá

The views from the hotel were spectacular, we walked along the Lago Petén Itzá and saw millions of fireflies! Jamie and I both grew up on the East Coast and so fireflies were something we missed while living in Yellowstone. We arranged for the earliest possible transport to Tikal to beat the crowds the next morning.

We knew Tikal was going to be amazing, we were excited to see it because of Star Wars but we had no idea there was going to be so much wildlife. We were absolutely blown away, we saw more wildlife in one day at Tikal than we had on the entire rest of our journey thus far.

Petén Turkeys
Coatimundi or Quash
Pregnant Spider Monkey
Spider Monkey
Howler Monkey
Limpkin or Carrao
Petén Crocodile
Masked Tityra

We are guides in Yellowstone and also Alaska and we know to see animals you have to get up early, we just had no idea there was so much wildlife at the ruins! We walked into Petén Turkeys right off the bus, it was barely light outside!

The ruins of Tikal are surrounded by dense forest and some of the largest pyramids have been cleared of vegetation and partially restored. When you walk into the ruins areas you pop out of this jungle full of singing birds and insects and into a clearing dominated by gigantic stone ruins. This place was obviously a major center for the Mayan people and the pyramids are the tallest Mayan ruins we’ve seen.

The view from The Great Jaguar Temple towards Temple I

We started our time at the ruins by Temple I and the Temple of the Jaguar. Like Palenque you are allowed to climb the some of the pyramids at Tikal though there have been separate steps built on some of them to protect them. The original steps are very narrow and very step, I can’t imagine what is was like carrying a bunch of ceremonial things up all those stairs but it must have been a real pain in the butt.

Temple V




The Star Wars view from Temple IV

We wandered further from the main set of ruins as the day continued and barely saw other tourists. We spent an entire day at Tikal but if we were ever to go back I would spend more time there, especially with better camera equipment, as the wildlife and lighting on the ruins was superb. After the ruins we went back to El Remate and arranged a bus that would take us to Belize for New Year’s.

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