Completely ruined in Tikal
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
124Trip End Nov 30, 2011
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After crossing the border my first impressions of Guatemala were half what I expected, and half not. As I expected, much like Mexico and Belize there were scatterings of structures along the road to Flores, in various states of construction/deconstruction. There were also the requisite livestock and animals wandering freely on both the road and roadside, either completely oblivious to, or in spite of, all the traffic passing. What I didn't expect to see though was a country that is for the most part lush and green, with dense bush and forest. I was expecting to find a country that had been pillaged for whatever natural resources had existed, but to be fair it seems as if the opposite may be true.
Flores sits 500m or so out into Lake Peten-Itza from the town of Santa Elena, connected by a road bridge. The island is small enough to walk the lakeside pathway around the island in about 15 minutes, so after checking into our accommodation for the night, Kerry and I had a short walk around the island before watching the sunset over the lake. A relaxing way to end a travel day.
Sunday was an early start - a 5am minibus going to the Mayan ruins at Tikal, so we could beat the crowds and the heat of the day. We arrived just as day was breaking - first van in line for the 6am opening. After a quick breakfast we were ready for a morning of trekking and climbing ruins.
Tikal is one of the largest archealogical sites and urban centres of the Mayan civilisation. According to Wikipedia, it measures 16 sq km - in any case it's big, certainly bigger than Chichen Itza, which in itself is not small.
We hit all of the major temples. Our first stop was Temple IV, the tallest structure at Tikal - the perfect vantage point to get photos of the other major temple structures rising above the forest canopy in the early morning sun. Then on to the Gran Plaza via El Mundo Perdido (The Lost World) and Plaza de los Siete Templos (Plaza of the Seven Temples) with a brief climb to the top of one of the smaller pyramids.
The Gran Plaza is the area most commonly associated with Tikal - it is truly an impressive sight with the two towering main temples, the Temple of the Grand Jaguar and Temple II standing opposite each other, and the North Acropolis rising to the side of them both
While the two main temples are now closed for climbing, due to the deaths of at least two people by falling down the stairs of the Temple of the Grand Jaguar, we were able to climb up an external staircase to a viewing platform on Temple II for the impressive views across all of the Gran Plaza below.
From the Gran Plaza there was only one of the major temples left to conquer - the formidable and impressive Temple V, second only in height to Temple IV. Kerry, not being the best with heights, was tentative heading up the near vertical external staircase, but to her credit made it to the top. From a perch only just wide enough for the people coming up to move by the people heading down, we could again look out across the forest canopy at the roof combs of Temple I and Temple II standing above the tree tops - an impressive sight and a peaceful location among the tree tops.
Having covered all of the major temples we had only enough time and energy to briefly wander among a palace complex, and to trek to Temple VI (Temple of the Inscriptions) before heading for the exit. By the time we left, despite it being not even 1pm, everyone was completely ruined - in more ways than one.
Next stop for us is Rio Dulce.