Rebel base on Yavin IV: Flores, Guatemala

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Nik Fehrlo about to set his Milineium Falcon down at the Rebel base on Yavin IV.

Thats right, if you take a good long look at one of the pictures we posted the landscape might look very familar.  It is the same shot that Star Wars used when they were filming "A New Hope"(SW IV) in the scene where the Milineium Falcon flies over top of the forest and sets down; pretty close to the end of the movie.

We arrived in Flores (Guat) and in the afternoon on Tuesday 4th of September and immediatley were slapped in the face by people pushing tours down your throats.  Our van pulls over in the town of Flores and lets this guy in, Little Cesar.  He chats us up and then offers a Tikal sunrise tour for Q250 (about 33 CDN) says he can give us a great deal and on and on.  Then he tells us about this smoking deal of a hotel that he is offering for Q80, says it has a pool and on and on again.  We were warned in Lanquin about such people jumping in, being really friendly and then taking an over priced sunrise tour.  The tour sounded awesome on paper, but, again 3 people warned us that they had taken the sunrise tour, woken up around 3:30 in the morning and then mentioned "remember its the rainy season and you can't really see the sun all that well".  So we didn't go for it, found a place that was pretty cheap Q60 per night ( 8 CDN) had its own bathroom and was really clean.  We had heard some people mentioning doing a canopy tour at Tikal, this we did and it was f-ing awesome. 

We purchased the canopy tour for Q230 per person including transportaion and all that jazz.  We got picked up at arond 7am in the morning and then headed for Tikal.  About 3 km before the city limits of Flores/Santa Elena locals had set up a road block demanding the government pay them money that they owed them.  So they set this block up for about 1.5 days.  We didn't really have any problem though, because there is a military base direcly next to the highway that also has a road, so all the tour buses were directed past the road block via the military base.  Pretty sneaky, I could see some of the people at the blockade and they didn't really look too impressed with us.  We heard that some tourists had taken an extended tour around the lake 2.5 hrs because of the blockade.  Then we also heard that some really smart ones decided to get let off behind the blockade and walk through then take a taxi into town, these tourists were chased by the mob with machetes. Apparently the locals were 'just kidding' when the chased the tourists with machetes....ohhhhhhhhh so that makes it funny then!! Nuts 

We got to the ruins about 1.5 hrs later and were dropped off in the middle of the park.  Flores and some of the tour groups are very sneaky and they always seems to screw the gringo.  Anyways when we got off the bus we asked for the canopy tour and information told us we had to go 17km back from where we came (at the main gate) and then get the tour there.  We had asked the bus driver before we got on the bus that we wanted the canopy tour; so the dude has to stop at the main gate of Tikal before going through (check point, sign papers), but he never yells at us or tells us to get off or anything.  So we end up too far in the park and then have to hire a private minibus to take us back (Q25 per person).  Pretty irritating especially when we see the original driver, wave him down and ask him to drive us back, his reply "comida".  Looks like Pablo was going to go eat breakfast and didn't really care since his instructions were drop every one at Tikal.  We eventually get there and the tour is awesome.  The guys running it were amazing and really fun to do it with.  The gave us a special harness (sort of similar to a climbing harness but with suspenders), and then some leather gloves and the wheel/zip device.  The gloves were to slow us down (friction on the line) and the wheel device ran on the top of the wire.  The canopy zipline was originally intended for archeologist or biologists to study the forest canopy quickly and easily.  Really had a good time, we did like 7 or 8 lines that were all about 1 min or so in lenth, total distance was 2.3km at an height of 30m.  This made our day, we also met 2 British girls with less spanish than us that were in the same boat with the shuttle drop off.  

The canopy tour operators then dropped us back at the information centre to see the ruins of Tikal.  The ruins are called Tikal and were roughly 70km away from Flores.  This is a massive ruin, in total the size of the city at its hayday was 16 sq km and was supposed to have roughly 100,000 people living there.  The park was gigantic and it would take 15 to 20 min to walk from one temple to another (The photo is taken from on top of temple 4, ~70 m in height).  We found this tour guide and hired him for Q300, which worked out to Q75 each because another few joined us later.  He did a great job really enjoyed what he did and gave us a 5hr tour of the site.  Really makes you appreciate what the Mayans did. 

They had archetecture, a form of religion, farming, mathematics and also engineering.  Nearly all (if not all) of the Mayan buildings are perfectly aligned with the 4 cardinal points of the compass (obviously accomplished without a compass as well!).  More than that, they aligned buildings to track the course of the sun over the year marking the sun's location at each equinox and using these positions to predict the rainy season etc and make appropriate provisions - These builings served as their calenders.  We were standing in between 2 temples and the tour guide clapped his hands, we heard the clap and then this sort of chirping/laser sound.  He also clapped in other locations but, the echo and the chirp would only happen if you stood at certain points, all acoustically engineered, pretty neat.  We were at the best point for shamans to give lectures and speaches from this temple made ampetheatre. It made you appreciate that the Mayans were not just a bunch of indians running in the jungle they had a distinct culture and were educated. 

The Mayans at around 900 AD abondened all there buildings and city-states, no one was left and also no skeltal remains, so what happened.  Our tour guide mentioned that since Tikal was basically the capital Mayan city it was a stone metropolis, no trees at all (they were used for fuel and the city was all paved).  At this same point in earths history, Europe was going throgh a mini ice age. The area around Tikal got hotter to balance the earth's system with the ice age, but the increase in heat and the lack of trees to help with the water cycle meant that the city and area entered a drought.  The city had no rain for 40 years, crazy, people just started moving out. 

The other reason for the Mayans abandoning their cities was that they had all these huge temples, that served no real purpose except for ceremonial purposes that only happened every 20 or so years (1 Mayan cycle), not a lot of houses at the site.  Another thing we learned was that the Mayan had no beasts of burden (horses, oxen, cows) to pull all the limestone from the quarries, they also did not invent the wheel/axel for moving the blocks.  It was all done by hand, pretty nuts if you ask me, I wouldn't want to break my hump for some ceremonial temple I only use every 20 years.  Tikal was one of the first cities to fall then the other ones followed suit shortly after.  The other photo posted is of Temple I, a very famous temple build by Lord Chocolate (yup and he lived in the land of chocolate) for himself when he died. Very neat site, we really enjoyed it.  

We do have to mention that at the same time we visited Tikal, hurricane Felix was hitting Nicaragua so it rained pretty much all day on us.  But, we still had a great time on the canopy tour (made it faster!) and the ruins.  We also did get reminbursed for the money we spent on the private taxi, I think Sarah made the tour guide cry (guy we bought from).  I think he was gay, so he was pretty emotional. 

Other than that we tried to get out of Flores as quick as possible, it was expensive (in relation to most of Guatemala).  Today (Friday) we then headed for Dangriga in Belize via Belmopan.  We bought our ticket from Flores to Belmopan, same bus company as the canopy tour.  The border crossing was a nightmare, the bus drops you off on the Guat side and you walk across the border stopping at the Guat exit patrol and then the Belize entry office.  When we got to the Guat side the border guard wanted Q10 from both of us for leaving, so we argued for about 5 -10 min and then he got fed up and then let us pass.  There is no entry or exit tax for Guatemala, man they try and get you for everything.  Did I mention that we were the 10 or 11 person off the tour bus that the guard was try to sucker for money.  I couldn't belive his persistence, he tried with everyone on our bus.  I think only a few did pay, the ones with very little spanish.  Belize customs were pretty straight with us, no hassle (Belize was a former British colony like Canada).  When we got close to Belmopan the driver would only drop us off at the intersection, which was 4km away from the actual city.  Not too far, but, far if you have a pack.  We hitchiked to the bus terminal with a Belizian woman, which was kind of fun.  From there we caught a chicken bus to Dangriga which is where we are right now.

Write you guys in a bit, hope everyone is enjoying the blog, if you want another email address added let us know or if you want to be taken off the list also let us know as well.


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