Three Days in Paradise
Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
39Trip End Dec 31, 2015
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This past weekend, my intrepid spirit took over and I escaped the doldrums of Missouri winter to enjoy three days in paradise. Well, that’s a bit of exaggeration, I suppose. I was gone from Missouri for 3 days; that’s a little more accurate. The decision to attempt a trip to Guatemala over a three day weekend was pretty ridiculous if I’m being honest. Why on Earth would I make all that effort for so little time? I knew that in the end, I’d be spending more time getting to Tikal National Park in Guatemala than I would in the park itself. What the heck, I figured. It’ll be worth it. And I couldn’t have been more correct because ultimately, the act of getting there and home was actually a big part of the adventure. So, here’s a basic rundown of my past weekend getaway.
Friday, January 14th
After putting in a full day’s work at school, I made the 2 hour drive to St. Louis Airport to catch a flight to Miami, Florida. The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. In Miami, I basically just went to the hotel and went right to sleep.
Saturday, January 15th
I awoke early in the morning to catch the hotel shuttle back to Miami Airport. By 11:00 AM I was touching down in Belize City, Belize. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to do all that much in Belize country. I was only there for a few hours between flights, but it was enough to make me want to go back for more. I knew heading into this weekend that I wasn’t on an extensive sightseeing trip, it was a one stop thing. My goal was simple, get to Tikal National Park and see and do as much as I can there. So, I had no expectation to really experience Belize, but those few hours really intrigued me. It’s a fascinating country. The official language is English. The culture on the coast is decisively Caribbean rather than Central American, with turquoise waters, the world‘s second largest barrier reef, and a plethora of marine wildlife (like the endangered manatee)
After my quick layover, I made my way back to the airport for the my next flight to Flores, Guatemala on Tropic Air, one of the domestic airlines of Belize. When I booked this flight, which was really cheap by the way, I had no idea what I was getting into. After a little pre-trip research, I discovered that the airline owns a fleet of 11 planes. Digging a little deeper I discover that their entire fleet is made up of Cessna Caravans, ranging in size from 7 to 14 passengers. Okay, this is going to be cool. This is not just going to be another flight, this is going to be part of the adventure. The 1 hour 15 minute flights was amazing. On the way to Flores, I was on the larger 14 seat plane. My seat was right behind the pilot, which was really cool. The view during the flight was amazing. It seemed like we just skimmed over the jungle the whole way
Upon arrival at the Flores airstrip in Guatemala, we were ushered out of the plane and went through customs. I’ve rarely experienced an easier border crossing. Since there were only actually 8 of us on the flight, the line went quickly. I had no baggage (only my trusty green Jansport backpack that I’ve had since 6th grade and has been with me to all 65 countries I’ve visited), so after getting the stamp in my passport, I walked right out and met my driver for the next leg of my trip.
From Flores, Guatemala, it is about an hour drive to Tikal National Park. The trip is pretty easy, 2 lane blacktop the whole way (even if there are lots of potholes that make it slow going). It was neat to pass through several small villages along the way. I could quickly recognize the poverty level in Guatemala while passing through. I’ve been through lots of villages in lots of countries over the year, and in many ways, poverty looks the same anywhere you go. The refreshing thing, however, is that the people never seem to act like they’re poor. Smiling faces, children laughing and playing soccer, pigs and chickens and donkeys and cows grazing along the road and in the village, the buzz of local markets
Once I arrived in the park, I checked into my jungle bungalow for the evening, dropped off my bags and went out to explore a bit before the sun went down. For today, since the park was already closing, I simple got a lay of the land and made arrangements for the next day. I made a deal with the security personnel at the front gate to allow me to enter the park before the 6AM opening time so that I could hike in to Temple IV (the highest temple in the park), which is the best place to view the sunrise
Sunday, January 16th
I’ll describe this day in much more detail in my next entry, but basically, I spend the entire day exploring the Tikal National Park. Check back tomorrow for the story, but basically it was AMAZING!!
Monday, January 17th
I once again awoke quite early (about 5:45) in order to make the drive back to Flores airport for my flight
Once we landed in Belize, from there things weren’t that spectacular, just a regular flight to Miami, and then on to St. Louis, a 2 hour drive home, and I was back in my house in Columbia, Missouri, ready for work the next morning.
It was quick, it was an adventure, and when I got home I felt like I’d been gone forever. But, that’s exactly what I needed. Refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready for the next big adventure!!
Thanks for reading. I’ll post my 3rd and final Guatemala trip blog tomorrow which will recount in depth my adventures at the Mayan Ruins of Tikal!!