OK so a 4am start on a Saturday wasn’t my idea of a fun start to the day. Still I jumped into the shuttle to make my 6:30am flight. I flew in a smallish 24 seater plane. It was only a 45 minute flight from Guatemala city to Flores which is near Tikal. A bus would have been an overnight or all day affair. As it was at Flores I had another shuttle bus waiting for the 50 minute drive to Tikal.
You’ve heard of free range hens? They have those plus free range pigs in Guatemala. We stopped for more pigs on the road than any other kind of animal. It was definitely a tropical environment although it was pleasant and not so humid as it has just started the dry season. In fact the weather reports say the wet season is over a month earlier than normal, which is great for when I head south to Costa Rica.
OK so I stayed in the Tikal Inn. All three hotels at Tikal are more resort like than cheap, thus $50 a night seems to be the going rate in low season. My room was nice and new, plus at one time several spider monkeys were hanging out in the trees next to me.
As soon as I arrived, I went on an included tour of the ruins. Close to 4 1/2 hours of walking and climbing. Guatemalans love making you climb things i’ve noticed. Also makes sense I learnt the español verb to climb “subir”.
Our guide was quite informative and had lots of info stopping to let us climb or explore areas as we went. The scale of the place and the temples is amazing. One minute walking through dense jungle and the next you stumble on a temple or two. Apparently only 9% has been excavated and restored. It truly is an amazing place to visit, especially for you history buffs. I’ve never seen the Pyramids, but in a way it rivals a place like Rome for the sheer size of the place and history surrounding you.
As you can imagine back at the hotel it was quite easy to relax by the pool until a marauding tour bus full german geriatrics turned up. I mean good on them for travelling at their age, but their disregard for everyone else’s peace and serenity was kind of annoying. Plus I was expecting one to break their neck the way they just dived into the pool at the shallow end.
I had dinner at the Commedor Tikal. A small eatery where beers were cheaper than the hotel I stayed in. My Hamburguesa y pommes frites was a bit on the bland side but still good value and filling. Plus a couple of cervezas helped fill the belly. My preference is for Moza, a dark bock beer. Gallo is more like a VB and the other brand is Brahva which is a pilsner. Walking back I noticed how the stars were so bright and visible here. No artificial light to ruin the view like a city does.
OK so 4am on Saturday wasn’t enough, I booked myself for the sunrise tour at 5am. I’m really glad I did. My guide was Mayan and she new a lot. We walked to a different temple that the hordes of germans would have been at. In fact just 6 of us sat a top Templo V. While the sunrise was behind us, the morning was fresh and crisp. We sat there for an hour or so listening to the Howler monkeys claiming their territory. If you’ve never heard a howler Monkey, you would never guess a Monkey could make such a noise. Its more of a roar than a howl, but its loud an intimidating.
We also watched a troop of spider monkeys, cross the jungle in front of us, including some cute baby monkeys. Unfortunately photos were difficult to take of them as they swung from branch to branch. Then there were the parrots and toucans singing and flying around. It really was quite serene and much better than the expected 50 or 60 atop Templo IV pushing for position or screaming “achtung”.
Our guide than gave us a history of the Mayans. From how the temples were used to predict rain (more likely seasons and rain came with them) and how the lower class revered the priests while their predictions came true. Originally they were an agricultural peaceful society. However they still sacrificed people. Winners of the ball games were sacrificed, yes winners. Winning brought great pride and benefits to your family. Ball game players were picked at a young age and played once, losers went to work in the fields again, winners were sacrificed and the families were given benefits to producing a fine ball game player. Priests were also sacrificed to give the people confidence. Usually an older or disabled priest was sacrificed however the people didn’t seem to mind, it was not them but the ruling class who were sacrificed to the gods.
But then they met the Teotichuans. They were war like and cunning. Their influence on the Mayans made the Mayans at Tikal a war like society. Its sad but they became a more brutal society.
Anyway enough history for now. I’m currently back in Antigua for the night. Tomorrow I head for Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.