Guatemala 2008, Tikal-Flores

November 11, 2009 at 5:58 pm

We arrive at Tikal in mid morning. It’s been a real adventure getting there. Originally we were booked to fly from Roatan to Guatemala City and on to Flores, getting in yesterday evening. However Taca messed us up royally so we had to sleep in Guatemala City last night. They promised us a hotel for the night; unfortunately, after flying in tiny little planes the whole day, when we arrived at Guatemala City airport last night, it was deserted. No sign of Taca personnel anywhere. Somehow, somewhere, we found someone and they did actually give us a coupon for a hotel, which we got to after the taxi driver got lost a few times.It was indeed a very nice hotel – but when you arrive at 11pm and leave at 6am, somehow you can’t enjoy the experience too much.

Tikal is baking hot. It’s worse than anything I can remember. It could be that Antigua was very mild with a lot of afternoon rain; it could be that we’ve been in the Caribbean Sea for the last three days. Either way it’s unbearable and makes me realize, again, that the beach portion of a trip like this should always be done at the end.

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Very steep temple

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Tikal, engulfed by jungle

We have a tour booked for the first morning. It’s hard to breath but it is an imposing site and the guide is good. We do a lot of climbing up temples and walking; we witness some kind of Mayan festival with fires burning and a lot of chanting. Mostly we sweat. We’re going to be here for 2 nights which right now seems about 2 nights too long. Don’t get me wrong – Tikal is worth doing, absolutely, it’s just that we’re withering in the heat.

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Mayan ceremony

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Dani and new friend nearby

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More fire burning Mayan ceremony

We’re staying in the park at the Tikal Inn which – thank god – has a pool. There’s a planning point I’m pleased with. Over lunch, we discuss Tikal and compare it (or the little bit we’ve seen) with Angkor Wat in Cambodia which we visited last year (and which was also baking hot). Tikal has the advantage of having less tourists – Angkor is overrun with them, but Angkor somehow offers a little more in adventure. That is to say, at Angkor, one can wander around the temples (inside) and explore forever. Here you’re restricted to the outside.

After lunch we swim in the pool. The upside of the heat is that the pool feels like the best in the world, and I can’t help thinking what it would have been like without it. By late afternoon, we’re ready to wander about the park again. It’s getting dark and the atmosphere is a little eery. There are monkeys everywhere in the trees and they’re called ‘howlers’ for a reason, adding to the intense atmosphere. We go climbing and exploring, get a little lost before meeting another family who seem in the same position. The dad turns out to be Tom Bowman, NPR Pentagon correspondent, and we all get on well. After a security guard (we think) ushers us away from the temples and then leads us (I could say at gunpoint because he has a gun, but it feels  far less dramatic) out of the park, we all go for dinner together, before we go back to our rooms by torchlight.

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Next morning – just as hot – we’re going ziplining. We’re driven off into the jungle somewhere and begin. It doesn’t go altogether well. Benjy, a tough little guy but squeamish in certain circumstances isn’t sure he wants to do it. Unfortunately we’re already on the first (of seven) platforms at this point. It appears a guide will go with him, so we all go. We wait for him. He never arrives. Eventually the guide arrives and tells us Benjy has withdrawn from this activity. He goes off to scowl somewhere.

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Zipline

On the second line, I get entangled and go backwards. Before I know it, I’m smashing into the platform. I feel like my ankles have broken; the pain is intense. I can hardly move, but I’m stuck. I have to get through all the stages before I can get down. This is not the worst travel injury I’ve ever had – two years ago I was bizarrely punctured in my face by a needlefish at Cozumel –  but it’s the most painful, and I have to do five more lines. I hobble around praying for this to end. The others are having a great time but they are concerned about me – deservedly so as my legs look black and blue.

Mercifully it ends, we pick up a despondent Benjy and go back to the hotel. The pool is again refreshing, even more so now as it helps my legs. By late afternoon, Liora and the boys head back to the ruins. Dani and I stay behind (I still can’t really walk) and read. There’s an almighty downpour and I’m glad we’re inside even if we are reading with one flashlight between us because the electricity is only turned on a few hours each day.They must be getting drenched out there.

They return. They are soaked and have apparently had a great and exciting time, even if they haven’t seen all the wildlife they wished for. Apparently this time they’ve been escorted out by someone with a very real looking gun, and this time the guard/escort has been carrying on at length about his firearm. Wow, sorry I missed that.

Next morning we’re Tikaled out. We just haven’t got the strength to go back into the park again, and despite desperate pleas from Ilani, we prevail. We decide instead to spend a few hours in Flores, getting a last minute taste of Guatemala. It’s a pleasant enough town, although not really worth five hours. But after the stickiness and heat of Tikal, it is a nice enough way to finish a trip, and we wander the streets looking for souvenirs and interesting things to eat and look at. And then it’s off to Guatemala City and after an uneventful night there, back home.

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Relaxing in Flores before flying home

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