Tikal, jungle city

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Flores, having taken a “luxury” coach.  We could tell immediately that this was first class travel as there was only one person per seat and we had tinted windows and air con.   Flores is the twin town of Santa Elena, however located on a little island (peten) in the middle of the lake. It seems to have developed into the main tourist town for visitors to Tikal – kind of like a tourist quarantine.

Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal, Guatemala

The main point of our stay was to visit Tikal, the ruins of an ancient city hidden in the rainforest.  We booked ourselves on the ‘sunrise tour’ which seemed like a good idea at 7.00pm last night. Less fun at 3.00am when we had to wake up. The man at the travel agency was insistent we needed to be outside our hotel at 3.20am, so I was a little grumpy when the bus didn’t turn up until 4.00am.  Goodness only knows why because the busses aways turn up late.

Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal, Guatemala

However we arrived in Tikal sometime  before the sunrise, sometime around 5.00 and trekked through the jungle in the dark for about 40 minutes until we arrived at one of the temples. I recommend climbing stairs in the dark….you can’t see how high you have to climb!  But once we reach the top it was really magical. We waited in silence for the sun to come up and the majestic towering temples in the park to come into view. As we waited, we could also hear the animals and birds in the jungle begin to waken for the day.  The jungle noises were quite an experience. The birds were singing all around us, and we could also hear this other incredibly loud noise in the background, which sounded like the roar of an elephant or a lion or something, but which turned out to be a howler monkey. Makes a lot of noise for such a small creature!

Tikal, Guatemala

The pyramid shaped temples emerged slowly through the mist, which was quite mystical and magical. After that, for the next few hours we walked around the massive grounds of Tikal looking at various Mayan buildings. It is massive – it was once the main Mayan settlement of Central America and what was once the downtown area of the central city takes up about 16 sq kilometres. It was only discovered in the late 1800s when some people were looking for local chewing gum from a tree that grows in this area. Because it is so huge, only a small portion has opened up for tourism and it is all set in the rainforest jungle. Much of it is still covered by the jungle.  The Mayans were very clever and all the structures together form some sort of clever keystone for the other countries in the Mayan empire.

Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal, Guatemala

As well as the ruins, which are only partially restored, we saw beautiful birds with gorgeous bright colours, the strange raccoon-like coati, howler monkeys, spider monkeys. As the sun came up, it became clear that the other reason for a 3.00am start was because it became really hot and muggy in the jungle later.  It was a fantastic morning as we walked through the jungle and stumbled across these magnificent structures. We climbed up, got stunning views above the canopy of the jungle. Then it was back to the tourist quarantine for a cold beer!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: