A little bit about Tikal
06 December 2008
The day after Thanksgiving, we made a quick trip to the Mayan ruins of Tikal with two other couples from our marina- John & Cindy on Tashmoo and Bob & Maggie on Sea Tryst. We've been hanging out with them for a few weeks now and since we struggle to get anything accomplished on the docks what with all the jibber jabbering we do, we decided to just take a trip so we could hang out and not feel guilty about not working on the boat. Plus we all wanted to see Tikal. We kept it short though so that Maggie wouldn't be away from her cat for very long and this was OK with Jon and I since we're trying not to spend much money these days.
Since there were six of us, we could rent a van for less than taking the bus. We got a very early start to make the most of it, despite some whining here and there. Bob brought his video camera and tried to capture the high points of the trip- which made for lots of laughs later. On the way to Tikal, we stopped in the town of Flores, which is on a little peninsula of land that juts out into a big lake called Lago de Peten Itza. It was a cute little town with many pastel colored buildings and quiet streets. They already had their Christmas decorations up including a huge fake tree in the park that was put up by the Gallo beer company. Gallo is the word for rooster in Spanish and this beer and its logo is everywhere you turn. We ate lunch at a lakeside restaurant, walked around, went in and out of a few shoppes (I bought a pair of handmade salad forks made from local rosewood) and then got back in the van to head to another lakeside town where our hostel was. For some reason, John was shocked that we were actually staying at a hostel (the ladies made all the reservations) and so the whole rest of the trip, the running joke was that we were at the "youth hostel", all said with a lisp. I don't understand the connection, but it was funny just the same. Anyway, the manager there recommended that we head to a remote Mayan ruin site to watch the sunset and since we had the private van, we could do it. It ended up being really beautiful with quiet, wide, mossy paths and old trees between ruin sites. When it got close to dusk, we climbed up the temple that's popular for sunsets and met a few other travelers. We all just sat up there and chatted while the sun went behind the hills, over the lake- it was really neat. Wish we would've thought to bring a bottle of wine like others did. We're always amazed at how many Americans travel here to Guatemala.
Our hostel was pretty basic, though we all had private rooms and bathrooms. You could see through the wood planks that were the walls and there were roosters positioned all around the place to assure you wouldn't get any sleep. And another interesting mattress to add to our collection of hotel memories here in Central America. We had no problem getting up at 5 to have breakfast and get on the road to Tikal. It all made for lots of laughs!
I think Tikal is the largest Mayan ruin site in Central America and it is the only one that's situated deep in the jungle canopy. It is a UNESCO Heritage site and although it draws huge crowds, I think we're in the off season right now so it was relatively quiet. The size of the park and its remoteness make it a good home for wildlife including interesting birds, turkeys, loads of howler monkeys (they roar like lions), little raccoon-like creatures with long tails and supposedly toucans, but we never saw any. We got there at 7am and moved through the whole park, climbing each temple and walking the paths between each one, taking in the scenery and good company. We bought box lunches from the hostel since there's no food sold in the park except junk and ate on top of one of the temples. It was a beautiful day. Most of the temples were in good enough condition that you could just climb right up the steps on the face of them. Others had incredibly steep steps off to the side that you could climb if you wanted to risk your life. So we did of course, and the view was pretty as you could look over to the other temples in the distance across the jungle. The day we were there was also the day of the "Iron Maya" Triathlon and the marathon part of it was run through the ruins. The day before, we'd seen the bikers on the road to Tikal. I was wishing I could be doing it too! All in all, Tikal was special because of the number and steepness of the temples and the beauty of the paths that led between them. Each ruin site that we've been to has had it's own feel, but I think we both agree that Chichen Itza in Mexico was our favorite overall since the main temple was so spectacular and Copan was our favorite for the amount of preserved stelae with intricate carvings. We were surprised that Tikal's carvings were not very well preserved at all.
After Tikal, we headed halfway back toward the Rio to Finca Ixobel, a 400 acre resort of sorts where you can take river tubing tours, horseback rides, cave tours, etc. We'd pictured staying here for a couple of days and enjoying the good American food, doing a day of tubing, etc. but the river wasn't high enough for them to be able to offer the tubing tour. We all kind of had our hearts set on that. So, we enjoyed hanging out for meals, took a hike up a hill shaped like a pyramid, strolled around the grounds, and never took a tour. Alongside one of the paths, there was wild sensitive plant growing like what I had as a child. When you touch it, it all crumples up like you killed it, stem and all. After I touched all that I could find, we could get on with the walk. I wish I could've brought some back with me.
We'd let our van go so needed to find our own bus the rest of the way back to the Rio. We checked out of the resort, walked out to the main road, and made bets on how long we'd have to wait for a bus. In all our heads were thoughts of the dreaded chicken bus and the probability of having to stand in the aisle for 2 hours. But, in less than 15 minutes, an old van stopped with 2 young guys in it and after agreeing to about $3 a person for the whole way, we all piled in. They took us all the way back to the marina entrance and were so friendly to us. This is what we've experienced time and time again here and although we can't let our guard down, we've enjoyed our experiences with the people here.
Now we're back on the docks making progress on projects and trying to get ready to head out of here. It doesn't seem to make sense to rush out right now with the weather as rainy as its been. Its just as well though, because we're really enjoying each other's company.
We're headed into a tough part of the year- the holidays- where we really miss our friends and family. If you're reading this blog, we'd love to hear from you!