Glorious in Guatemala- Tikal and Flores

This morning is a short drive to the border, where we leave Belize and enter Guatemala. Then we have a 2-hour drive to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Tikal. It is the ruin of an ancient Mayan City. We enter the grounds of Tikal National Park and head to the hotel.

Well, I guess it’s not really a hotel…more like a lodge. And tonight…we will be sleeping in tents! Not really something I love doing, but for one night…I’m sure I can handle it. The Jaguar Inn has a large restaurant and common area, where we can store our large bags and hang out. We have lunch here today, and I decide to try the chicken pepian- a traditional Guatemalan dish. It’s like a stew; flavored with pumpkin and sesame seeds, garlic and tomatoes.

It is mixed with vegetables and served over rice or with tortillas. Really tasty.  I’ll mention again that I have not been feeling well for the last few days and I’ve been popping pills to alleviate the situation. It’s not really working as well as it should.

It’s time to meet up with our guide for Tikal, Cesar.

Left to right: Me, Aimee, Cesar, Brigitte, Aegean, Angelica
Top: Dwain

The handy thing is that the entrance to the ruins is right next to the hotel! We must walk through the hot-ass jungle for around half hour before getting to any of the main sites. You can hop on a truck to get you there quicker..for an extra fee…but that’s no fun!

Tikal is one of the largest and most important Mayan civilization sites. The city was known as Yax Mutal, and all of the structures are made from limestone. Researchers believe Tikal dates as far back as 300 BC! And it’s not fully known why the city was abandoned….deforestation and drought are a couple of ideas.

The first site we come to is Complex Q, a small area that has shorter flat top twin pyramids facing each other, with large stelae in front of each one.

They figure these pyramids celebrate the end of the 20-year time unit of the Mayan Long Count Calendar. There are 9 of these complexes at Tikal. Along the way we see many mounds of land…doesn’t look like much but Cesar tells us that they are structures that still have not been uncovered!

We venture farther to get to the central acropolis. This place is cool…you can climb everything and explore the different rooms. This is where the Tikal royal families lived.

I’m having an awesome time in this acropolis…until my stomach starts to really act up. Like emergency situation status. I ask Cesar if there is a toilet nearby…he points over to his left and I’m thinking he means that I just go squat in the corner…but that can’t be right? No no, he means go that way and there is a staircase leading down to the toilets. Haha. And I will just say this…thank the lord that Tikal is a big enough tourist site that they have proper washrooms!!

And now it’s time to look around the main plaza that houses two large Temples…the ones you’ll see in all of the pics of Tikal. Temple I is also known as Temple of the Great Jaguar, and was a funerary pyramid for Jasaw Chan K’awil.

A beautiful ceiba tree

It is just spectacular…like a real wow moment for me. I have been wanting to visit this site for so long! We are able to climb Temple II, also known as Temple of the Mask. It is an easy climb because they’ve built proper steps for us less adventurous folks. The view overlooking the main plaza is pretty cool.

I’m still not feeling 100% but I’m not giving up! This is my one day to see Tikal, so I make sure I get to climb another tall pyramid further away from the plaza. This is Temple IV..it has man made steps for easy climbing and the view of the rainforest from high above is amazing. You can see the tops of some of the other pyramids emerging from the trees.

On the way back Cesar spots some howler monkeys up in the trees and he roars at them so they will roar back .They make a few barks at him, but this is nowhere comparable to the loud roaring that goes on in the middle of the night.

Now the rest of the group venture off to go climb another tall pyramid but I need to stick close to the toilet area. No prob…I grab some more water from one of the stands(thank the lord for them too! It is so freakin hot in this rainforest so you need to stay properly hydrated). And then I see them…probably around 20 or more coatis!

These animals look similar to racoons, with monkey like tails and it seems like they are always searching the ground for food.  It’s a giant coati party, and it’s easy to get close to them. In my experience, they don’t bother humans if you stay a respectful distance.  And then I hear a rustling up in one of the trees…it’s a cute little monkey! I think it is maybe a spider monkey…so I watch him for a bit – he swings around in the branches and peeks out at me. The rest of the group returns from their temple climb and we start the long journey back to the camp. I feel like maybe I should hire one of those trucks to take me back since I’m probably dehydrated but Cesar says there isn’t any around. FINE! I walk back with the group, and of course, I survive.

Back at the hotel, the man behind the desk makes me a tea that is supposed to help with stomach ailments…I give it a go. We lounge around for the rest of the afternoon and evening, playing cards and chit chatting. At one point, we even spot a toucan!

My dinner is super exciting…plain old rice and a banana. It’s been a rough day. They shut the power off at 830pm, so we have no choice but to go to bed. Phones fully charged, we use phone lights to get to the tents. I have the single tent tonight…fancy! Once settled in, we tell a few ghost stories and then try to fall asleep. And of course, I have to get up to pee one more time and I really don’t want to walk over to the toilets alone. Luckily, Brigitte is in the tent beside me and hears me getting up and she needs to pee too. Awesome! After that, I finally manage to fall asleep. The crickets are chirping like crazy and the sound of the howler monkeys in the distance is actually quite terrifying. They sound like dinosaurs or monsters. Seriously – and they aren’t even that close, but because they clock in at one of the LOUDEST land mammals…it seems like they are. Overall, not a comfortable camping experience, but hey, it is an experience!

The next morning, I can’t help but wake up early…because I went to bed ridiculously early! Plus the sun is rising, there are a million birds chirping away, and I can’t wait to get out of that damn tent! We skip breakfast at the hotel to stop at a lovely place called El Arbol. The specialty here is pancakes made with Ramon seeds, which are found in central America and were consumed often by the Mayans.

Fun Fact: they are packed with superior nutrients and antioxidants. So yeah, the pancakes are delicious! I pair them with a super fresh pineapple and orange smoothie.  Then we are on our way to the cute little town of Flores.

The old part of Flores is on its own island, surrounded by Lake Peten Itza and is connected to the mainland by one causeway. In ancient Mayan times, the city was not conquered by the Spanish until much later and those who could escape hid in the surrounding jungle for years. So, the modern city of Flores is considered the second oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the Americas. Flores is fun to explore by land or by water. The first thing we do is hire a boat to drive around the island.

Our captain takes us to a neighboring island that has a ton of iguanas on it and we see a few up in the trees from the comfort of the boat.

We edge in closer to the city, the brightly colored houses shine in the bright sunlight.

Once on the island we wander around the cobblestone streets, getting a feel for the town…it’s very chill and quiet today.

We walk up to a little park and across from it is a large white church. This is Catedral Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios y San Pablo Itza.

Well that’s a mouthful! I go inside…it’s very simple but the white walls with yellow design are quite pretty. In the park across from the church are a few guys playing a giant xylophone thing.

They are really good, and it provides the perfect soundtrack for today. We only stay here for a short time though because we need to hop back in our van to head to the next destination……

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