Friday, March 30, 2007

Tikal, Guatemala

Arrived in Guatemala yesterday. Everything at the border went smoothly and we made our way the 100km towards Flores in the north of the country. Roads are 'interesting'. The first 35km were a dusty, pot-holed track that someone seemed to have concreted over - bumps and all. So although 'paved' we did an average 20mph! It improved, but we can't pick up speed because at any given moment an enormous pot-hole appears trying to wreck havoc with the wheels.

Flores is a great little town. It's actually an island, no more than about 500m in either direction, and its full of little cobblestone streets and interesting shops. Straight away we've noticed the change in prices of things - it's SO much cheaper here in Guatemala, and it certainly is welcome to our budget! Now dealing in quetzals which feels like monopoly money to us its such good value after Belize & the Yucatan!

Got up at stupid o'clock this morning (alarm went off at 2am - it was hardly worth going to bed!) Were on a tour to Tikal for sunrise. Glad of the bus ride, as we wouldn't have wanted to do the trip on the bike at that time of the morning - it was about 1.5 hours (time to sleep!) We arrived at the ruins about an hour before sunrise giving us just enough time to walk 1.5km through the jungle and climb Templo IV (Tikal's highest building at 64m). We were completly above the trees at that height and we watched as it got lighter and the jungle 'awakened'. There was lots of mist so not the greatest of sunrise moments, but it did lend itself well to the intrigue of the place as the tops of temples and ruins poked out above the mist from time to time. We heard lots of howler monkeys and birds and then we did see a spider monkey swinging its way to breakfast (I can only assume - that's where I'd be heading!). Tikal covers a huge area. I think we walked about 10km today and climbed several of the buildings (there's only one you can't). It's in quite thick jungle so you just suddenly stumble into a clearing and are faced with this whacking great temple or something. Apparently all the stones used to build the city were hand quarried and hauled, no peice of rock used to build with is larger than about 30-40kg so it was 'manageable' to the workers - it's some feat! There are over 4000 structures in what is now Tikal National Park - needless to say we barely scratched the surface.

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