We end up taking the overnight bus to Tikal, even though many have warned us about traveling at night. From all the (limited) research we’ve done though it seems as if this is a safe route, and we honestly don’t want to sit for 10 hours during the day. We luck out and get seats on the top story of a double-decker bus right on the front window…lots of leg room, no one behind us, and a somewhat harrowing view. We fairly quickly fall asleep, and I only wake intermittently throughout the night. (Once when we broke down, and a few times because of the awful weather.) we arrive in Flores early and then must find a way to get to Tikal. After a bout of haggling we are on our way, with a van load of other. After finally getting through the main gates, and then the long narrow road, we enter the main area of the park, and look for a place to stay. There are a few lodges, however we’ve heard you can rent hammocks and really want to do this in the jungle. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen. Instead we end up staying in a small pup tent in the jungle. Honestly this actually works out much better than the hammock idea, we had access to electricity and wifi, but most importantly our first warm showers since we’d come to Guatemala. Now I consider myself a pretty easy-going and low maintenance traveler…but I really want my spoiled american hot water showers. (His has caused me plenty of heartache) I figure the trade-off of having a hot shower well worth not being able to say we slept in hammocks. (Besides a tent in the jungle is still pretty cool!)
When we are ready to enter the park we end up with a private guide. He takes us all around filling us in on so much of the history. I am also interested in herbal remedies that he says are still used (doctors and hospitals being hours away). As we walk he often stops to pluck something, telling me to look, smell, and taste…and then explaining its medicinal uses: analgesic, anti venom, appetite control, ect. He also is extremely well versed in the methods of archeology and what exactly happen on many of the digs around. We later learn that this is because he is a phD and works on many of the digs.
We see altars where humans were sacrificed, their still beating hearts ripped from their chests and offered to the gods.
There’s not a whole lot of security, and often only a small chain with a sign about the size of a photo telling you which pyramids are unsafe to climb. (These are deemed unsafe because multiple people have fallen to their deaths.)
We climb up a wooden staircase to the top of temple IV and look out over the jungle. This temple is over 220 feet tall. It is breathtaking. Especially since I am terrified of heights. I stand plastered to the wall, slowly inching my way along, fighting every instinct in my body to not curl into a ball and belly crawl back to the platform. I do have to admit thought that it was awe-inspiring.
We head into the “lost world” these temples are older, and smaller. After wandering around a bit, I decide I want to play Indiana Jones, and I forget my fear of heights. Scrambling up one of the pyramids, I get about half way when I stupidly look down.and freeze. I finally make it to the top platform and look over the jungle. (For me getting up is never as bad as getting down.) the climb down has me belly crawling slowly along, and I hear someone ask my boyfriend if I’m hurt and need help…so much for playing it cool and looking like Indiana Jones! (Although as I remember it he has a paralyzing fear of snakes.)
Later, before dusk, we come back on our own to see some complexes we haven’t already seen, and we have the place to ourselves except for a few monkeys and wild birds. It’s truly eerie and I almost feel that if we are quiet enough, and round corners fast enough, that we will see a Mayan disappearing into the trees. There are few places I’ve felt as close and connected to history, here, alone among the stones I feel that if I am quiet I will hear them whisper.