Flores and Tikal
01.09.2012 - 03.09.2012
We had all been excited about visiting Flores and Tikal for sometime. Our tour leader David was from Flores and had started his tour guiding as a local guide at Tikal. So he had told us lots about it. On Saturday we got a transfer the 1/2 an hour from San Ignacio to the border. We exited Belize and entered Guatemala without any hassles. From the border we got a private transfer all the way through to Flores, about 4 hours away. On route though we stopped by our guides aunties restaurant where we got to first sample the Guatemalan beer, Gallo. She was also a cook on the series of Survivor Guatemala which was filmed nearby so there were a few things from the show around the restaurant.
We reached Flores which is a small island in the middle of Lago de Peten Itza. We checked into our hotel just across the road from the water and went out for lunch with everyone. We then had free time to explore the island and relax. That night David picked us up in his ute which we all piled into the back of to the journey to his mothers house. Here we got to meet his mother, brother in law and nephew and see where he grew up. We then went to his house where we got to meet his lovely pregnant wife Nesli. They had cooked us a delicious meal of chicken pepian with rice. We also had Agua de Jamaica which is a local drink made from hibiscus flowers and was really tasty. It was a really great experience to visit David's house and see where he lives. It wasn't something he had to do and we were all really touched he had invited us. We had another interesting drive back piled in the back of the ute before heading to bed for our early start the next morning.
On Sunday we were up early for our trip to Tikal. We were picked up at 5am and were driven for about an hour to the site. Once we arrived we had some sandwiches for breakfast before entering. It is best to visit early in the day so you can see wildlife and before it gets too warm so it was still quite early when entered. We walked for about 1/2 an hour through the dense jungle where we were able to spot some endemic turkeys, coatis, parrots and both spider and howler monkeys. The sound of howler monkeys added a strange vibe to the place. If you have never heard them they make this eerie roaring, screeching noise. Not a sound you would expect from a monkey.
We soon arrived at Temple 4 and climbed to the top of it. Temple 4 is one of the largest and at 64m high we had a great views across the jungle in front with the odd top of another temple poking through the surrounding jungle. From here we were able to get a look at some toucans and falcons in the surrounding trees. We sat there for a while watching the mist clear and the sun become brighter. Definitely an amazing experience and viewpoint.
We then explored the rest of the site with David telling us interesting facts and history of the area. We ended up at the main plaza where the postcard Temple 1 is situated. It is quite a tall and narrow pyramid and was interesting to see how the Mayan architecture and construction had evolved during their empire. Newer temples were narrower and taller, just like modern sky rises. After quite a few photos of Temple 1 we explored the necropolis and acropolis areas on either side of the Great Plaza. We also got to witness some indigenous people performing a Mayan ceremony. They still practice some ancient ceremonies and there was even a designated area where they carried it out wearing traditional dress. Tikal is very beautiful with ancient Mayan temples scattered through the thick jungle. It definitely makes for a mystical experience.
After a very interesting morning we returned to our van for a trip back to Flores. By this stage it was really warm so we were glad to have air conditioning. We also did a quick stop off for some coconuts which made the journey a bit easier. Alex and I got dropped off on the mainland in Santa Elena just before the bridge to do some shopping and visit Pollo Campero, the Guatemalan fried chicken chain. It was quite tasty and we were also able to get grilled chicken as well so it wasn't too unhealthy.
That afternoon we just spent relaxing before exploring the food markets set up in the afternoon next to the waterfront. We got a couple of tasty tacos as an entree. The tortillas in Guatemala are different from Mexico and were quite thick in comparison. We then went to a nice restaurant where we got delicious frozen mango margaritas and a platter for 2. Once we were done we headed back to the food markets to try some of the local cakes for deserts. It was lovely to sit on the waterfront while we ate.
The next morning we had enough time to head out for a good breakfast before we were picked up for our next journey. We didn't spend a long time in Flores but it was really fantastic and great to visit Tikal.
Next stop the river of Rio Dolce!