A Travellerspoint blog

Tikal

The Indiana Jones of Mayan ruins

27/11/09 - Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Random occurrence>>>swapping PSP games with South African Mike
What´s annoying me>>>the tour company scamming us (the guide buggered off after an hour leaving us to join a much bigger group. And they did the same to Tanith and Mike the day before so it´s a pre-planned scam.

We took the bus from Flores at 5 in the morning to Tikal. Tikal is the Indiana Jones of Mayan ruins, a lost city of steep-sided pyramids hidden by vines and creepers, with a soundtrack of squaking birds and growling monkeys. According to our guide, scholars attribute the rise of Tikal to a brutal new method of warfare developed by its warriors. Instead of tackling their adversaries in hand-to-hand combat on the plain, the soldiers from Tikal used auxillary units to encircle their enemies and threw spears at them from a distance. This early use of `air power´, the brainiacs argue, caused fewer home-side casualities and allowed Tikal to become the dominant kingdom in the region. And apparently Star Wars was filmed there too.

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That dot is me

As we took a path through towering trees and vines, alive with the sounds of the jungle, occasionally one sound cut through maiking a startling noise that was a cross between a roaring lion and a rampaging t-rex. It was the mating call of the howler monkey. I hear one of the party say "it`s like something from a horror movie...if I didn´t know what it was it would freak me out".

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Howler monkey

When we came upon the Great Plaza, home to the steep-sided temples you see in all the brochures and guidebooks and where Star Wars was filmed, it was overrun by tourists. I clambered up Temple II and sat down, soaking up the atmosphere and pretending that I had stumbled upon a lost civilisation. It was a conceit I revelled in until I was disturbed by a herd of American tourists.

FRom the Gereat Plaza we made our way along a path to El Mundo Peridido, the Lost World. The path wound its way around huge mounds, covered in jungle with a few exposed stone blocks the only indication that underneath was yet another marvel of the ancient world just waiting to be restored. Not so long ago, all of Tikal was like this.

In the Lost World, from the top of the South Acropolis you get a fantastic view. As far as the eye can see, there is a canopy of jungle with just the tops of some of the other pyramids poking through. It is enthralling and uplifting. This is the highlight of my travels so far.

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We decide to leave Guatemala the next day and head back to Mexico as there is very little else to see in Guatemala in the immediate vicinity of Flores. Another 10 hours bus journey to look forward to.

Posted by Señor Usuf 17:09 Comments (0)

Flores

Faffing about

26/11/09 - Flores, Peten, Guatemala

Random occurrence>>>one of our guides asking me to add him on facebook

After the traumatically long bus journey yesterday we decided to do very little today but explore the island of Flores. We hire some guides to show us around the main island the tiny little ones dotted around. The tour includes a small Maya museum on a small island and a long climb up a tree-lined hill. At the summit you get amazing views of Flores. The tour also includes an animal sanctuary that has exotic animal (parrots, crocodiles, monkeys, jaguars, pumas, tigers etc) in tiny cages. I hated seeing these beautiful creatures confined liked this and this depressed me. Later, I took a swim in the middle off the lake. The water was perfect but I was afraid of piranhas (I think the guides were taking the piss).

In the evening, we bumped into the South African couple again and had a few drinks. We swapped emails and said we´d stay in touch.

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More birds
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Guy fishing
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Kevin as Bono
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Nice view
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Our "guides"
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Tree
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Swimming in the lake which has piranhas according to our "guides" think they were taking the piss
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Finally some pus...oh nevermind
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More nice views I´m sick of them
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Travelling is really hard work

Posted by Señor Usuf 16:42 Comments (0)

Guatemala

Beautiful lake-side views

25/11/09 - Flores, Peten, Guatemala

Random facts>>>Belize has a small Chinese population. I didn´t know that.
What I´m worried about>>>border crossings. There are loads of blokes with massive assault rifles and shotguns.

We made our way to Guatemala from Chetumal. There are only two buses going: one at 5pm and one at 6pm. So it´s an early start.

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On the way...

The bus journey would take nearly 10 hours which combined with the 8 hours on the bus yesterday and the 5 hours the day before means we have spent 23 hours on the road in rickety old buses in the last 72 hours. It´s knackering. Our plan is to cut across the top of Guatemala via Flores, pop into the Mayan ruins at Tikal, and then head back to Mexico via Belize.

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"Coach" breaking down
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My feet
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Belize City

On the way we meet a really nice South African couple, Mike and Tanith. They are also going to Flores and will be spending a few days there. We swap tales and anecdotes about travelling (they have been travelling for over 16 months now and after visiting a few more countries in Central America, will finally be going home). We meet up with them in the evening for the few drinks in a great restaurant with stunning lakeside views.

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View from hotel - nice
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Drinks with Mike and Tanith

The bus journey itself, through Mexico Belize border and Belize Guatemala border passed without any major incidences. The scenery along Belize and Guatemala is beautiful, with bright green plains and mountains in the distance. We reached Santa Elena, the town opposite Flores, just before lunch. Because lunchtime for us has become roughly 4 o´clock.

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Santa Elena is a scruffy town without any redeeming features, apart from the fact that it is the largest town nearest to the ruins at Tikal. From Santa Elena, Flores is a short distance and is a mojor contrast. It is a lovely little island with a gorgeous lake. Our hotel has good views of the lake from the balcony. We decide to spend the next day faffing around the island.

Posted by Señor Usuf 16:33 Comments (0)

On the Road to Guatemala

But have to stop off at Chetumal

24/11/09 - Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Annoying habits>>>Over-using the antebacterial handwash

We caught the `luxury`bus in then morning to Chetumal. The first thing I notice upon embarking the bus is the urine smell. So much fior luxury.

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Crocs!!
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A bar

We are moving away from the Gulf of Mexico side of the country back to the Carribean side, to the capital of Quintana Roo, 15km from the belize border. If you´re heading south to Belize or Guatemala, like us, then you can´t avoid Chetumal. Otherwise most people would.

Obliterated by Hurricane Janet in 1955, the city is a hodgepodge of modern concrete buildings and a few old wooden houses with porches that remain from the settlement´s earliest days.

There are no ´sights´ as such here but everything is cheaper than in other parts of Mexico. After taking a wander down the town and a few drinks later we do manage to get into a spot of bother by deciding to walk back to our hotel, which is quite far from the centre. We promptly get lost late at night and the streets start to look more and more menacing. Cars going by kept beeping their horns. I wasn´t sure if this was to warn us or something. We decided this was very dodgy and headed back towards the centre and hailed a cab. The taxi driver looked very dodgy and already had a person at the front so the three of us had to squeeze into the back. Things got really dodgy when the taxi driver turned into a road away going away from our hotel and we started to worry a little. But it turned out he was only dropping off the guy at the front. Phew!

Tomorrow we cross borders into Belize then Guatemala. Proper travelling.

Posted by Señor Usuf 16:31 Comments (0)

The Biosphere

Flamingos, jungles and ´petrified´forests

23/11/09 - Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan State, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

What I am worried about>>>the multitude of insect bites on my leg
Random occurrence>>>spotting a massive rat outside the hotel room

The main reason to visit Celestun is the flamingos, though the little village on the beach is a calm, serene place. There is a 2 and half hour drive there on a second class bus which have no toilets. This meant I spent the whole journey fretting about whether I can make it all the way without needing to ask the driver to stop somewhere. Luckily I made it but I made sure the return journey was pleasanter by not drinking anything the rest of the day.

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A "petrified" forest
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Some nice birds
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When we got to the village, we hired a boat to give us a tour of the biosphere. The tour includes stopping to gaup at flamingos and other types of birds I don´t know the names off. It also takles in a visit to a ´petrified´forest, a spooky swath of salt-choked trees.

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Tomorrow we will be moving on from Merida and taking an 6-8 hour bus to Chetumal, necessary stopping point before moving on the Guatemala through Belize. Exciting times.

Posted by Señor Usuf 16:19 Comments (0)

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