Friday, 11 May 2012

Day 11: Tikal ruins

Today was our 5th (and last) ruins visit at Tikal, 1h 15mins north of Flores. We got up at 4am with our travel group, a lovely couple from Switzerland and two Argentinians, got our pick up at 4.30 and it was a very sleepy ride to the ruins. We arrived around 6am, we were told that this was the best time to arrive as it was the quietest time of the day… yet there were at least four other tour group vans like ours queuing to get in, everyone had the same idea.
Temple II (taken from temple I, over looking La Gran Plaza)

It turns out it wasn’t busy at all as it was low season but it was definitely worth arriving early as it was less humid and hot at that time. We were told by a tour guide that we would arrive just before sunrise so we could watch the sun come up over the ruins…total lies, there is no way you can make it in time. The sun had been up for a least 20mins before we even entered the park so do not rely on that selling point! The entrance fee was more expensive for Tikal at Q150 (Quetzales).


 Tikal was by far the best place to spend a day at any of the Mayan ruins. All the ruins are situated amongst thick rainforest, so it a bit of an adventure to discover some of the less obvious ruins. The jungle (named Peten) was alive with (very noisy) tropical birds, anteaters and monkeys (both spider and howler). The forest itself was its own attraction without the ruins. Although, the ruins were the most impressive I have seen, especially in La Gran Plaza which is where all the iconic photographs and postcards are from. There was also the same cool echo acoustic trick which you could hear between the two main pyramids (temples I and II). One of the highlights was climbing up the wooden staircase to the top of the highest pyramid (temple IV). Standing at 64m (212ft) it is the tallest structure in the Mayan region and towers above the Peten Jungle and gives the most spectacular 180° view of a pure green horizon with ruin structures sporadically protruding through the canopy. We spent the whole day learning Spanish from our new friends which was good fun but more exhausting than seeing the ruins!

La Gran Plaza
By the time it reached mid-day we were fairly exhausted so we caught the first return bus to Flores at 12.30pm. The other buses leave at 2pm, 3pm and 5pm. The rest of the day was completely relaxed as we explored the rest of Flores before we got some traditional food at the lake side stalls. We used this opportunity to chat to the locals in our newly acquired broken pigeon Spanish. We were understood thankfully, not bad for only 2-3 days of the language.

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