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Erica's Travel Adventures


GUATEMALA | Wednesday, 27 February 2013 | Views [358]

Flores, Tikal, Rio Dulce, Livingston


A couple of weekends ago I finally made the long trip to northern Guatemala to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal.  It was incredible!  I went with two of my roommates, Dave and Noah, and there were a few others on the trip as well including our friend Katie, Katie’s new roommate Sarah, a really nice guy named Brayden, and a woman in her mid 50’s named Julie. It was a really good group.  Friday morning we left at 8:00 AM and drove straight through pretty much the whole day.  We stopped in Rio Dulce for lunch and then finished the drive in Flores around 5:00 PM.  We went for a walk around the town and then had a couple of drinks before dinner.  After dinner we had a few more drinks and then went to bed early because we had to be up and ready to leave at 7 the next morning for Tikal. 


Poor Sarah was awake most of the night throwing up from food poisoning, but she still did the whole day at Tikal.  We left the hotel around 8:00 AM and drove the 45 minutes to the national park where Tikal is located.  On the way, we picked up our guide.  He was a really nice and very knowledgeable indigenous man who spoke English, Spanish, and an indigenous language. 


*background information on Tikal*

Tikal was built by the Mayans and was a massive city with temples, housing, and thousands of buildings.  It is all made of limestone.  It was only discovered about 50 years ago because the jungle had grown over it and concealed the entire city.  Now, most of Tikal is still under the jungle and is still being excavated.  Unfortunately, there is not a lot of funding for these excavations and it is a slow process. 


Along the main path we saw the canal system that the Mayans used that, except for some added cement, is still the original thing.  Our guide took us first to see the area where the royalty and upper class lived.  There were a ton of massive limestone buildings.  It is incredible how everything has lasted so well for so long.  Next he took us to see the temples  etc. in the central area of the mtetropolis (one of the temples was used in filming one of the Star Wars movies).  People used to be able to climb that main, massive temple, but one year, 5 tourists fell off and died so they decided it was probably not a great idea.  That thing is really steep.  It looks stunning, but I would not want to climb it to pray all of the time.  We also saw a lot of sacrifice altars.  There were at least 9 or 10.  These people liked to sacrifice each other, apparently.  In one of the rooms we saw a huge face that was meant to represent the rain god.  We were able to climb some of the smaller buildings, and even those were high enough to have great views of the area.  The steps were huge which I thought was interesting because the indigenous people are all very tiny. 


After the central area we moved on to see another couple of temples.  One is really high, and we couldn’t climb up the actual thing, but they built stairs to go up the side and eventually be at a beautiful lookout point near the top of the temple.  We could see acres of jungle with temples poking out the top.  It was very cool.  We also saw some monkey, wild turkeys, and attempted to see a tarantula but none would leave their holes in the ground. 


After Tikal we were all exhausted (it is a really hot region of the country).  We stopped for lunch in the town that we dropped our guide off in, and then drove back to Rio Dulce.  Rio Dulce is a beautiful river that feeds into the Caribbean Sea.  It took about 4 or 5 hours to get there, and when we stopped it was pouring rain.  We got to our hotel and dropped our things off and then went to catch a boat to go for dinner.  It was an interesting experience being on the boat.  All of the power went out in the city and we were in a small boat in the middle of a massive river with no light except for the small flashlight our driver brought.  And it was also pouring rain still.  Luckily, we made it to the restaurant in one piece.  The food was Mexican, and wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but I was hungry.  After dinner we went back to the hotel and then walked around the town a little bit trying to find bars that were open.  Even though it was a Saturday night, the bars all closed around 9 or 10, I think because of the rain.  There was a club right across from our hotel that was blasting music so loud until midnight that our rooms were vibrating.  We didn’t go there because it cost a lot to go in, but it was really annoying having the music so loud.  Eventually we ended up in one of the hotel rooms hanging out playing games. 


Sunday morning we went back to the same restaurant for breakfast.  It was a much easier boat ride in the light without rain.  After breakfast we went to another part of the river to see a Spanish castle from the 1600’s. It was really cool.  It had a dungeon and kitchen area, a courtyard, and a few other rooms.  Next we stopped at an area on the river that is a natural hot springs.  It was so weird because in some areas it was cold but you could move 5 inches and the water would be hot.  Some areas were scalding.  When we got out we were all red from the water being so hot.  Then we kept going on the boat to the end of the river where it feeds into the Caribbean.  Right there is a town called Livingston.  We went passed the town and stopped in an area that was meant to have some pools of water and nice waterfalls.  We hiked a little ways and ended up passing the area we were supposed to stop at because there was no water flowing as the waterfalls.  The creek was really dry, but it was still a nice hike and pretty to see.  On the way back we stopped in Livingston for lunch.  It is a whole different feeling than the rest of Guatemala.  The majority of the population are black and they speak their own language, as well as Spanish.  It was very tropical.  It was interesting to see the different aspect of Guatemalan culture in this secluded area.  After lunch we headed back to the shuttle and drove the 5 hours back to Antigua.  I was very ready to get out of the car, but Tikal was the most incredible thing I have seen here so it was absolutely worth the drive.    

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