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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...


GUATEMALA | Friday, 17 February 2012 | Views [1505]

Dark it was with the moon shining as I awoke at 4:30 AM to set out toward Tikal. I didn't need much: just my passport, money for admission and food, and my camera, and I was out the door. With a rock in hand (to ward off dogs) I hoped for some quick rides because I wanted to be at Tikal by sunrise. The first bus showed up, took me halfway around Lago Peten and then dropped me off in Santa Elena. The morning mist was all around me and there were few people on the streets as I made my through town and past the airport. With my thumb out I got a couple of lifts in the backs of trucks to the turnoff to Belize. Most people would look at me very insanely for hitchhiking in Guatemala. The sun was up by then, so I wouldn't be getting to Temple IV in time for sunrise, but it was still very early. The bus from Flores or Santa Elena to Tikal is expensive by Guatemalan standards ($6 for about an hour and 15 minutes) so hitching was my best option since a lot of people would be driving to Tikal in the morning. Eventually I got a lift in the back of a police truck! As the truck whizzed by the buses that passed me earlier, the people seemed to gaze at me like "this guy is out of his mind." In the back of my mind I was hoping the truck would go past the ticket booth but there'd be no such luck. Admission is 150 quetzales (about $20) and a can of Pringles and a bottle of water were rather pricey but not outrageously so for a touristy spot. Tikal may be oft-visited but it sure maintains its air of authenticity and grandiosity! The complex is much bigger than Copan and Xunantunich and it's set deep in the jungle. Quetzals made their mating calls and howler monkeys leaped from branch to branch as I took the long walk to Temple VI, better known as Temple of the Inscriptions.

Though rather uninteresting it's unrestored and very remote compared to the rest of the monument. From there I made my way in to the Grand Plaza. I should note that Tikal has a rather complex numbering system of its temples, stelae, and altars (Temple IV, Altar 16, and Stela 5 are such examples). Temple I has a steep set of stairs that'd be fun to walk up but they're closed off due to a couple of tourists falling to their death a few years ago. Some idiots have even tried to run as fast as they could up or down the stairs, and they appear they'd be dangerously slippery in wet weather. It's not possible to ascend Temple I but you can get that postcard shot from atop Temple II, and like the first temple you can't climb the main stairs.

In a way there's a Disneyland-like atmosphere but ten times more is deep jungle with authentic structures protruding through the canopy. I really feel like I'm back in time! As I strolled I actually felt quite tired, and I didn't understand why I got Pringles instead of bringing along some fruit. Salt will dehydrate you! Temple I is what you see on most Tikal postcards, but Temple IV is the largest temple, and up the modern staircase I went to an absolutely splendid view of the jungle and the protruding temples!

When you look it at from atop Temple IV you'd easily feel like you just re-discovered this ancient wonder! Some people if they're lucky are able to bribe the park guards to sleep on top of Temple IV; that would be amazing to have the stars and then a majestic sunrise on top of an ancient temple! I must say it kind of sounds like my experience at Quirigua last week. In awe I stood up there with a few other people, gazing at the jungle, the temples, and the horizon. It appears as though Temples I and II are about to kiss whilst Temple V watches over the happy couple. Whenever I think of Tikal I think of Sonic Adventure because there's a character named "Tikal" and a temple resembling Temple I. Whilst it was hot there were enough clouds to keep it cool enough to enjoy. I was very tired today! Before coming to Guatemala I had planned a "trifecta trek" that included Tikal, Uaxactun, and El Zotz, hiking between each site and then out from El Zotz to San Jose, but it would be a three-day walk and today my legs were very tired and by early afternoon I didn't even feel up for taking a vehicle up the dirt road to Uaxactun. By the time I descended Temple IV I made my way toward the pyramid. There are guards everywhere carrying sniper rifles and machine guns, but word was that the president of Guatemala would be visiting via helicopter. Temple V has a very steep set of stairs and my temptation got the best of me when I ran up the stairs a wee bit to get a photo. Tikal is so huge and I felt so tired that I wasn't up for visiting the northern half of the site although there are several complexes in the northernmost reaches of the site. In the Grand Plaza I strolled slowly through the Acropolis of the North, getting some final photos before trying to find my way out. My legs were sore today! Despite there being hundreds of Mayan ruins throughout the region, Tikal is very deserved of the hype. As I held out my thumb to head south, a I hear a voice yell out "you're the guy who dropped your bike in the ocean on Caye Caulker." That tempted me to chat with this girl about that before a couple of gorgeous Guatemalan girls picked me up and I was headed back south! Tikal is beautiful; tired as I was it was totally worth the several hours I spent there and I could have stayed even longer. Of the four Mayan ruins I've visited it's hard to say which is my favourite. And whilst Tikal may be the most well-known it sure hasn't lost its authenticity. Those dreams of being deep in a jungle will certainly come true! 

Tags: adventures, maya, ruins

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