The morning we left for Tikal we got onto a shuttle at 4:30 in the morning and didn’t fully wake up until we tumbled off of the bus at the park entrance to pay the 150Q each entry fee. This was the first adventure after our relatively stationary life of language schools and for two months we had both been really looking forward to seeing such a famous sight. We decided to stay the night in a tent outside of the park and spend two back to back days exploring the area. The few hotels are clustered together in the same general area and the first place we went to rented us a tent for the night, and at 70Q each per night we were glad to at least find an air mattress inside.
From the hotel area outside of the ruins it is about a 20 minute walk to the Grand Plaza and we were so excited to get our first glimpse of the temples that we covered it in no time. Everything was shrouded in mist and made us feel like we were venturing into a long lost jungle untouched by civilization; it also made us realize that leaving so early to see the sunrise was kind of pointless. We were glad to have the extra time though, and the morning flew by in a blur. People aren’t allowed to walk on the main stone steps of most of the temples so there are wooden steps built around the stone structures that can be climbed to get to the top. We ran up and down the temples trying to see as much as we could before too many people started to trickle in. Around noon the lack of sleep and a general feeling of hunger had us returning to camp for an overpriced comedor meal.
Throughout the day we heard howler monkeys hiding in the trees and their moaning howl made us feel like we were listening to a haunted house soundtrack. Eventually we actually saw the howler monkeys, along with spider monkeys, a fox, and a variety of birds. Tikal is such a big place that we stayed easily entertained all day and didn’t ever feel too crowded by other tourists. There are ruins in all stages of discovery and restoration which adds to the mystery and excitement of seeing this place. Mounds of earth that look like any other hill hide more pyramids and some temples are left half buried. Too me Tikal felt like a huge playground where we could explore almost anywhere and climb to the top of some amazing stone structures. To top off our wonderful day we drank contraband wine on the top of Temple II as the sun set.
The next morning we entered the park as soon as it opened and had another very full day exploring some of the smaller ruins on the outskirts of the park. Andy and I both had an amazing time, but by the time the 4 pm shuttle back to Flores showed up we were truly exhausted and ready to leave. Once back in town where we bought direct bus tickets to Belize City leaving the next morning.