Adventures in Tikal
Tikal Travel Blog› entry 18 of 23 › view all entries
The marathon overnight bus ride took forever and a day. We took the economy class bus, the cheapest one. Several people told us not to take the bus as it was a target for bandits, and I was pissed when they wouldn't let me put my bag underneath the bus, where I've been told the bandits don't usually go.
Despite its reputation, the bus was pretty comfortable. The luxury bus has A/C and bathrooms, but the economy bus' open windows and toilet stops weren't bad at all. AND, we weren't stopped by bandits. Yay.
The bus was late as usual, and it was already bright morning when we got into Flores. Turns out, all the other tourists had booked hostels in Flores. Our plan was to take our stuff into Flores and then just travel on to Belize after touring the site.
From the Flores bus station, we walked about 15 minutes into town and found the company that runs the shuttle to Tikal. Unfortunately, there's no public bus to Tikal; you have to book a shuttle.
When we got to Tikal, there was no place to put our bags. Apparently, no one else had this problem as they all had places to stay, but since we were moving on to Belize, we had all our gear with us. After getting the run-around by a bunch of people, we finally payed the janitor a couple of dollars to stash our bags in his closet.
By the time we finally got to walk into the park, it was nearing noon. The main train into the park leads by a giant Ceiba tree to a 3-way fork in the road. The middle fork will take you to the main complex. The left path goes a ways out to the Temple of the Inscriptions, and the right fork goes a way out to some far off complexes.
We headed down the middle path. A short walk through the jungle (on a wide, nicely kept trail) takes you to the main complex and Temples I and II.
Also near the main complex are the North and Central Acropolises (Acropoli?). The Central Complex is more secluded and you can climb all over the walls. The North Acropolis is home to two big head sculptures.
Next we took a path down to Temple V, which is the coolest thing in the park. A steep staircase will take you to the top to a breathtaking view over the jungle. It's an exhilerating moment when you first come up over the tops of the trees and realize you can see miles and miles of jungle -- you feel very surrounded my the wilderness. I've heard that if you stay overnight in the park, you can watch the sun rise from the top of Temple V, which would have been so amazing.
Tikal is pretty big, but not so much that it would take more than a day to see. We walked around for about 5 hours and saw many temples and complexes, including the rather far Temple of Inscriptions. We also saw an adorable coati (although I was unfortunately halfway up a temple when it came by), and a war between two types of ants.
Be sure to get in line for your shuttle before it gets there -- we waited off to the side and the shuttle was full by the time we got to the parking lot. We had to wait another hour for the next one.
We asked the shuttle driver to drop us off at the place where the road to Belize intersects with the road back to Flores.
There were a couple of locals who eventually came to wait for the bus too. By now I was routinely speaking in Pigeon Spanish. The funny thing is, the locals seemed to understand my sad stringing of words perfectly, even though my vocabulary consisted of words I'd learned in the past 10 days. It's funny what you can communicate with "Es possible...", "Donde es...", some bus-related words, and a knack for charades.
We were lucky that a local girl came by to wait with us for the bus, as the bus turned out to be an unmarked van bumping happy latin music. She waived it down, and we all got on like one big happy music-bumping family, jostling down the road to Belize in our big happy van.
The ride was a couple hours and it was night when we finally got into Belize. It was odd to be greeted with signs in English (Belize used to belong to Britain, and is still part of the commonwealth, with pictures of the Queen on their money). All the buses on the other side of the border had stopped running, so we had to take a taxi into San Ignacio.