Day 42: Parque Nacional Tikal
Tikal Travel Blog› entry 56 of 120 › view all entries
It was good we had gone to bed early, because at 5 in the morning a symphony of bird twitter started, and t
heir performance took place right beneath our window. I think the whole hotel was immediately awake.
After breakfast we took a minibus to Tikal. Tikal is, together with Palenque, the highlight of the Maya route for most people. And rightly so!
Spread out over 16 square kilometres and with over 4000 buildings identified, this was certainly one of the largest cities in the Mayan kingdom (although both Calakmul in Mexico and Caracol in Belize were larger).
But the best feature of Tikal is that it is located smack in the jungle. And where in Calakmul we had seen three pyramids peaking above the jungle canopy, Tikal has at least 10! And because the pyramids are much steeper than elsewhere, they look so much more impressive too!
One of the first temples we visited (a stupidly named Templo IV) is the highest of all, reaching 64 metres.
Tikal is such a wonderful place to visit. Sometimes we walked through the dense jungle for more than half an hour, without much to see (apart from dense jungle) and then all of a sudden we would reach a pyramid or a collection of other restored temples again. It is very easy to get lost here without a map.
The national park is also teeming with wildlife. Everywhere you saw Coati, a kind of raccoon, which have become half-tame because they are constantly fed by people (despite signs everywhere telling people not to, because it eventually kills the animals).
In total it was more than 15 kilometres walking over rough terrain, and in between of course climbing all those temples, which altogether is quite a lot. So we had decided to stay in Tikal for two days, staying in the park itself.
There is some (expensive) accommodation, but we figured this would be a great place for camping. Robbel and I in my tent, while our dad could sleep in a tiny wooden shack that passed for a ‘cabaña’. They used to rent out tents as well in the past, but in my opinion these cabañas were a much better option.
Tally and Laura had figured they would sleep under the stars, but after hearing about all the animals roaming the jungle at night, they opted for a cabaña as well.
When we returned after a full day of walking through the jungle I was shocked. When we checked in in the morning it had been so quiet and there had been only 2 or 3 other tents. By now about 20 motor homes had arrived, with people driving from Alaska to Panama and back (damn, now I’m jealous). There was also a class of American high school kids on a school trip (all I ever got was a weekend Ardennes, did I say I was jealous yet?). And just when I said to my sister "how much worse can this get?" our attention was caught by a bright red truck arriving, the 'Rotel'.
So my idyllic image of sleeping under the stars in the jungle with no one else around seemed shattered...
But we were lucky. Our tent and cabins were far enough from the others to retain some of that image. Tally, Laura, Robbel and I put our mattresses and sleeping bags outside and lay down with thousands and thousands of bright stars above us. It was magic. Everywhere in the jungle you heard the noises of animals. And when you walked you saw hundreds of fireflies lighting up in the trees and the grass. Definitely one of my best nights of camping ever!