Clapping Hands in the City of Sounds... Howler & Spider Monkeys, Wild Turkeys and Coatis.
Flores Travel Blog› entry 10 of 21 › view all entries
The day we left Lanquin was the day after I drank possibly 4 double rum and cokes... needless to say I was not feeling "top of the morning" at 8am, when we were trying to figure out which shuttle we were supposed to be on and why on earth they were faffing around. After about half an hour we finally left, only to stop just up the road, where we had to play musical shuttles again and wait around some more.
When we finally did get going we stopped off in Coban so that people could go to the loo and get out money. There are no ATMs in Lanquin and apparently a couple of girls had a bit of debt to pay off from their time spent in the area. We waited about half an hour in this random car park, with these random loos and random snack shop while these girls argued over what they owed and how much cash they needed to withdraw.
Once back on the road we stopped off for lunch, arriving in Flores late in the afternoon. Flores is actually an island, and to access the island we had to cross a river on what looked like a barge on a pulley system. We all had to get off the shuttle during the ride over, not sure why, but it gave us a chance to stretch our legs. It seemed that everyone in the shuttle wanted to check out Los Amigos Youth Hostel, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) when we got there it was full up so we had to go elsewhere. It was kind of weird because as we arrived easily 8 backpackers were leaving, perhaps they had also just tried to check in. Anyway, our driver recommended The Real Maya.
The Real Maya was a much quieter place, almost like mini apartments, and I was lucky enough to get my own room and bathroom for the same price as a dorm room at the Los Amigos.
Our first full day in Flores was an admin day, and gave us an opportunity to sort out our tour to Tikal - particularly as it's best to get to these larger Mayan ruins first thing in the morning to try and miss all the big tour buses. Our shuttle to Tikal came at 4.30am, so I crazily got up at 3.30am for a shower... only to find that there was no water - it hadn't been turned on yet. Argh. I had hoped to catch up on some sleep on the shuttle, however a French traveler sitting opposite me decided to go in to 20 question mode at 4.
We arrived at the Tikal Nature Reserve just before 6am, and started our guided tour shortly after arriving. Within minutes we saw wild turkeys which are really colourful and coatis which are raccoon like - in fact we saw a whole family of coatis. As we walked along our guide pointed out a howler monkey, which was asleep - he woke it up by calling to it... or... howling, and the little guy did wake up and reply. All I can say is those little monkeys have very big lungs! A little further along our guide stopped again so that we could avoid the monkey pee coming down through the trees... if you did not know better you would have thought it was rain.
The Tikal Mayan ruins are in the middle of dense rain forest, with many of the temples still covered over and yet to be unearthed. Our guide was really good, talking not only about the ruins and Mayan history, but also about the plant and animal life. We were lucky enough to be shown a tarantula spider - massive furry thing, which he saved by moving it back to its hidey hole.
We learnt that Tikal means "The City of Sounds". Each dynasty built two temples directly opposite each other, which were aligned with the stars and the sun in relation to the annual solstices. The acoustics created make sounds reverberate in the forest, such as clapping.
You can climb quite a few of the ruins in Tikal, we started with the biggest which had 360 stairs, followed by the steepest with only about 50 stairs - but it was like climbing up a ladder. We ended the tour in the main court, where we were given time to walk around... climb another temple, explore the ruins, take in the view and watch some local Mayans praying in their own spiritual way.