at the border between belize and guatemala
Performed my usual morning DEET spray ritual after getting ready, and stopped at Hanna's to buy some water before walking to Mayawalk tours for our trip to Tikal. Tikal!! I'm so excited! I checked in and paid, and once all the people in our group arrived we filed into 2 vans and headed out to the border, which wasn't too far away (maybe 15 minutes or so..).
While waiting at the border, I introduced myself to this guy, Brendan, who was with a group of people traveling for their friends' wedding. He introduced me to the bride and groom, and we were just chatting for a while until it was time to go through border control. On the other side, I met 2 really nice Hollanders - a couple from Utrecht, and they told me that the border fee had to be in Guatemala money of which i had none.
map of tikal at the entrance
.. uh why didn't they tell us that? so i found a money-changer on the street, and got me some quetzals. We switched vans at the border and met our new guide Hugo, and continued on to Tikal. On the way I met 2 ladies from the USO and man did they like to talk, haha. They were nice though and offered me a spot in their taxi tomorrow morning to Belize City, but they were stopping off at the Belize Zoo on the way... which I already saw and I didn't feel like getting peed on again! I kept it in mind i just in case i had no other options and thanked them.
We parked at the Comedor and walked to the main entrance to the site, and the weather today was beautful! Nothing like the scorching heat of yesterday... it was sunny but cool and breezy - perfect pyramid-climbing weather! We saw a huge ceiba tree on the long hike up to Complejo P & Q.
hiking through the rainforest at tikal
.. and then hiked some more to the tallest pyramid at Tikal - Templo IV, which was only partially excavated. We climber up the steep steps, kinda freaky but again nothing like Lamanai (keep in mind i am AFRAID of heights!!!).. and at the top met Brendan's friend Jon, and we all just took in the incredible views. After climbing back down, I was thirsty so i bought a coke - in a BOTTLE - yum! the only way coke should be served in my opinion. and i don't care what anyone says, it DOES taste better from a bottle than from a can!
After that, we all proceeded to the El Mundo Perdido (the Lost World), another complex of pyramids and structures... we got a history lesson from Hugo while watching these crazy kids RUN up and down the pyramid - they were crackin me up! We went to this one impressive pyramid, and it looked pretty steep, but i decided to climb it (this would be the 6th pyramid I climb so far!).
kinda steep, but i'm gonna do it - this is pyramid #6 that i've climbed this trip!
. it was tough getting up, tougher getting down... but the view, once again... i know it's getting old... was incredible. You could see all the temples of Tikal from up here, it was great! Then we hiked through the forest some more and were greeted by an even more impressive pyramid, Templo IV! I think this path is purposeful in that it progresses from smaller to bigger and more impressive structures.. ending on the famed Gran Plaza. Very smart, I must say... so, I opted to sketch instead of climb this one, and thank GOD i did that, because looking at the rickety wooden stairs which were nearly vertical - yeah, no thanks... everyone who did climb said they were freaking out up there. Just imagine if it was me! hahaha.
an unexcavated pyramid
.. whew, crisis avoided!
From here, we headed to THE main sight in all of Tikal - the Gran Plaza. W-O-W! Unbelievable!!! This place is on par with the Great Wall, The Pyramids of Giza, The Colosseum, etc... Definitely, definitely, one of those amazing, breathtaking places that make you think... yes, this deserves to be referred to as one of the great wonders of the world... We walked around Templo I & II and explored and climbed the other pyramids and temples surrounding the Gran Plaza. It was so amazing, I just wish we had more time to just relax and take it all in. Sadly, it was time to go, and we met the rest of ther group in the middle of the Plaza. Standing in the middle like that, and just looking around 360 degrees was amazing, and add to that the sounds of toucans and macaws and monkeys, and it all just created this incredible sensory experience, I was loving every minute.
pyramid from behind the trees
The whole site is almost unique in that it really feels like you are in the middle of the rainforest as you walk and hike around... um, which is probably because it actually IS the middle of the rainforest...! =P
So we all make our way back to the Comedor where we all sat down for our long-awaited lunch. Anything would have tasted good at this point - we were SO hungry and thirsty from all the walking and climbing and hiking, and it was almost 3:00pm! After our very satisfying meal, we boarded our buses and headed back to the border. On the way, we got to stop at the Guatemalan border town of Melchor de Mencos, to visit a craft shop (VERY much like the craft shop we stopped at in San Antonio de Aguas Calientes last year on the way to Antigua! Kinda weird being back in Guatemala only 5 months later - though it is the other side of the country!).
a templo poking out of the rainforest canopy
I was so excited because I found some building models of Templo I & II at Tikal there, which would be a perfect addition to my collection - I collect monuments and buildings from around the world, wherever I travel, and it's cool because when you put them all together it's a mini-skyline of the whole world. =) i'll have to post a picture of it sometime... Anyway, while everyone else continued shopping i went outside and joined the Nederlanders who were just watching the locals go about their business... walking by, talking to their friends... riding by on bikes, chatting on their cell phones. It was just cool to chill and do nothing but people-watch for a while. We eventually went to the border, swtiched buses again in Belize, and continued on our way back to Cayo.
carefully climbing up a pyramid
On the way, I was talking to Brendan and he told me that him and Jon were leaving for Belize City the following day back home to Boston and New York. They rented a car and were planning to drive back in the morning, and he offered me a ride! yes! I was totally happy, how cool is that! He also told me that he really wanted to see Xunantunich and I said I'd go with them and be their guide - that way I could sketch while they climbed "El Castillo". It was perfect, since i didn't have time to sketch it when I was there - actually that's not true - it was too damn HOT to even think about sitting in the sun and sketching that day! They also invited me to go out to the bar with them tonight and of course I was down!
We got back to Mayawalk Tours, said goodbye for now, and I went up to my room to rest and change, and then went back down to get some drinks and snack at the local market down the street.
me & my buddy, templo V
Outside, I met a Garifuna guy who chatted me up - and then apparently wanted to get in my pants! He asked me where I was from, and I said San Francisco... and then he asked me if I wanted any weed... "no thanks", and he said "but it's really good weed", and I said, "we have a lot of that in San Francisco too"... and he said "gays?" (????) ... and i said "nooo... weed". um, ok. and then he asked if he could come up to my room... uh... i said no thanks, nice to meet you, etc. and disappeared quick as i could into the store. After that interesting episode i went next door to the chinese restaurant to buy a phone card - don't ask me why, but this is the place in town to buy phonecards. Weird.
me in front of templo I
So, i bought one from this 6-year old chinese boy, the shopowner's son, who was quite the little salesman. don't they have child labor laws in belize? haha.. i went back to the lobby of the guesthouse to use the phone and make a ton of calls. First to Brendan and Jon to find out what time we're meeting up - 9pm at the bar across from Eva's, cool. Next - called Richard to confirm meeting him tomorrow around 12ish for lunch. Then i tried to call Lana (my sis), who i hadn't been able to call since i left the country, and she was probably freaking out, especially since my parents were in China at the time, and she was all alone in the States right now, haha... and not even knowing if i made it to Belize ok! oops, but she didn't answer.
general view of the gran plaza, tikal
.. then i called Keisha but she wasn't there and i left a message with her coworker... then tried her cell, and she picked up - i told her i found a ride for tomorrow, and i thanked her for everything she helped me plan last minute, i couldn't have done it all without her help - she was awesome!
After relaxing for a bit upstairs, i headed down at about 9pm to the bar, ordered a Belikin, and chilled outside waiting for the guys. A guy mildly harassed me out there for money but i eventually got rid of him because everyone showed up soon after - Brendan, Jon, David, and another couple traveling with them. We all hung out for a while outside, and then the others decided to go back to their hotel at about 10 to play cards with some of the others in their group.
the majestic templo I, gran plaza
Brendan, David and I stayed, and David showed us this awesome bar trick with a cup, coaster, cigarette, and a nickel. You had to balance the nickel on the cigarette on the coaster on the cup, and then somehow get the nickel inside the cup without touching anything! Seemed impossible. We tried to get the waitress to do it, but she was too scared and didn't know what to do, haha, it was funny. So i tried, and i got it in the first time - it was too cool. Then Brendan did it, and it worked again. David said it pretty much works every time. (not gonna tell you how it's done, but one of the pictures almost kinda gives it away... maybe i should delete it...). We were totally amazed, and yeah ok, maybe a little drunk and easily amused too, haha! David then left and Brendan and I kept on drinking and talking about everything, it was cool.
an interesting ceiba tree
So I'm already pretty much tossed at this point (yeah i'm a lightweight for some reason when it comes to beer, but hey, i didn't eat dinner so give me a break!), and Brendan's like let's have another one! haha, so the "beer pressure" worked, and we ordered a 5th beer, and closed the bar down. I don't know how we're supposed to wake up early tomorrow morning! So, we take our beers out into the streets of Cayo (kinda reminded me of New Orleans... well, not really), and then decided to keep drinking back at my place. We went in the house, and up to the balcony and finished our beers up there. It was getting pretty late so we called it a night, and Brendan headed back to his hotel, and I stumbled to my room, haha, and crashed.
our first pyramid at tikal
It was a fun night!