*This is part 2 of 2 of Guatemala. Part 1 is in a different post below.*
The following day, we took a domestic TACA (the national carrier of several Central American countries) flight to Flores, a northern town, to visit Tikal. Tikal is arguably the best extant Mayan city left preserved in the world. What Chichen Itza has in sheer size, Tikal has in enormity in both the structures and the site itself.
Spread over 50 square kilometers, Tikal is a testament to the grandeur that was the Mayan civilization. The prosaically named Temple I and Temple II rest 20 stories above La Gran Plaza, ominously exposing reliefs of warriors and jaguars. Tikal literally contains dozens of massive temples and thousands of other objects. How else do you describe something as amazing as Tikal? “Breathtaking” just seems a little too dull. Being in the heart of the rain forest lowlands (we were only a few miles from the Belize border), we had to take anti-malarial medication, as the disease lives among the jungle mosquitos.
After climbing (and getting bit by those crazy jungle ants you see on the Discovery Channel) through Tikal for hours, we spent the remaining time before our evening flight back to Guatemala City in the city of Flores. Flores, located on an idyllic, though incredibly small island (its roughly a half kilometer squared), is much like Antigua, though it has a much stronger Caribbean vibe, probably due to its extreme proximity to Belize and the northwest part of the aforementioned cerulean sea). We ate some tacos with black beans, chicken, and guacamole while watching the sun set over this little slice of paradise. Third world, yes, but Eden by another name.
The final day, we spent in Antigua, our home base in the country. More lazy exploring of ancient ruins in an ancient city, more haphazardly discovering amazing little places to eat, and drinking world class Guatemalan coffee – not a bad way to spend a warm autumn day in Central America.
I never knew I could or would have such a rewarding experience in Guatemala. For a country that has been so afflicted by violence in the past is just now beginning to appear on the American off-road travel scene, though it is still plenty removed from the “normal” sites in Mexico and dare I say, Costa Rica. Too many Westerners there, especially the latter.
On the agenda for December: Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia, here we come.
We took an early morning flight from Guatemala City to Flores to visit Tikal and took an evening flight back. We flew TACA, the supranational flag carrier of Central America for the 200 mile flight.
Arriving at Tikal, an ancient Mayan city that rivals and arguable outshine Chichen Itza as the best of its kind. Truly a world wonder.
Me by a map
This was the easy part of the jungle path - stairs! What a luxury in the rain forest!
An ancient house, covered in verdant moss of a thousands shades of jade
The backside of the prosaically named Temple I, rising 68 meters into the sky
Trying to reach the front side of Temple I and the Grand Plaza. Jumped (and later slide) through this ruins
Ah, at last. The Grand Plaza of the one of the greatest cities ever to be built.
Ruins directly adjacent to the Grand Plaza. The straw was obviously added by the park caretakers.
Shalom, Temple II on the north end of the Grand Plaza. Later, we would climb the hastily built stairs on the side for striking views of the cleared land in the Guatemalan rain forest.
Said stairs to the summit of Temple II. It was more like climbing a very steep ladder turned on its side.
The majesty, the grace - Temple I from atop Temple II. The two mighty monoliths stare at each other across the Grand Plaza.
The Plaza (not in Beverly Hills)
Dad looking introspective
Me in front of Temple I
Slightly farther out with the rest of the Grand Plaza in sight. From atop Temple II. Also, AUC (American University in Cairo) should be sending me a check for all the basically international free endorsements I'm giving them.
Continuing to explore the 50 square kilometer complex that was and is Tikal
Etched face on the side of a stone wall
We saw several coastis, animals related to raccoons that look like anteaters, lazily wandering throughout the ancient city
Me with a ritual carving used by Mayan spiritualists
Nearing the massive Temple V, the largest in the compound
Looking up the front of Temple V
Me in front of only a partial view of the front stairs. Really, Temple V is huge!
From the top, one is able to peer into Belize in the distance
More ancient ruins, more climbing, and more slipping and falling on the slick moss
There are literally thousands of structures to explore in Tikal. This reminds of that old show Legends of the Hidden Temple.
Hola, grey fox
After a quick jungle rain shower, we were back in action. Making our way out of Tikal after a long day exploring. Me in front of the mighty Temple I again.
Nearing the exit
Dad in a hidden temple
After Tikal, we still had a few hours before our evening flight back to Guatemala City and Antigua. We went to the city of Flores, a colorful little capital (of the northern Guatemalan state of Petén) located on a VERY small island.
A mooring for a shallow boat in the lago
Tuk-tuks are all over Guatemala...
...as are sketchy scooters that are way overloaded with people!
Rounding the northern side of the island. Boots here were willing to take you to the other side of the lake, "the mainland"
She made us an early dinner snack for 50 cents. I think she also said something about recycling - an area where my conversational Spanish is lacking!
Saturday evening is a time in Flores when families come out, set up their little food stalls and mingle, as children fly kites and play among the gentle waves
Sno-cones are all over Guatemala. I think the last time I ate a sno-cone was maybe 15 years ago.
Kids jumping off the pier into the silky waters of the lake
More locals out and about
More like adiós - it was time to head back to the airport. What a long day!
I just really liked the color of the house
Flores is a very colorful island with strong influences from the Caribbean (the sea is only short hop away through Belize)
Another (blurry) Flores street scene
What a long day Saturday was! Waking up super early for a morning flight to Tikal, hours of ruin-climbing and city-exploring (Flores), we made it back very late to Antigua. Our final full day, Sunday, we devoted to Antigua - slowly meandering through the cobblestone streets, finding hidden little food gems along the way, and lots of world class Guatemalan coffee!
Me in front of yet another one of Antigua's many ruined churches.
Even exceptionally poor people (and Guatemala is a very poor third world country) have beautiful tile lining the outside of their homes
The main mode of intercity transport by the native Guatemalans are the chicken buses. Always souped-up school buses with flames or other over-the-top decals on the side, they have been a source of murder in the country (they are often packed to the brim). The government has tried to develop alternative public transportation options, but the chicken buses remain the king.
The Spanish Embassy is in Antigua, not the capital, Guatemala City
Sunday is a busy day for local life in Antigua
Got some great orange juice from this man
Antigua's famous arch from a distance
Traditional Mayan street peddlers playing music for the hope of hope quetzales (~8 quetzales = 1 USD)
El Arco, again
No idea, but it smelled great
Some sort of bread to be stuffed with chicken, black beans, cheese, and vegetables