Today Alex, Ty, Jill, and I all went to Tikal together to see the largest excavated Mayan ruins in existence. It was a forty minute ride northwest from Flores winding through some small villages and then into a Tikal National Park. Riding into the park was great fun because of all the animal road signs. We’re used to cow and deer, but anteater, jaguar, monkey, and snake were something new. We pulled into the parking lot, locked the bikes up, and started chatting with a Guatemalan who was talking about the student rate discount.
After hassling him for about twenty minutes and making sure that no tips would be involved, we decided to take him up on his offer. The normal price for entry was 150 quetzals, around $20. He said he could get us in for 125 quetzals at the student rate and we decided to let him take care of it. We figured he would finagle some deal through a friend and collect a little off the top of each of our entry charges.
Instead we walked past a crocodile infested lagoon, watched as he tipped a park guard, and then hiked through the trees on a barely visible trail that led around the entrance and into the park. We asked if we needed ticket and he laughed ‘I am your ticket!’. Ty made a good point that we were shorting an already starving government, but at this point we were in too deep and along for the very entertaining ride. Eventually he brought us to the main park map and said goodbye. Student rates.
From here on out I half-jogged about five miles running up and down pyramids and through every ruin I could find. We started at the Grand Plaza, which consisted of two massive temples and two acropolises with a quad in the middle. Tikal is much more regulated than Caracol so there were some limits to what I could explore this time. Even so, I hiked every stair and rounded every corner at my disposal looking for all the hidden treasures of the Mayan ruins.
I came across some pretty good finds in my adventure. My favorite was a gloomy dark arch that lead to a spiral staircase up to the second floor of the ruins. There were also plenty of empty rooms and abandoned hallways that really got me going. One room in particular was tucked back behind a couple arches down a long hallway and inside was a single lit candle. None of the other rooms had candles, so this one carried a little more weight when I discovered it. If only there had been some hidden doorways or falling ceilings to really seal the deal.
There were six temples in total and I saw all of them. The park is huge; over 16 square kilometers of 3,000 different structures dating back 2,500 years. And I was sprinting through the whole thing taking it all in. Temple four is the biggest and it stands 65 meters high. The top overlooks the vast Guatemalan jungle with all the other temples poking out over the canopy. Throw in the monkeys, anteaters, and toucans, it was quite an experience. I left exhausted and fulfilled.
On the way back we came across a great surprise: Charlie! We knew he was in the area but couldn’t make direct contact with him. Seems fitting that we would fly by him on our way out of Tikal just as he was entering. We decided to meet up in Flores that evening and have since done so. Charlie has been riding with a new friend Patrick and Sarah as well. Tonight we are going to have a Baja reunion party before splitting off in our separate directions again tomorrow. Today was marvelous. I’ll put pictures up when I get a strong connection. Internet has faded a bit after leaving Mexico.