An Awfully Big Adventure... travel blog

Tikal, Ceiba tree - you can't really make it out, but there's...

Tikal; Temple II

Tikal; Temple of the Queen

Tikal; Upper Courtyard

Tikal; view from Temple IV over the jungle

Monkey magic

More monkey magic

More monkeys - bit grainy sorry!

Are you sick of monkeys yet?


So, you're wandering about Tikal, admiring the ruins, thinking it's quieter than you expected. You also notice that there seems to be a rather large number of the army wandering around the temples with guns bigger than they are. However, you tend to think it's just normal practice for the area, nothing really seems out of the ordinary. Then you get back to Flores, head out for some dinner and start chatting to a Canadian couple who nearly choke on their food when you mention you've been at Tikal that day. They then rush to tell you that a tour group was robbed at gunpoint the day before inside the temple complex...

Yes, it's amazing what your tour guide doesn't tell you. Benedicto had spent the journey through Peten to Tikal telling us of the wildlife we would see (spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tarantulas, snakes, anteaters, maybe jaguars if we were really lucky, but kept us blissfully ignorant of the previous days happenings. No wonder the bloody site was quiet! All of us on the trip had left too early to hear any of the news for that day, so I guess he was afraid that if we knew we'd all be demanding our money back and a speedy shuttle back to Flores!

That being said, there was absolutely no trouble in the park (probably in large part to the small Guatemalans with very large guns), though our group fascination with the ruins was somewhat overtaken by our childish glee in monkey watching (or dodging as at one point the little blighters decided it would be fun to throw various fruits of a tree down at us - I'm sure it was entirely accidental on their part and only caused by their violent jumping from branch to branch).

Tikal was interesting - it's actually quite difficult to take in the scope of the ruins as it's a vast site, and it's still being excavated by archaeologists. Makes you curious as to how different it might look if you were to come back in ten years or so. With some of the temples, they've only reclaimed the upper levels back from the jungle, so the lower levels are still lost in grass and plants. Or the front of a temple might be exposed but the back of it just looks like a hill. Everywhere you walk you see great hillocks, and you wonder if it's a natural piece of the landscape or if there's a great temple or dwelling hiding in the depths.

We hit all the high spots, Temples I-IV, El Mundo Perdido (The Lost World - the observatory used by the Mayans in this particular site, a spectacular, huge flat topped pyramid). It's not allowed to climb the majority of these sites anymore, but you can climb to the top of Temple IV, by means of a very easy (ha ha!) staircase they've erected around the side of it. You get a spectactular view of the other temples rising out the flat jungle, though the amount of scaffolding that you're bracing yourself against is a bit of a worry. Another beautiful feature was on the Northern Acropolis, which used to be guarded by four giant faces. Now there is only one in situ, and it's a bit difficult to get a good photograph of it due to the angle, but hopefully the one above gives you a bit of a flavour!

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