This is the one photo of me I got someone else to take.
On my final day at Tikal I woke up early to go on the sunrise tour. I reported to the hotel lobby at 0340 (a bit of a harrowing trek to get there; they had turned out the path lights and as I was walking a big ole’ spider descended from the trees into the path; I skirted it) to find a large and kinda boisterous group of Americans waiting to go. We set out and were supposed to split into two groups; a Spanish group and an English group. I was with the English group until we got to the gate. There, we discovered the Americans didn’t have sunrise tour tickets so they left and I was with the Spanish group. Fine by me. We wandered up through the park to Temple IV, pausing at group N I think to talk about the stelae and stuff. As we hiked through the woods it was nice to just listen to the forest.
We got to the Temple and ascended the stairs. I was in front and was in fact the very first person at the top of the temple that morning. So that was kinda neat. My Spanish group came up behind me and as the morning went on more people trickled up of course. I had arrived at the top at around 0500. I would say at 0530 the forest got a little boisterous with the howler monkeys calling to each other from across the valleys. At this point the sky was had maybe of hint of brightening. It wasn’t a good sunrise morning, as it was overcast, but as the guide pointed out we are in the rainforest (so, you know, expect clouds). Some things I liked about being up there were watching the flashlights snake through the trees making their way to the temple. I thought it was like a procession before a ceremony. I liked being up there with people because I felt that it was something the Mayans would have done, watching the sunrise together. There was one American couple with some nice camera equipment (phone Steadicam thingy), but they kept shushing some Japanese ladies that were up there with us. The Japanese ladies would talk and most gallingly for these people their phones weren’t on silent. I don’t know why the ladies were looking at their phones but I am on their side; they paid for their ticket too. No one cares if their dings are getting into your instagram videos. Despite that I liked the communal nature of the experience. There was a family to my right with small kids, talking quietly with each other and just enjoying the company of family. Another woman eventually came and sat next to me. Later I learned her private guide never showed up so she was worried he stole all her stuff, and had only gotten into the park by joining another group.
People at the top of the temple.
At the top of the temple we listened to the forest wake up. Twittering birds and monkeys calling each other, and frogs croaking along. There were monkeys swinging around in the trees just below the top of the temple so that was cool. I wonder what they were doing all the way up there? I think I saw a bat flit by while it was dark. Eventually the sun came up more fully, directly ahead of us from the temple (though we couldn’t see it), illuminating the other temple tops in the park. Then at about 0630 it was time to go and I descended the temple with my guide. We walked slowly back to the entrance passing by some more temples. He was kind enough to explain things to me in English after speaking in Spanish, but mostly I was anxious for breakfast. Good end to my time in Tikal.
After breakfast I went to go do some souvenir shopping. That went fine and I bought some bone carvings (one for me, one for my brother) and a bracelet for another friend, which the lady threw in free. My left leg starting hurting a whole lot, like shooting pains, so I hobbled back to the room and took some ibuprofen and read some until it was time for me to go. I checked out and then went to go see where my bus was going to show. On Friday the guide had told people to wait at the restaurant, but I wasn’t sure that was right so I waited at this information booth thing where I could see the road in front of the restaurant and the parking lot. Eventually a driver from one of the busses came over and asked if I was going to Flores. I showed him my ticket and some broken Spanish later he agreed to take me; I guess they have a pool arrangement. But then I got passed through a series of very friendly drivers who found me a spot. So that was very nice. As we were going around for passengers, I saw the girl from the temple who recognized me and waved; she was wearing a dress she wasn’t before so I guess she got her stuff back. Then we were off for Flores. I had to work to stay awake so I could look out the window. What I saw was some people playing soccer in a basketball court, so that was neat. I also reflected the Maya didn’t have any large grazing animals, so the landscape you see now outside the park wouldn’t be totally the same because they wouldn’t have grazing land for cows. I also wondered what the average Guatemalan house was made of because I saw a pit that could have been for brickmaking but I don’t know if they use mud bricks. I think it is mostly cinderblock. I also saw something that looked like a monument to a plane crash outside Flores and I wonder what that was about.
I had remembered the guy that sold me my ticket to Tikal saying they had a bus to Yaxha that left at 1230, so I was hoping to make it to the station in time to see Yaxha that same day. We got back at 1215 but unfortunately the busses for that day were “finished.” Disappointed, I took a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel and got a room and decided to have lunch and think things over. I was upset my trip wasn’t as efficient as I had hoped but I had been reading Paul Theroux and he seems to spend a lot of time hanging out reading. So maybe it isn’t all bad. After lunch I went to go investigate travel and was again disappointed to find out that Yaxha busses only leave at like, noon. I was hoping to see Yaxha in the morning and make it to Sayache in the afternoon. I also asked the guy about Aguateca, but again no good news. The travel agencies advertise for Aguateca but there are no group tours; they can arrange solo travel but that becomes very expensive. That travel agency gave me a coupon for a free shot at a place called Sky Bar though. I wandered off around the island and eventually came to the ferries over across the lake. I decided to hop on it and then remembered the reason I was intending to go back to the hotel first was to grab my camera. Oh well; I had my shitty phone camera.
Across the narrow part of the lake from Flores is the very small town of San Miguel. I got over there and wandered up the road to where the guidebook says there is an archeological site. I wandered along gravel roads which was nice actually because I got to see some of rural Guatemala I had been hoping to see. Eventually I came to an actual nice trailer and a guy who works for the department of whatever it is in charge of this stuff (Culture & Sports, I think), who had me sign a book but didn’t charge me an entry fee. Neat. You wander up some stairs to find an observation tower on top of what is apparently an unexcavated temple. They should really excavate it so people will stay here instead of going all the way to Tikal. I admired the views around at the lake and then wandered off to find the stelae the guidebooks talk about. There are lots of paths and I wandered mostly at random until I found a sign for “Acropolis,” which I followed and which lead to a sort of clearing with a single stela under a roof. They should really do some excavation man; there is what is obviously a wall and I am always agog at the thought that the Mayan were just chillin’ where people today are also just chillin’.
After I had my fill of walking, I wandered back and caught a boat back and then took a shower at the hotel. I had the idea to watch the sunset at Sky Bar (given my free shot) so I went there. The place was pretty terrible. I did manage to sit next to two girls from London who were friendly, but I wasn’t exactly suave. In the hour and a half I was at sky bar I managed to only get one beer despite also ordering food so in disgust I left (the girls had already bounced). I found some small mom and pop shop where I had a fairly priced but pretty bad steak, thought I enjoyed it because it was there and the place seemed friendly. They had a nativity scene lit up with flashing Christmas lights though and with like, model Mary & Joseph but a life-size baby Jesus. Also they had an old typewriter like on display near the door. After that I wandered to the top of the island where I thought they had been setting up a party. I mean they had but it seemed like it was going to start later than I was willing to hang out for, so I came back to the hotel and read.
This is a random temple from Tikal. I, too, question my photo choices.