Not every day on a 14 month holiday is going to go exactly to plan. When we first packed up and left the UK we took with us a very British attitude that a holiday abroad must include sunshine and warm weather. On our way we’ve been through it all, unbearable heat, snow storms, tropical gales and everything in between. We accepted long ago that not every day will be dry and prepare for wet days with a smile. Since we have only a few weeks before returning to the UK perhaps it was fitting then that we were treated to a total downpour, preparing us for London in February.
Tikal is one of the largest Mayan ruins in Central America, it’s the poster child for the Mayan prophecy that the world will end on Dec 21st 2012 and so has become a big hit with the tourists. Mentalists will flock here at the end of the year, as the world ends, and dance and stuff in the hope they will be granted pass to the next world or a trip on an alien spaceship or something. Hotels are booked up, prices are rocketing. I want to be there on Dec 20th, buying up all their valuables at discount.
These Mayan ruins have always been on our list as a must do whilst in Guatemala along with Palenque in Mexico. We have crossed off Chichen Itza after hearing underwhelming reports and also we want to spread our time between beaches, towns and ruins. Tikal is famous not just for its impressive temples but also the setting; the site sits deep in the jungle, populated by howler and spider monkeys.
We are staying in Flores, a cute island about an hour away. The town is joined to the mainland by a small road with most hotels overlooking the crystal clear lake. It’s not so touristy, and although there are souvenir tat shops everywhere it still maintains its charm. And it’s cheap. Our hotel room was £11 a night including private bathroom, air-con and cable TV. We set our alarms for 4:00am with a bus to Tikal at 5am. Everybody tells us we must aim to get to Tikal by 7am as there is less chance of rain.
It rained. Not your usual heavy rain, but soaked to the socks in a second rain. Many in our group (we opted for a guided tour, he was a bit crap but you need someone as you can easily get lost at the site) fled back to the café drenched and cold. We had our raincoats but after a few minutes they afforded no protection. After about an hour and a half the rain stopped and even a bit of blue sky sneaked out. We spent about three hours in total around the site, it’s certainly impressive, the steamy jungle adds to the whole experience but in all honesty we didn’t actually like it as much as previous Mayan encounters. Copan Ruins was beautiful, and as our guide told us, was where the artists lived so had many more decorative buildings and carvings. We don’t think our disappointment was too much down to the rain. Maybe after Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu we take some pleasing.
Fun Tikal fact – George Lucas came here in 1979 to shoot a scene for one of his Star Wars films. That made my day. I sat on top of a temple looking out at an immediately recognisable scene and made a few Yoda impersonations.
We had both developed trench foot so headed home and had a quiet day. As per usual in Latin American towns, there was a street festival that night, locals lugged around town some religious gold, that could better be used melted down and donated to the local hospital. The streets were filled, a local band with trumpet fired up and fireworks finished the night. Awesome.