Monday, September 5, 2011


We took the dirt road around Lago Petén to get to El Remate for a burger overlooking the water. That fuel cost us about Q25 each, but tasted great.

From there, Tikal National Park is only about a half hour away.


(not quite the jaguar the road sign promised, but coati's count for something. Even though they're like the raccoons of Latin America)

Planning on camping at the ruins, we got there mid afternoon to give us plenty of time to check it out. One camping area had concrete pads with roofs over them, perfect for camping in rainy season. But no one was around to watch/protect the camping area. So we asked at the Jaguar Inn if they had camping. For Q25 (around US$3) a person, we set up our tent in a nice grassy spot in their parking lot, and had access to a decent toilet and shower house, as well as their lobby. Being cheapskates, we didn’t splurge on any of their expensive food options, but I’m sure they served fine food, if you’re into that sort of thing.

While we had some interest in getting into the ruins for sunrise, we opted not to do that, mostly for cost. It turned out to be a good decision after all, because the morning was socked in with clouds and would not have provided any sort of view of sunrise. The park opens to the general public at 6am. Entry costs Q150 each. To enter the park at 4am to catch sunrise requires an extra Q100 per person for the entry. Additionally, you must pay the guide for a few hour tour of the park, an extra fee of Q200 each. There was of course some flexibility in the guide pricing, but nonetheless, that would have been around US$50 per person for the day. No, thanks.

We set the alarm early, entering the park around 6:15am and had much of the ruins to ourselves, or at the most, shared areas with a couple of other small groups. Major tours didn’t seem to arrive until closer to 10am.

Temples I and II are on the way back to Temple IV, where the sunrise tours usually head to immediately. Tikal is amazing for the height and immensity of the ruins.

(Temple II sticking out above it all)

(Temple I, but just barely...)

(...a little better view. Also known as the Jaguar Temple)

(I think this guy´s name is Larry. He´s a quiet one.)

There are also many low-lying ruins found throughout the jungle, some with more of the structure visible than others. The jungle has an incredible capacity to take over these massive stone structures in just a few hundred years.

(not the best example of an overrun temple, but you can see that the sloped backside of this one has been taken over too)

We made it to Temple IV and climbed the stairs in a light mist to catch a glimpse over the entire site of Tikal. And sure enough, a glimpse is all we were able to get. The view was socked in with clouds.

(tops of Temples I (left) and II (right) in the haze)

We hung out for almost an hour, waiting for a break in the clouds, but eventually decided to go check out some other areas of the site.

(7 Temples)

(Palace, we think...)

(characteristic steps in the temple construction)

Aside from major temples, there were interesting trees, constructed caves, muddy jungle paths, weird jungle growths, and, yes, more huge temples.

After touring for a couple of hours, the day was brighter and the clouds had lifted some. Back up to the top of Temple IV we went. And it was worth the climb. The expansive view of jungle, with towering stone pyramids was impressive.

We hadn’t seen many scorpions since our time in Mexico, but this bad boy set a record for size.

This little guy seemed friendlier (and faster), but we still didn't touch him.

We also heard the screams of howler monkeys from the top of Temple IV, which is a startling sound. Jill was familiar with it from her time in Suriname, but Mike had never heard anything like it before. It’s crazy that these little funny creatures can make such a threatening sound with such volume. Before climbing back down, we were able to catch sight of a few of the monkeys in a tree in the distance.

(black dots at center of image)

So we went on a monkey-hunt. One thing that a sign at the entrance to the park warned us about, in-line with any slapstick movie containing a scene at a zoo, is that monkeys enjoy targeting people with their feces.

(evidence of monkey bombs on the pathway)

Following their screams, we found a vantage point where we watched around 10 howler monkeys move about in the trees above us. It was a highlight for both of us!

(I know, I know. Impossible to see still. Wait for it.. Wait for it....)

(and a king vulture in the neighboring tree)

We also saw a couple of big groups of spider monkeys, which we watched for awhile too. As far as we knew, no monkey bombs were lobbed at us, so that’s cool.

(The best monkey shot we got)

On our way back to camp, we realized how many more groups had entered the park in large tour groups. We were happy to be heading out. We got showered, packed up by noon and headed on to Rio Dulce.

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