A tuk tuk collected us from San Marcos La Laguna and took us to a larger lakeside town where a bus was waiting, it was already nearly full so Craig and I got seats at the front and enjoyed the amazing views over the landscape as we passed. We were driven back to Antigua where we waited for quite a while until another bus came to take us to Guatemala City. After a few hours waiting in an exhaust polluted bus station in a dodgy looking area we boarded a coach and made the overnight trip all the way up to Flores. Arriving in the morning with nowhere to stay we found a place listed in the Lonely Planet and settled in to our cheap private room.
With no money left as we were unable to take any out at the lake or in either cities we'd passed through we went out in search of an ATM. What an ordeal! Flores is situated on a little island accessed by a long bridge. The two ATM's on the island didn't work with our card so we walked across the bridge to the nearby shopping mall, I managed to take out an amount but Craig couldn't and we wouldn't have enough to pay for our hostel, food and entrance to Tikal the Mayan ruins the next day. I tried to take out a second amount but it was denied, what followed was a miserable walk to countless ATM's all across the town with no luck. We tried close to 10. We returned to Flores scratching our heads, what had happened? Had the banks blocked both our cards? We had a chat with the guy looking after the hostel and he had an idea. The owner of the hostel also owns a restaurant down the road, "why don't you ask if you could put your card in the payment machine and they give you the cash back?" Genius! We walked to the restaurant and had a chat with the owner who was kind enough to oblige and it worked! We took out enough to cover all our expenses and she was also kind enough to let Craig use the hostel phone for free to call the bank too. It turned out they had blocked his card 7 times. We hadn't eaten anything due to a lack of funds all day so we took ourselves to a café called Cool Beans and had a lovely brunch wth a view over the crystalline blue lake.
We woke early for a day at Tikal catching the 7am shuttle to (hopefully) get there before the crowds. Stopping at a gate patrolled by guards we bought our tickets and made our way to the entrance, Craig was getting anxious at how long it was taking to get to the ruins as he wanted to be able to photograph the site without too many hoards of people in the way. Tikal is a huge complex of Mayan temples hidden within the jungle, from photographs that I had seen in the guidebook I knew that the wonder would be different to any other ancient temples that we had previously seen. We walked along a path lined by jungle and found our first ruin, a stone structure with a small tunnel to an open square, presumably the structure would once have had a roof of some kind.
We moved on, keen to find the tall temples situated in the main plaza. As we approached Temple I also known as the Temple of the Gran Jaguar Craig looked back to me in wonder, the temple measuring 47 metres was situated up on a bank which made its height even more impressive. We climbed the steep bank and entered the Great Plaza with Temple I on our right and Temple II straight ahead. The two massive temples were next to other huge structures known as the North Acropolis and the Central Acropolis. We didn't know where to explore first. Craig clicked away on the camera as I whirled around trying to capture the whole area in my minds eye. There were a few people dotted about but not nearly as many as I feared we'd be competing for space with. Temple I couldn't be climbed for fear of damaging the stairs and presumably also because of how steep the steps were. We were able to climb to a viewing platform on Temple II via a wooden structure that had been implemented. The view over the plaza was amazing and offered a look over the jungle too.
We descended and climbed the North Acropolis, exploring and looking out over the plaza as it started to get busier with more people. We left the plaza and wandered on hoping to see and explore the majority of the citadel knowing that the sheer size of the site meant that we may not make it to everything. A highlight of the day for me was climbing to the top of Temple IV the tallest temple, it was accessible by wooden stairs which seemed to go on forever, I was quite proud of myself as I managed to climb all the steps without stopping once. The views from the top of the temple were magnificent, all of the jungle could be seen and the tops of neighbouring temples peeked out from the multicoloured canopy. With no safety rail it was a little scary being so high especially with so many people, one accidental bump and you could end up plummeting back to the earth via hundreds of steep stone steps. After visiting several of the smaller temples we returned to the plaza to explore the Central Acropolis which had lots of pathways to walk along and led us to a quiet and hidden away area where we spotted Temple V in the distance just visible over the treetops.
On and on we explored until we couldn't explore anymore. We'd climbed to the top of so many temples, along walls and through jungle. We saw monkeys snoozing in trees and naughty little coati, a furry red mammal notorious for rummaging through bins walking around in gangs. We were lucky enough to visit the majority of the site over the course of a day but our legs weren't happy, they were knackered. Just before leaving we stopped for one last time at the Great Plaza which had become overwhelmingly crowded with tour groups and families with children picnicking. Craig took a few last photographs and then we walked back along the path to the entrance where our shuttle took us back to Flores. As a treat for a long day of walking we went back to Cool Beans café and had veggie burgers topped with refried beans which were delicious. On our walk back to the hostel we inadvertently joined the Semana Santa parade, women dressed in super high heels were holding up platforms which had models of nuns on them. Music blared from a stereo like at a carnival and children were dressed in their finest running around trying to catch a good view of the parade,
The next day we would be up early for another long day of travel; this time from Flores in Guatemala all the way to Mexico via Belize.
🎥 Central America video:
If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them.