Day 5: Guatemala – Tikal

Both our alarms were going off when I finally woke up. It was 6:45 am, so tired. We left our bags at the hotel and waited for our ride. The bus was late and the first one that showed was our tour company, but it wasn’t our bus! Eventually we got on our bus to Tikal! It was over an hour’s ride so we both passed out a bit sitting up in the packed minivan. The tour guide gave some presentation but we couldn’t hear a thing over the roar of the engine. He collected money for the tickets and at the entrance picked up the tickets while everyone sat tight. As soon as we entered the park, we found ourselves driving through a jungle. Thick brush, trees, and vines made a wall around us.

Our bus arrived at the Jaguar Paw hotel where we were herded in for breakfast. There was a huge line and waiting for food was not our top priority. We then decided to walk to the park, but we were stopped because we didn’t have our tickets on us. So we had to wait for the group, but luckily there was a tour guide who had our tickets walking a few people in early. So we went with him and headed straight to the main temples, one and two.

The central square was awesome. We basically ran there and found the square empty which was perfect for photo ops. The likeness to the movie Apocalypto was awesome. We reenacted some of the scenes of course, primarily the holding of the heart in the air and the praying to the temples. After exploring the two main temples, we moved on to Temple V.

On the way, we heard the ancient Mayan celebration chant that went something like this: No Bajir No Bajir, No Subir No Subir, No Tocar No Tocar…

The walk through the jungle path was fun. We found all kinds of strange bugs and spiders. We also saw both Spider Monkeys and Howler Monkeys. The howler monkeys made a ridiculous noise, which was a bit creepy when you’re alone in the jungle.

Temple V was also empty, so we took plenty of pictures. There was a rope over the staircase, which was more of a ladder. We figured we might as well climb to the top since there was no one there anyway. The climb was unnerving, especially if you looked down. But it was all worth it for the view from the top.

Eventually a guard or tour guide told us to come down. We were expecting another “$300 fine”, but he didn’t say anything. The next stop was the “Lost World” which had a group of smaller temples. We heard howler monkey in the tree above us, but couldn’t see it. After searching for a while we noticed, it was a parrot making the howler monkey scream.

We started running into the tour groups at this point, which consisted of 30-40 people per group. We passed Temple III which you couldn’t climb up and made it to Temple IV. Temple IV had a nice safe staircase to the top where there were already plenty of tourists taking pictures. We sat and rested for a bit when a guy sitting next to us mentioned that this is where the scene in Star Wars was shot (of the Millennium Falcon landing). Cool.

On our way back we passed through the main square and I borrowed the machetes from the gardeners for a quality photo op.

Having finished the main attractions in record time we were heading back when we realized there was still a Temple VI. So we walked to that one which took like half an hour, passing more monkeys and termite mounds. How could this take so long? The temple wasn’t very impressive so we didn’t spend much time there. We got back to the hotel where we had some lunch and waited for the bus back. The earliest bus was leaving at noon. Our travel mates from the border showed up as we were eating. They just got there and hadn’t started exploring yet. We briefly said hi before they were off.

Our bus came a bit before 12. We lined up and it was pretty full. Bill and I got the last seats on the first bus back to Flores. We stopped by the hotel to pick up our packs, checking to make sure things weren’t taken while we were gone. Everything was in place. We grabbed a tuk tuk to the bus station. The station was in St. Elena in a poor area of town. We walked into the public bus station and asked around for buses to Chiquimula. After being pointed to different bus companies, we finally found one that had a bus directly to Chiquimula, going via Rio Dulce. It was a step up from the school bus, but not much better. We were in for a long ride.

The bus was local so it stopped whenever there was someone to pick up (which was a lot of people). Our entertainment during the ride was the different salesmen that would stand at the front of the bus to sell to the passengers. Oh there were some interesting sales!

One man dressed like a preacher and sold magic powder that cures headaches, fever, hepatitis, diabetes, AIDS, and bubonic plague! This amazing powder is completely organic and heals everything. Do you know anyone that is sick that could use it? Medicine is very expensive, but this magic powder is not 100, not 50, but only 20 Quetzalles! And get this, you get not one but TWO packets for only 20 Quetzalles! Now who wants to be free of illness raise your hand!

Bill and I sat there shaking our heads thinking what kind of idiot would actually buy that? Well apparently everyone on that bus. In fact I was almost sold and I could barely understand what he was selling!

Other sellers sold similar things, magic pills, weight loss pills, and other stuff. The buses would be packed with hawkers off the street selling mangoes, oranges, drinks, trinkets like nail clippers, and other random goods. The money exchange guys were the funniest. They would come on one after another each asking every single person if they wanted to exchange money. There would be 15-20 people each time.

Money exchange? No. Money exchange? No. Money exchange? No. Money exchange? No. Money exchange? Um… you know what? Yeah, yeah alright sure. You sir with the white hat, no not you (pointing) you!

We couldn’t get much sleep on the bus with all the people getting on and off, plus the yelling at each stop looking for new passengers. It was passed 9 pm and dark when we arrived in Chiquimula. There were only a few passengers left on the bus for the last stop.

The town looked like any town we’ve been in. Low lighting, empty streets, and dogs barking as we got off the bus. A man spoke to us in broken English. “Hotels this way (pointing up the street) This way! This way!” Then grabbed his young son’s hand and quickly walked away. That didn’t make us feel to comfortable standing where we were, so we followed his direction. We strategically walked through the empty streets, sticking to better-lit ones and avoided the ones with shady groups of people standing on the street corner. We asked at a gas station, which was closing, where this hotel was. He pointed down the dark, garbage lined street. Great. We walked up the street with every car slowly down when they drove by us. We could feel the stares. Then we found the hotel. There were no lights on and a metal door with no bell. So I knocked on the door… no answer. Knock again, stop, listen… no sounds of any movement inside. Damn. We would have to find another hotel. This was definitely not the best place to be wandering around with our backpacks at night. Then “click” the little metal window on the door opens and a young guy is looking at us behind the bars. “Hi, uh, do you have any rooms for tonight?” Window slams shut. Tinkering sounds inside… Then the metal door is lifted open. Phew.

The receptionist led us inside and locked behind us. Then showed us a room. We were fine with it. We gave our passports and signed in then asked where we could get some food. The guy pointed to the door. Gee thanks. We walked around but the recommended restaurant was closed. We saw the burger joint was open so settled for some fast food. The place was about to close but the ladies behind the counter were kind enough to grill up some burgers for us. Though they kept laughing at something (probably us). We got a meal to go and ate in our hotel room. It was amazing to lie down. We set our individual alarms for 7 am and passed out.

Click here for my Guatemala pictures

David De Clercq

About David De Clercq

Founder and writer at World-Adventurer.com, David is on a mission to travel to every country in the world and has less than 10 countries left! He loves new adventures, unique cultures, historic landmarks, and luxurious hotels. Follow along as David shares a journey of a lifetime!