Waking up at 4am and packing up for our day trip to Tikal, reportedly one of the most spectacular ruins in all of Mesoamerica. We were outside the streets at 4:30am in the dark waiting for a shuttle that we really aren’t sure what it looks like but were told would pick us up at the hotel. A bus did drive by, but didn’t bother to stop for us at all. 30 minutes went by and by 5am, other tourists began to show up, waiting for their 5am shuttle. Well, we got a bit upset, thinking the guy on the street who sold us the ticket may have just scammed us or something, but eventually the shuttle did come, asked who we were, took the ticket from us and made us walk 200m to another shuttle. Strange, but we got on something and sat in the front seats.
There are MANY stories of armed robberies on the roads of Guatemala, but even more about robberies that happen on the roads between Flores and Tikal, during the dark or even in broad daylight!! Despite being tired, Alan drifted in and out of consciousness, fearing every motorist or bystander on the side of the road. Seriously, who stands on the side of the road or rides their mopeds at 5am??
We arrived into Tikal, grabbed a sandwich and were on our way to a guided tour. Strangely enough, somehow things just seem to work themselves out in Guatemala (note: this will drastically change by evening).
The centre of the classic Mayan period, Tikal is an amazing relic from the height of the Mayan civilization. Inhabited by people from 400BC-900AD, this is probably the most impressive Mesoamerican ruin we’ve seen so far. Located within a massive national conservation area, Tikal is situated in “true” jungle setting making up 50% of the conservation area. We walked well over 4hrs without even seeing the whole complex. Some parts of the complex are still undiscovered, while others are left unexcavated to preserve the biodiversity that has grown around the ruins.
Our guide, Jose, did a fabulous job of walking us through the ruins, and also showing us some of the wildlife and fauna that grows in the region. He even found a tarantula for people to ‘play’ with! We literally walked through the jungle, and really got a sense of how massive this ruin was. And walking up to the highest temple, you get a spectacular view above the tree line, looking over the jungle with several other of Tikal’s pyramids rising above the trees amidst a cast of fog.
The whole Tikal experience, like all the other ruins we’ve been to, is difficult to describe. That being said, Tikal was definitely one of the most impressive of all the ancient ruins we’ve been to on this trip. The only problem is the location, as some people would find it difficult to be in this area!
So after our tour, we took the bus back into Flores to recoup our energy before we take our night bus. We surfed the web, drank a few mojitos and ate a nice meal at the same place we ate yesterday. We went back to the hostel, took a shower, and arrived at the front of the parking lot where were told the bus would come. The bus ticket says 10pm, so we got there at 9:45pm just in case. We waited until 10:10pm, and thinking the bus was coming at 10pm “Guatemalan time”, we went around to ask just in case. They helped us call a phone number after constant urging by us, and the answer was: “The bus already left and is in the bus station in town. It will wait for you there, just take a taxi over now.” …. WHAT? How did we miss the bus?? Problem #1
We asked what the cost of a taxi was, and the hotel concierge said 25Q. We go outside, flag down a taxi driver who’s calmly smoking his cigarette, we tell him 25Q to the bus station (which is not more than 2km away). The taxi driver, unwavering as he takes a drag from his smoke, tells us “40Q”. After a long back and forth debate, we felt like being ripped off and didn’t want to budge, but considering we were in a hurry we had no choice, so we hopped on. The moment we got onto the taxi, some scantily dressed girl from the bar across the street runs across and hops into the front of the taxi. WTF? Anyways, on the mainland (as Flores is a island), the place looks 100x more creepy and security guards walk around with guns everywhere.
We got to the bus station, run inside and asked the people where the bus was….. nobody spoke English, but pointed us outside where we saw nothing but an empty parking lot. A nicer gentleman from El Salvador helped us out by saying “They say the bus already left!” W T F. We looked for the ticket booth, but they were already closed !?!??! Then who the fuck did the hotel concierge talk to?? We felt totally gypped…. The nice man from El Savador helped us to find a phone to call, but nobody picked up at any number the phone attendant found…. A second problem arose, we had to get back onto the island…but we’re out of cash! So we though, maybe we can walk to the ATM and get some money. We asked the phone attendant if it was safe to walk outside, the response was quick and authoritative: “No”. Okay, well now we feel much safer.
Walking outside to fetch a taxi, someone runs up to us and asks if we needed a taxi. Sure enough we did and we followed this man. He walks outside, and opens the door to a red 1989 Corolla, with no taxi symbol and faded out sign on the the side. There’s a lot of talk about dangers and robberies with taxis in Guatemala, but since we knew the route and exactly where we need to go, we risked it anyways. The cab took us to Flores safely, and we had to go into an ATM to pay him back.
We ended up back at the hostel, and the owner gave us a strange look. And we headed straight off to bed in frustration. Tomorrow will be a better day…..