Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tikal And Flores

With my long travel day over I found myself in San Miguel at the Chaltuha hostel across the lake from Flores. I had stayed at the Chaltuna hostel in San Ignacio, Belize and the experience was great so this was a logical choice. I liked that it is across a small lake from the tourist chaos that can be Flores. It was worth the 5Q panga ride back and forth to Flores when I wanted to go get dinner, a beer or to just walk around. However the tiny village of San Miguel had some great food choices that were delicious and about half the price of the trip into Flores such as Q2 Tacos served out of the front door of a local home.

The view of Flores from the Chaltuna Hostel
Flores is the jump off point for the ruins of Tikal, one of the largest Mayan sites in Guatemala and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make no mistake the locals have learned how to exploit tourists at a "popular tourist destination". The Government has also realized that tourist and travelers are going to stop at Tikal regardless of the entrance fee. It was a reasonable $22 to get into the park considering the cost of maintaining the site. It was the cost of transportation and guide from Flores where we get Bonked like sheep. $35 was not brutal considering it was an hours drive each way plus you get a private tour guide of the site. Transportation was a microbus and there were only 8 of us which gave us lots of room to spread out. After being crammed on local chicken buses the ability to have some space, even for a short while, is quite luxurious.

They Mayans were definitely Masters of their era. They occupied territory in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. They were inventors, warriors, builders, scientists, traders, merchants and artists but were also blood thirsty lunatics. Blood being a life force the more they spilled through sacrifice the more they were to appease the gods. I am certainly not going to try and write about the Mayan culture, its History and what effects it has had on modern society, there is volumes of information online for that. What I have come to appreciate is as much as the Inca were masters of their time, the Mayan took that to a whole new level. Then the Spanish showed up and fucked everything up.

The Central Plaza
Tikal is buried deep in the northern Guatemala jungle. There are various other sites of interest in and around the area including the massive El Mirador. Here is a full list of Mayan sites. In the jungle you can hear and see Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, Toucans and colorful parrots along with assorted snakes and spiders.

If you go to Tikal, hire a guide. You can save a few dollars by wandering the site yourself but having a knowledgeable guide take you around can bring the site to life, even if you are a part of a zombie type group following obediently. You remember, they type or people I made fun of in my visit to ruins in Belize.

A panga and a tuk-tuk. That's how we roll in Flores and San Miguel
After my journey to Flores and day in Tikal I had 2 days to swing on a hammock, read and enjoy the quiet that was the Chaltuna Hostel. There were roosters galore but the beer was cold keeping me on a even keel. I am in dire need of a good hike as all this hammock swinging is taking its toll. I will think about that after I wake up from my hammock nap.

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