Tikal in Guatemala – December 3, 2010

My day started very early (330am) thanks to some lovely roosters.  I realized as my trip went on, that roosters don’t only crow at dawn…they crow all day and all night.  Fortunately after a few days I got used to them and all the other birds.

I had originally booked my trip to Tikal with Pacz Tours for Sunday (the 5th). But they called Thursday night and said they had another single gal about my age that wanted to go Friday.  It worked out perfect because the river was still too high to do ATM cave.  Pacz Tours picked me up around 730am and we were off.  I was very flattered that they thought Alisa (the other single gal) was about my age…she was 25.

A lot of tour operators send you off to Tikal and then pick up a guide at the Guatemalan border or at Tikal.  Pacz Tours has a guide on staff that is of Guatemalan decent who now lives in Belize.  We were shuttled to the Guatemalan border by Jamal.  Our guide, Juice, helped us navigate the border crossing.  On the other side, there was another shuttle waiting for us.  The road from the border to Tikal had some fairly rough patches.  Juice informed us that the contractor that worked on that part of the road not only did a sub-par job, but it sounds like they ran out of money before finishing it.

Exchanging money at the Guatemalan border was very interesting.  There were guys standing at the border with very large wads of Guatemalan money.  It felt a bit funny giving them money to exchange.  You’d never see anything like that in the US.

On the way to Tikal, we stopped for some photos of Lake Peten Itza.  It’s the largest lake in Guatemalan at a length of nearly 20 miles and about 3 miles wide.  We also stopped at a nice gift shop.  The prices all seemed pretty high until I remember the exchange rate was 1:10.  Apparently in a couple of weeks after our visit the exchange rate would drop to 1:3.5 (taking advantage of the popular Christmas tourist season).

Our guide, Juice, was extremely knowledgeable when it came to Tikal.  There is no way I would have spotted all the animals he did.  And, having someone who knew the way around and could give us tons of history was well worth it.

Tikal is one of the largest excavated ruins in the world.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.  Tikal’s growth started around 2000 BC and reached its peak around 200 to 900 AD.  Tikal is estimated to have reached a population of around 90,000 inhabitants.

On the grounds of Tikal we saw (or heard) quite a bit of wildlife, including gibnet (large rodent), coatmundi (raccoon), bats, tucan, hawk, tarantula, wild turkeys, gray fox, and howler monkeys (who choose to just scare us, but never officially showed their faces).

Our tour of Tikal ended with lunch near the site which was covered in the price of the tour.  We left Tikal around 215pm.  Jamal picked us up at the Guatemalan border to welcome us back into Belize.

When we returned I was happy to discover that the river level had dropped enough for us to do the ATM tour the next day.  My day ended with dinner at Hodes (again).

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