We woke up at 4 am the morning we went to Tikal, to catch our “early bird” tour of the ruins. We groggily pulled on our shorts and sandals and headed for the van. We noticed that we were the only ones in shorts, and sandals for that matter, but were too tired to care. We had not slept particularly well the night before due to the constant fireworks from a festival that was going on while we were in Flores, but we were so excited and ready to see the famous ruins that we put smiles on our faces and climbed into the van with the 12 other early birds from our hostel.
We arrived at the ruins at around 6 am and met our guide Luis, a Mayan local who had been raised at Tikal before they moved people out of the immediate area. He had the strangest accent we had ever heard, a mix of Spanish, Australian, and Hebrew (which he spoke along with English). He knew so much about Tikal and Mayan culture and he was a great guide. Our tour lasted about 3.5 hours and we saw a good portion of the ruins, including Temples 1-4, the Gran Plaza, and El Mundo Perdido. The Gran Plaza was amazing, with Temples 1 and 2 on either side. You are only allowed to climb Temple 2, but from the top we could see the plaza from above. Since it was the early morning, there were almost no other tourists and the whole site was misty, adding to the eerie mood I get when walking through old buildings.
Temple 4 was easily my favorite, as it is the tallest and from the top you can see the tops of the other temples as well as rainforest for miles and miles. There is a scene from Star Wars that was filmed from the very place we stood on Temple 4, where the Millennium Falcon is flying out to meet the rebel forces. Right as we reached the top of the temple the sun came out for the first time in days and days. We ate a quick snack and enjoyed the view before climbing down and setting out on our own (without Luis) to explore. The tour lasted until 10 am and our shuttle was picking us up at 12:30, so we had a little time to see what else there was at Tikal. We wandered aimlessly and found Temple’s 5 and 6 and explored the North Acropolis as well as the Central Acropolis.
We were so happy to have gotten their so early, as there are no tourists in our pictures and we were able to enjoy the ruins with only a few other people. By 10 the tour buses from Belize and Guatemala City had arrived and the main sights were swarmed with people (although there were not near as many people as there were when I was at Chichen Itza or Machu Pichu). Also, when the sun came out it became VERY hot and we were glad we had already climbed the large temples. Because of the heat, we were very glad to have chosen to wear shorts, and most of our group looked so uncomfortable in their long pants.
We left the park at 12:30, after 5.5 hours of pretty much uninterrupted walking and climbing. When we got back to the hostel we crashed into bed and napped for a few hours. When we woke up we were itching (literally) to get five hours of jungle sweat off of us. Logan discovered that the shower in our shared bathroom was cold. I knew that it would take more than five hours of sweat to get me into a cold shower (I once went ten days without a real shower in Peru because I would almost always rather be dirty than cold), so I decided to sneak up to the shower on the upper floor to try my luck and, sure enough, HOT WATER!!
Feeling fresh and rested, we went down to the water front for drinks and the sunset. We had been seeing and hearing the sounds of the festival in the main square of Flores, so we decided to check it out and possibly get some food. It seemed that everyone on the island was at the festival, either buying food or selling food, or chatting with friends or playing. We ended up eating three rounds of dinner from three different vendors, all for 25 QZ! First we ate these taco things made with fresh corn tortillas that were much thicker than normal tortillas and fried crispy, some kind of meat, cole-slaw stuff and green salsa. Our next round was almost the same, but with a different type of meat and red salsa. Logan was still hungry so he ordered a final round, empenadas this time. It was really fun being in the festival atmosphere, but we were tired from our long day, so we went back to our lumpy hostel pillows and slept, only to be awoken every hour or so by the sound of fireworks. I almost don’t even notice roosters or fireworks in the night anymore. Almost…