Magical Tikal, the tough and rewarding road to El Mirador, and a melancholy farewell to Guatemala...
23.11.2015 - 30.12.2015 2 °C
Flores & Tikal
Tikal was at the top of my list for things to see in Central America.
The scenic island town of Flores is the closest centre to the site, though there are eco camps closer to the ruins.
I opted for a 45 min. flight from Antigua, rather than overnight bus.
I flew with TAG... really easy, and only $140
They are a small operator who fly out of the mini/private hanger beyond Guatemala City's airport.
The flight was stunning!
Guatemala is gorgeous from a height... so mountainous, littered with volcanoes.... just marvellous!
Amigos is the premier hostel in Flores.
It's really friendly, very social and serves totally awesome, healthy food.
Perfect for weary trekkers. I downed countless smoothies.
The staff are super friendly and helpful, and speak English.
As an alternative to dorms, they have a building full of private rooms down the road,
I took that option, and it was perfect.
Tikal is a fascinating stop!!!
We left the hostel at 4:30am for the hour or so drive to Tikal.
Of course, on these buses you meet lots of different people.
I was fascinated to meet a 67 year old lady who was backpacking Guatemala, in the same way that most youngsters do.
She was having the time of her life, full of energy and climbed all the hills/steps in line with rest of the group.... age is surely just a number.
There is a famous scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, where the Millennium Falcon dashes through a forest planet with what looks like Mayan Ruins...
George Lucas filmed that scene here....
The ruins, are immense, and wonderfully excavated.
I joined a walking tour and it was really, very interesting!
Definitely recommend Tikal for anyone coming to the region.
Fancy another trek?
I met new friends from Iceland at Tikal, who were planning a trek to El Mirador.
I was still exhausted from Arcatenango, but they asked me to join anyway... why not!
The El Mirador trek is TOUGH.
5 days in the muddy jungle... 80kms, no solid paths.
Deep mud and mosquitoes unperturbed by deet!
At times it felt like tough mudder... unrelenting.
(We met this fella along the way)
This trek isn't for the faint at heart and will test your patience, fitness, determination, and endurance.
Carmelita by Chicken Bus
The trek starts at Carmelita... roughly 5 hours drive from Flores.
We took old rickety Chicken buses both ways, which were far from comfortable...
This is compounded by the fact that most of the road isn't paved and really bumpy....
So, trekkers beware and bring a neck pillow and take anti-nausea tabs before you set off.
(View of the vast jungle from the top of some of the ruins)
On the road back, the bus was full.
Families were transporting crops between farms, via the bus roof, or any available space within the bus.
As all of my trekking buddies slept, and I sat listening to music, a group of kids surrounded me and bombarded me with questions...
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
- Are you married?
- Are you Catholic?
- How do you say x in English?
The conversation progressed to an impromptu English/Spanish class in eye/spy format.
Some of the kids carried live chickens on their laps, and later just let them go do sit/roam on the floor.
The long errr jungle to El Mirador
We had mules carry our food and water.
Trekkers were responsible for carrying personal belongings (clothes, hiking water, etc)
It's essentially, two days trekking to the main site, then two days back.
Gumboots was the optimal footwear...
Each night we stayed in dedicated camp sites, with tents and outdoor kitchen.
Our guide Eric and his assistants cooked awesome food for us each night, and we were lucky enough to stay at his Mum's camp one night for her awesome cooking.
Way out in the jungle, all of the starts are out, illuminating the sky... just gorgeous!
The views from the top of the sites are totally worth it.
The Mayan ruins haven't been fully excavated yet, which gives you a better view of age.
Our local guide, knew his stuff!
He explained the history, architecture, building techniques and significance of all the sites.
It was an awesome trek, with a great group and awesome camaraderie...
Bye the end of it, we were all totally exhausted, yet almost triumphant after completing such an awesome experience!
Guatemala is an awesome country to travel in, especially for adventure sports, trekking and studying Spanish.
Guatemalan's are really welcoming, friendly, and sometimes boisterous.
It really was an amazing 6 weeks in Guatemala.
I passed through Costa Rica and Panama next, en route to Colombia.