Monday, April 23, 2012

Belize Day 3

This was by far my favorite day. When preparing for this trip one of the things that I decided I wanted to do was visit Tikal. Tikal is actually in Guatemala about a two hour drive from where we were staying in San Ignacio. Our lodge offered to arrange a tour of Tikal for us, but I felt like their prices were kind of expensive. Since we had decided to rent a car, before we left I looked into if taking ourselves would be manageable. After some research online I felt like we could make the trip so on this morning we got up early and headed out for Tikal. Before we left we ran into lodge owner Bart, who seemed a little put out that we had opted out of his tour. He was not at all afraid to tell us that he thought we were stupid for taking ourselves. I however felt like we were well prepared and only felt more determined to prove that we were no stupid Americans and could find our way.

I will admit that the border crossing WAS a little intimidating, but I had earlier found these instruction online which were immensely helpful. Once we got over to the Guatemalan side things were instantly different. Besides not being able to speak the language, the other noticeable change was the armed guards standing all around. Soon we were on our way though and enjoying the beautiful countryside in Guatemala. After awhile we arrived at Tikal. At the gate to the park a man approached our car and offered to be our guide for the day. Now normally I wouldn't recommend inviting random strangers to hop into your car, but as with many things on this trip, I had a good feeling about taking this guy on as a guide and so we invited him to join us. This was probably the best decision we made all day. *Elmer was one of our favorite parts of our trip to Tikal. He was such a friendly, helpful man. His knowledge of the park was really an asset too. We had no concept of how big Tikal actually was, navigating it on our own would have been challenging to say the least. We told Elmer how long we wanted to stay in Tikal and he mapped out a tour for us. The first thing he took us to was this pond literally steps away from the gift shop to see if the crocodile was in there... yep you heard that right crocodile, I admit I was a little skeptical but this sign supported what Elmer had told us, there WAS a crocodile and apparently its not a good idea to feed it, although at the time we didn't see it.

We ran into this guy next... This is a picture of Elmer asking Shane if he wanted to hold it. Shane told me that later he wished he actually HAD held it... but at the time he didn't go for it. Mason stayed about twenty feet away.

Along the path toward the first ruin stood this beautiful tree. The Mayan believed these trees represented the tree of life. It was pretty amazing.

This was the first ruin that we came upon, it was small in comparison to the other structures we would see, but it was the only one that we were able to climb. The steps were so steep.

There was lots more wildlife to see...
Leaf cutter ants

And the spider monkeys that were hanging out in the trees.

When we got close enough to one of the monkeys it started throwing these little seed things down at us.

Our guide was very knowledgeable when it came to monkeys. He told me as a child that he had one for a pet. I responded lamely with, "Um, we have a dog."

It was very hot in at Tikal and there was a great deal of walking involved. When we came to the tallest structure and this staircase leading up to it, I thought our kids were going to lose it. They were tired and suddenly suffering from all manner of maladies, including sore toes and empty tummies.

So Shane and I decided that this was the day for our kids enjoy their first Pepsi...

Now I don't really recommend caffeinating children on a regular basis, but this day it helped us not to miss one of the most amazing views I've ever seen.

The tower was so tall and steep.
Shane and Max were brave enough to climb to the upper portion, of the building, but I was too intimidated by the height.

There were many other buildings and things to see.

In this picture you can see that half of the building has not been excavated. You can really see how an entire Mayan city can go undiscovered for some time. The jungle just seems to swallow everything up if given the chance.

This picture is for my dad, who got really excited when he saw a picture of these turkeys in my guide book, I had to take a picture to show him that we saw one in real life.

This picture is to show what poor Max looks like in the heat, by the end of the day he was turning a nice shade of purple. To the locals his orange hair and fair skin were quite a sight, and he got a lot of attention. I even caught a few people snapping his picture.

The kids got really attached to Elmer, he really was a great guide.

In this picture Max is holding up a tarantula leg that was left behind on one of the sacrificial alters.

It would seem that the Mayans were kind of a short people.

By the end of the day Max and Mason were completely tuckered out. Mason was being particularly whiny towards the end and so he and I struck a deal. I promised to take him swimming in the the lodge pool when we got back if he promised not to complain anymore. This seemed like a great deal to Mason and his mood improved considerably. Max was so hot, and started to break out in a heat rash, so Shane decided to give his little feet a rest.

The kids were more than ready to leave, but we did take the time to check on the crocodile on our way out.

By the time we left Tikal we were exhausted and anxious to get back to the lodge. I really wanted to get there before dark mostly for safety reasons, but also to prove to Bart that we could indeed take ourselves on a tour and make it back in time for dinner. So we thanked Elmer for his services as we dropped him off by the park entrance and then hurried back towards Belize. We were almost home when we came to the border crossing and realized we had misplaced some important paper work that we needed to get the car back across the border. Shane started pulling the car apart, and soon several locals were also helping us. Finally one man who spoke English offered to explain our predicament to the border official (who did not speak English). He was so helpful and worked it out with the official and we were cleared for crossing. We were so grateful for the man's help.  Shane gave him the last of the cash we had on us for the day, a ten dollar bill (US), which we learned later was equivalent to a days worth of wages in Guatemala. We felt good about being able to help someone who was so kind to us strangers in need, we felt later that it was meant to be since the missing paperwork was later easily found stuck between the seats. 

On the drive back through San Ignacio I spied this steeple from the car and said, "that looks like an LDS church steeple..."

And sure enough it was.
It was comforting to see something so familiar in a place so foreign. We pulled into the parking lot and visited with some of the members that were there. They were having a relief society meeting and the ladies were so nice and friendly to us.

Finally we made it back to the lodge, and had time for the promised swim in the pool before dinner.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and then dragged ourselves to bed again.

*Should any readers be interested in a trip to Tikal, please contact Elmer Alvarado to be your guide. We can't say enough good about him he can be contacted at alvaradomar24 (at) hotmail (dot) es


Elmer said...

i like your history Nicole.

Elmer said...

you are a good writer