BootsnAll Travel Network



Tikal

Well, sorry..it´s been awhile since I have written on this blog!
Lots to tell everyone, but perhaps best to start from the beginning.

Last off, we were in El Estor,a town by Lago Izabel. I felt a little under the weather, kind of like a bad cold. I had found out that I had Dengue Fever, although they had told me it wasn´t a bad case-whatever that means! I had had the big fever that they talk about, and thinking myself in the recovery period, we boarded a bus for Rio Dulce. Rio Dulce was..touristy, lots of yachties walking around with sperry topsiders and women in skimpy clothes. Not a place I would want to hang out in for long.

Luckily, we didn´t have long to wait for the bus to Flores, which is the main city close to Tikal. We got on the bus without much trouble and landed in Flores without inccident-for once!

From Flores, we had to take a bus to El Remate, where we had reserved a hotel. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook, El Remate was the place to be, so thats why we chose the place.

Unfortunately, we had just missed the last bus to El Remate-leaving us at the taxi driver´s mercy, of course. After much hard bargaining and claiming we had no money-almost true, as we were getting pretty broke by then-we somhow ended up getting in a collectivo mini bus. The driver told us we were going straight to El Remate, but then he began picking up all these other passengers. We had no choice but to stay on the minibus, although we wanted to get off, and it seemed like he was going everywhere BUT El Remate! He was also very typical of some of the men here, wearing lots of gold chains, shirt unbuttoned down to his navel, winking at me alot and calling me angel.

When we finally got to the hotel in El Remate we were exhausted.
We had chosen a hotel off the internet called Hostal Hermano Pedro, because it promised free breakfast, a shuttle bus to Tikal, and it took credit cards. We had reserved a room online, however, when we arrived they knew nothing of it. They also had no free breakfast, no shuttlebus to Tikal, and in fact it was a terrible hotel. It seemed to be run entirely by a single 12 year old girl, and the mysterious owner-who apparently was in charge of making the breakfast, but was in Guatemala City, and thats why there was no breakfast!-anyway, the mysterious owner never showed up, the entire time we stayed there.

I was feeling very bad, very sick, with what I thought was a cold at this point. Pretty much, while Moira wandered around, I stayed at the hotel, trying to get better. While hanging around, I met a wonderful woman traveler named Jackie, who is 65 and quite the world traveler. We talked alot, and I interviewed her for this blog. Talking to her made me realize how much I would have like to read interviews with women actually traveling solo around the world before I went on my trip. I learned so much from this interesting woman!

I did manage to walk around El remate a little bit. from those walks, I can safely say that I have no idea why the Lonely Planet guide suggests people stay here. It is true that there is a shuttlebus, but it costs the same as a bus from Flores to Tikal, so you´re not saving any money whatsoever. Plus, you´re at the mercy of the taxis if you miss the last bus!

The town itself borders a very nice lake, and is designed on a grid. The main road itself and all of the offshoots were gringoville. Lots of expensive food, lots of outrageously expensive trinkets..just not my thing at all. There was a rather interesting hippie scene, complete with dreadlocked folks making jewlry for sale and firethrowers in the evening.

The worst part of the town-other than the lack of affordable food, as we only found one cheap empanada stand on our entire street!-was that the sewers were extremely odiferous. I mean, the place stank of sewage, no matter where you were. The sewage system seemed to consist solely of shallow trenches in between, and sometimes right thru the center, of the buildings…for example, Jackie and I went to get a pizza, and after we sat down, we realized our table was directly on top of the sewage trench! Only a board or two was between us and the river of smelly sludge!

We did go into Flores for one day and wandered around. Staying away from the touristy parts was difficult, but we did discover the large mercado which had everything you could think of. At one point we heard some really great ranchera-cowboy-music, coming out of a cantina with red lace curtain. We lingered for one minute too long in the doorway, and before we knew it a large hairy tattoed man had his hands on our arms and was rather insistent that we enter. We didn´t off course, but we got a good glimpse of the inside,where a small band played as tons of guys in cowboy hats bought lots of beer for some scantily-clad women. Obvoiusly, it was more than a bar, in the sense we know of a bar, it doubled as a brothel, too.

Flores itself had some seediness to it, but it was cheap, and far more interesting than El Remate. There is a nicer, sort of yuppie part of Flores, too, but I didn´t get to visit that area until a few days later.

One night I was really sick, and I lost my appetitie entirely. I thought maybe it was still the dengue, or malaria, but truthfully I had no idea. I was worried, but then seemed to feel better, so we decided to head to Tikal.

Tikal was-enormous, is the first word I think of. The grounds themselves are huge, and it really is impossible to see everything.

Secondly, they are mysterious. its rather hard to believe that this entire civilation existed, thrived, died, and disappeared from anyones´conciousness or history for so long. It was rather magically rediscovered in 1848, when Guatemala sent some folks out to examine it. Obviously, people knew of it´s existence in the past at some point, but there was a rather large period where it seemed to have been forgotten. Some Spanish friars wrote a bit about it, but it was all rather vague, and no one seemed motivated to do anything in terms of investigation until 1848!

Plenty of people came from around the world to work on the site, but it really wasn´t until the rather late date of 1956 that work began in earnest. This was due to a wide variety of reasons-the remoteness of the site, the cost involved, and the condition of the structures.

The strutures themselves were all buried under enormous mounds of earth, completely forested, and had to be excavated from the mounds. Even now, when I walked around Tikal, there were many structures still covered in huge mounds of earth and trees, like min mountains. Only a mere thirty percent of the structures have been uncovered to date, and work has been stopped on much of the excavation, as the government has run out of money-so they say, anyway!

The interesting thin for me at the site was how differnet it was than the ruins in Copan, Honduras, which we had recently visited. In Copan, you can see incredible detail on all of the structures-faces, warriors, mayan calendars, inscriptions-even the original paint! But in Tikal, hardly any of this was to be seen. Tikal was sort of like enormous cement cinderblock structures, without any fine detail.

This is because of the materials each site had available. In Tikal, they made their own bricks from what they had available, which was a soft, coarse stone-a little like what we think of when we think about cement. But in Copan, They had different minerals in their bricks they made, and this made the bicks and stone very hard. What this translates into is that the soft stone in Tikal basically has disentigrated, while the harder stone in Copan remains astonishingly intact.

One thing about Tikal that has stayed with me is how tiny I felt-which is exactly how these monolith structures must have made their original inhabitants feel. The amount of sacrifices neccessary to maintain all of the temples was pretty shocking as well.

The Mayan inhabitants of tikal were brilliant in terms of mathematics, science, and astronomy..and yet they mysteriously disappaered and know one seems to know exactly why-although there are plenty of theories. They just vanished.

We did take a tour at Tikal -mostly because we were advised to do by numerous guidebooks, due to an increase in robberies and rapes there. But while there, I saw many people walking around without a guide, and they didn´t seem to have any problems whatsoever with getting robbed and so on..I think women could definitely walk around, at least in pairs, and be at ease in most of the park.

Our guide moved rather quickly, and I had to stop and rest alot-I was feeling absolutley exhausted, and upset because we came all this way for the experience and I felt too unwell to enjoy it. By the time we were done with the tour, I was really out of it and decdied to take a nap on the grass while we awaited for our bus.



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