We crossed the border on foot and were welcomed into Guatemala by the falling ash of burnt trash falling from the sky. And all of a sudden we didn't know how to talk to anyone! Luckily, that was last week and now our memories of Guatemala are much more fond. And our Spanish has improved, a bit. We caught a minibus to Flores, about 2.5 hrs from the border, a cute little town on an island. We arrived at night, found a place to stay and didn't make plans for the morning because I was still feeling a bit under the weather.
This is the orange lady who peels Jessie's fruit just the way she like it- for $.25!
Temple of the Jaguar, where they buried Lord Chocolate with 16kilos of Jade jewelry.
We rented a tent with an air mattress for $10 each and dashed off into the park to see what we could see before it closed at 6pm. We found our way to the central plaza and climbed up the wooden staircase (you can't climb any of the temples now) to watch the full moon rising over the Jaguar temple. The only other person there was Fransisco, the night guard. For the past 12 years he has worked the 6pm-6am shift with 2 other guards. His English was as poor as our Spanish, but when he kept telling us we had lots of time, don't leave yet- we relaxed an enjoyed the moonlight. Then when we should have been leaving, he motioned for us to follow him to Temple 4- the largest temple in Tikal.
Our new guard friend took us up to the top of Temple 4, where we met Jerry and Mitchell from San Franciso. It was just the 5 of us, on top of this bazillion-year-old temple, watching the full moon rise. Whew. Amazing stuff. We headed back to our tent and were getting ready to go to bed without supper when our California gentlemen showed up and demanded we join them for dinner, their treat! We couldn't turn them down and had a lovely time chatting about their birding and our travels. They were lovely! Off to bed now zzzz.....
The next morning at 4am we joined our guide Reuben and 2 other couples for our Sunrise Tour of Tikal. We headed off at a fast clip, walking through the dark jungle. Reuben neglected to mention that Howler monkeys sound like growling jaguars and I about wet myself when they started staking out their territories on either side of us! By 4:30am we were sitting on top of Temple 4 and watched the fog roll out and by 6:15am the sun was blasting out of the horizon. We saw Toucans in the tops of trees and heard the Howler monkeys from a safe distance. By 7:15 it was too hot to sit in the direct sunlight and we headed down to explore the other temples.
Reuben kept sticking a long piece of grass into little holes in the ground as we walked along and he teased out a few Tarantulas! This one was a young female and she liked Jessie and didn't want to get off her arm. They can bite but Reuben says it doesn't hurt too bad. :)
We enjoyed the architecture and learned lots about the way they kept track of time with the shadows of the temples and whatnot. Reuben's take on the world ending in 2012 is this: Mayans believe in cycles. Every ending is the beginning of a new cycle. So the calendar they made finishes a cycle in 2012 and on when the rest of the world calls the next day Dec. 22nd 2012, the Mayans will call it Day One of the next cycle. Speaking of which, Jessie and I are off for our next little adventure!