Friday, March 28, 2014

Indiana Jones Style

Posted by Christopher

The remarkable Gran Plaza at Tikal, from the North Acropolis.
I woke to the sound of “TIME TO WAKE UP!’. It was 5:30. So naturally, I rolled over and slept in for 5 minutes. When I finally heaved myself out of bed, I walked up to the breakfast table to see my Dad, Mom, brother and sister eating a breakfast of buttered toast and orange juice. So I sat down and had a bite to eat. After that we began to rush, getting dressed and doing our teeth. I got outside and slipped into my shoes walking down the dock. We got to the lancha and our driver took us over to the dock in Fronteras. I was carrying a backpack as we zipped across the pristine water. There was a touch of mist in the air as we reached our taxi/van. We had arranged to take this cab a couple days prior, to take us to Tikal, the ancient Mayan city, now in ruins.

An early morning lancha from Tortugal into Fronteras.
The taxi ride took FOREVER! (and by that I mean like, 4 and a half hours). We drove and drove and drove past the hilly Guatemala regions. Finally we reached the Tikal national park style thing. We needed to go through several gates, one of which required some cash, and decline a tour guide half a dozen times. We were pretty intent on just going our own pace through Tikal, even if that meant declining some knowledge (we still had a book that told us pretty much the same thing). So we finally parked and asked our driver to be at the parking lot at three. Since it was eleven at this point, that seemed like plenty of time. We began to walk in to the park ( a tad hungry since we hadn’t eaten since 5:00) and were instantly faced with a 25 minute hike from the parking lot into the ruins. We faced that, all the way to the “grand plaza” which was a compilation of four Mayan buildings: two temples, and two “acropolis’s” which were sort of a jumble of stone architecture layering upward. It was pretty cool.

The drive was quite a bit longer than we had thought, but the minivan was comfortable.
Watch out for howler monkeys defecating on your head!
We first decided to go to the temple that we were allowed to climb up to the top. It was a very scenic spot and it was pretty cool, but it didn’t really feel like you were a temple explorer. The next one that we went to though, managed that effect.  We went to the “south acropolis”. II t was pretty awesome as we walked and climbed all over the ruins finding different rooms and climbing to different heights and floors. I found one platform that you could either get to by edging along a narrow edge (not very high up) or going through a small couple corridors. Then you could climb some narrowing stairs up to a sort of tower top that was a great vista! Also nobody else was up there so we had to all to ourselves.

Mom took this picture of me, Dad, Alexander and Katie at the top of the second temple...
...while we were taking a picture of her...
... in the courtyard of the Gran Plaza.
Next we went to the to the north acropolis which was similar, except that the south one had a big courtyard and the north was more compact. We searched and climbed around there for a while and then went back down to find some more temples. We walked for another little while and found another couple temples including one that looked super imposing and sheer, but we couldn’t go up it. A different one was on top of a large hill and had an AMAZING view of the land for kilometers and kilometers around.

The view of the North Acropolis from temple 2.
Katie, climbing the North Acropolis.

The temples were all unbelievable, sweeping up into the blue sky.
Finally we needed to leave. It was 2:30 but it felt like it should be maybe 12:00. So we began to head to our last area which was the seven temples. These were seven really small temples, around a massive courtyard. It was pretty cool and it seemed very movie-like, but finally we had to leave. So we headed back the way we came, all the way down to the parking lot. There, we found our driver, waiting in his car. We climbed in (starving, it was 3 and we hadn’t eaten since 5 in the morning). We drove for about three hours before it became dark. That was rather terrifying because there weren’t any seatbelts in the car, and so I couldn’t find any sleep. After what seemed like an entire night, we got back to the dock. We got in the boat waiting for us and then took off down the black water back to our marina. When we got there we headed up to the restaurant next to our boat ( Now STARVING because it’s 7:30) and ordered a pizza. When I heard that it was going to take 25 minutes to get here I was horribly shocked, but sure enough, with patience, it arrived.

Climbing temple IV.  Note the complete lack of guardrails.  The access to the ruins was remarkable.
High above the jungle, Temple IV.
As we sat and looked down on the ruins poking up through the jungle, we tried to imagine Tikal at it's height, as a thriving city of hundreds of thousands of people.


  1. It's amazing how similar the sights are along our very distant trails. We have just been to Lopburi which was filled with ancient crumbling temples and dozens of monkeys. No defecation on our heads though, luckily, because these monkeys were everywhere around town. It would have been impossible to avoid walking under them!

  2. We saw your Lopburi post this morning. A lot more monkeys there than at Tikal! The parallels between our two trips right now are fascinating. A lot of the houses around here look like the ones you showed in your post.