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Weekend in Guatemala

May 19, 2010

On Friday my new friend Tamera and I took a half day bus trip to the town of San Ignacio near the Belize/Guatemala border. We checked in to our beautiful suite, with a breezy balcony overlooking the town, then took another bus up to some of the local ruins. Cahal Pech was an impressive maze of stone structures, and we climbed on top and inside them all. Then further down the road is Xunantunich, where you take a ferry across the river, then hike a mile uphill to the complex. Iguanas scurried by while we were hiking, and howler monkeys swung from the trees at the top. The ruins were beautiful, and I ran up the hundreds of stone steps like Rocky training for the big fight.

The next day we had a “tour” to Tikal, where a driver took us to the border, handed us off to another man who got us swiftly through the border, who handed us off to a different driver, who took us the two hours or so to Tikal, where we picked up our guide, Ronnie. Ronnie’s job was to tell us all about the plants and animals and history of Tikal, but he wouldn’t walk and talk at the same time, and Tamera and I got restless pretty quickly. He got the hint soon enough, and we were bounding up stone steps again, racing to the tops of the ruins for spectacular views of the temples and the surrounding jungle. The steepest structures have wooden staircases built up the sides of them because people have fallen and died. The wooden stairs/ladders were pretty scary as it is, especially because they were slippery in the pouring rain. We also got to see all kinds of interesting wildlife, which I will post pictures of later. We walked right past a “Danger Crocodiles!” sign into tall grass and muddy ponds, where Ronnie swished a stick in the water in hopes of attracting some for us. Luckily the crocodiles were all taking a siesta.

Our adventure continued on Sunday, first with ziplining through the jungle, which was so much fun. Then cave tubing, where you sit in an inner tube and float down the river through pitch black caves with bats and waterfalls and stalactites. From there we explored the Belize zoo, and spent quite a bit of time with the jaguars, which was very cool.

On Monday night I decided to skip the one hour hike down from the mountaintop site and camp there for the night so I could see the fireflies. Just as we got our fire going for dinner, thunder roared in the distance and it dumped rain on us all night. It was pretty miserable, and then I had to excavate in the mud the next day. I was thankful not to have to hike up the slippery hellish hill that morning, though, because it was pretty difficult getting down, especially crossing the river. Today I’m back down at the tomb site, where we’ve uncovered the first tomb in the area that hasn’t been looted. They’ve been excavating it for a few days now, but today we worked at removing the capstone, a roughly six foot sandstone slab balancing precariously atop the tomb, so that we don’t get killed if it collapses. We removed the overburden and surrounding stones in the sweltering heat, and tomorrow we’ll see if the Maya workers can lift the giant slab. This weekend there’s a cacao festival in town, then we’re taking a trip to the beach at Placencia, where I’ll take a boat out to the islands and go snorkeling.

Tags: belize, guatemala, tikal, travel

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