Itinerary Day Five in Belize: Mayans Ruins in Tikal, Guatemala

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There’s nothing like getting a double stamp in your passport on a monumental anniversary of birth. My friends and I woke up at the incredible hour of 5:00AM to commiserate with another family of tourists for our long shuttle ride into Guatemala. Tikal National Park – here we come.

Tikal is one of the largest excavated Mayan ruin sites in the world. And it was easily accessible from us at Caves Branch by about an three hour drive.

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Dragged from our beds before the sun was even up…. we were off. After picking up our guide, Edgar (aka Radical), near San Ignacio, we hit the border another 20 minutes later.

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A check, stamp and greeting with the border patrol later…. we were on Guatemalan grounds. And…. we boarded another shuttle van.

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Just a bit into Guatemala, we saw patrol men with mad guns at several checkpoints – we weren’t in Belize anymore. Although the two countries neighbored each other, there were already subtle differences in the foliage and landscape….

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About 45 minutes later, breakfast…. uh, yes, it was only around 8:00AM or so…

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Check out the gnarly floor made from trees.

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Queso fresco, fried plantains, strong coffee, eggs with tomatoes and onions (very similar to a Chinese dish I often have at home), fresh pineapple juice and tortillas. Aw, SO good.

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Bathroom break at the restroom, and back onto the road. About another 45 minutes, give or take, and we were at the entrance of the park. WAHOOO!

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Before entering the park, and getting off the shuttle, a park ranger will offer you the option to buy a map for $5US (if I remembered correctly).

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Honestly, we had a guide and I was held my complete navigational trust in him. Here’s how our day went in photos (and if I could remember, a quick recap as to where we were).

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This is the first temple we came upon. The front tombstones, I believe, were just that… tombstones. Did I remember that correctly? Please correct me if I am mistaken….

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I even saw a women at the top with her iPad taking photos… I wish I had a photo of that… this is just my friends at the top. *sigh* Failed photo moment.

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As we walked to the next site, Edgar pointed out some neat things amongst our surroundings… this is a sunburned tree. I totally forget why it’s like that.. but see how it’s red compared to it’s friends?

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We actually saw these fascinating leaf-cutter ants everywhere. Right here, we saw two long roads of ants intersecting. Amazing….

The next section of ruins we came to was the Great Plaza. As our guide put it, it was the best place for photographs.

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It rained a bit while we were exploring this area.

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I slipped and got this icky moss on my hands that was hard to wipe off…. except for on wet grass. Muwahahhaha.

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Super cool architecture amongst the ruins as we explored the whole area…

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We were here forever….

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Classic jump photo was a must.

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Our guide waiting for us….

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A photo from the top… and we were hurried off to the next site.

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I don’t remember where we were guided off to next, but I think it was to climb this awesome thing.

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A bathroom stop before the ascent and refreshing cold beverage if needed….

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And up we go….

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A gorgeous view at the top (after climbing…. uh…. probably 20 flights of stairs?)….

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From the top, you can see a few other of the taller temples as well… A deep breath to take everything in…. a few moments to take in the view, and we were off….

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We saw this temple. And heard a story from Edgar about how people fall off from climbing and descending temples all the time. So, careful!

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We were rushing to pick up the pace and still see other things we missed because we had spent so much time at the Great Plaza. So, here’s a temple that was struck by lightening and getting renovated…

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A fun tree vine, perfect for a swing…

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Some more awesome excavated ruins… as we rushed out of the park.

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On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant-slash-gift shop for some grub. As like breakfast, amazing…. AMAZING food. Chicken, rice pilaf, veggies, fresh tortillas, beans, guacamole and hibiscus juice.

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We browsed around the store and I found this! Chickle from a gum tree! No flavor added…

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Amazing… gum.

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And a cocoa pod! Well, it was drying out to be used for seeds but Miles tells me that cocoa pods are mighty damn tasty. I want to try!

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Some chocolate purchases later, we were off and headed back for Belize.

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Nothing like cute new towel animals to greet you back at the lodging.

I could’ve easily spent many more hours roaming that park, but I’ll say that we did have a day to remember as packed as it all was…. best birthday yet?

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