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Today is our last day at Black Rock. We wake up feeling a little sad but also a little anxious. We're ready to hit the road and start the next adventure. There's still Tikal and Ambergris Caye to get to! Plus, we've already decided we will return to Belize, so it's not "Good Bye" it's just "See you soon!" We will truly miss the beauty of this region but we're sure what awaits us will not disappoint. We lie there listening to the sound of the Macal River and the horses for about an hour before we decide it's time to get up. We get up, get ourselves together and are on our way out the door, when Chantal knocks. Our taxi will be here at 8:30 to take us to Benque where we will have to take another taxi to the Guatemalan border (Melchor). This confuses me because it's my understanding that it only takes about 5 minutes, if that, to get from Benque to Melchor. No one can seem to give us a good reason as to why we have to change taxis so we just go with the flow! Apparently that's just how it's done.

We walk back to the dining area with Chantal, and Darren charges the laptop and camera while I square up our final tally with Chantal. I pay the balance in traveler's cheques and am given a 4% discount off the total bill for paying in cash. Yipee! That was a nice surprise! Chantal gives me some last minute advice on traveling and staying in Guatemala and then we head back to the dining area. Wim and Darren are there talking. The mood is solemn. We decided not to have breakfast this morning as the time for our departure was drawing near. Right on schedule our taxi driver arrives. As the driver takes our bags to the car, hugs and kisses are given all around and pictures are taken so that we can forever remember our new found friends.

Wim, Nikki, Chantal, and Darren

Once in the taxi, our driver introduces himself to us as 'Eli'. He asks how we are liking Belize so far and is very pleased with our answer. Not only is he proud of his little slice of heaven, he is also proud of his 'familia'. His sons and daughters are doing very well for themselves and he couldn't be happier. He tells us of all of their accomplishments as he smiles brightly. As we pass through San Jose Succotz, Eli points to the right and says "That's the ferry to Xunantunich. Did you get a chance to see it?" We tell him we did. We biked there. He asks us from where did we bike and we tell him Black Rock. In the rearview mirror "The Look" is given and Eli shakes his head. Eli is a great guy. He points out different things in the towns we pass through and answers all of our questions. He asks us if we have arranged for someone to take us to Tikal. When we tell him we haven't, he tells us he has a friend with a collectivo that can take us there. We say OK as long as the price is right and he radios his friend to meet us at the border. Instead of taking us to Benque, Eli takes us straight to the border. There didn't seem to be much activity at the border and we were pleasantly surprised as we expected it to be a hassle.

Border Crossing, Belize side

As soon as we pulled up, before the car even stopped, money changers swarmed us. Eli locked the doors (because the money changers were trying to open the doors for us) and turned to us and gave us a few pointers about getting through customs and immigration. Then he told us that the guys outside the car were money changers and would change our US dollars to Quetzals. He advised us to haggle for the best rate and gave us the current exchange rate. We already knew the current exchange rate (well, as of the time we left the states) but were still grateful to him for that tidbit of info. He told us he would meet us on the other side with our bags and unlocked the doors. As soon as he did, money changers on both sides opened the doors. Darren stepped out and promptly told them he would see them on the other side once we got through all the administrative stuff. Believe it or not, the money changers were extremely polite and just said "OK", they would see us on the other side. In about 10 minutes, we had passed through the Belize side and changed some US dollars for Quetzals. We changed US $100 because I planned on doing some shopping. Side Note: Make sure you know the current exchange rate or the approximate exchange rate. The money changers started REALLY low in order to test us. When we asked for the current exchange rate, they said it had changed from that to something lower. We said fine, we would just keep our US dollars then and started to walk away. They called after us and gave us the rate we were asking for. Sure enough, once we were through with the money changers, there was Eli waiting on us. He escorted us over to a very nice collectivo and introduced us to his friend Anastasio (sp?). Anastasio began loading our stuff into his van and Darren asked what the cost was. US $60 for the both of us was the reply. Darren looked at me puzzled. We had been told that US $40 was a fair price. We mentioned this and Anastasio and Eli got together and began talking in Spanish. My Spanish is very basic and limited but I was VERY thankful for it as I was able to understand the conversation that was taking place. From what I could understand, Anastasio was telling Eli that there weren't any other passengers for this trip. No one else was headed to Tikal so we would be his only fare. Eli then told him something to the effect that we were good people and he would be thankful if he, Anastasio, could work with us. The conversation only lasted a few seconds and then Anastasio said he could take us for US $45, we asked if he would give us that same rate if we made arrangements with him to pick us up from Tikal the next day and he said yes. He and Darren shook on the deal and Darren went to finish up his business with Eli. The charge from Black Rock to Benque was quoted as US $35. Eli didn't charge us anymore for taking us straight to the border. We felt as though Eli had gone above and beyond what was needed by giving us tips on the money changers, getting us through customs, and arranging a collectivo for us, so we tipped him pretty good. After filling out the required forms, Anastasio directed us to Immigrations for Guatemala. This was a little more hectic.

Immigration - Guatemala

We jumped right in line and waited patiently. After about 5 minutes, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said "Senorita. If I may?" I turned to see Eli standing behind us. We thought he had left already. He took our passports and about a minute later came back with our passports stamped. He showed us that everything was in order and we were ready to go. He escorted us back to Anastasio, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and wished us well. Boy, they know they like to give kisses in Belize, which was fine by me laugh !

As we drove off, Darren and I sat back, relaxed, and took in the scenery. I was really, really enjoying this whole trip! Different people, different cultures, different ways of life. Guatemala was exactly what I expected so there weren't any surprises there.


Guatemala #2

We knew of all the warnings regarding safety and the water in Guatemala. Rogelio had given us many pointers on traveling in Guatemala. Basically try not to look like a rich tourist. The people in Guatemala are not as financially well off as Americans and are just trying to make it. Many times they don't mean any harm and don't want to physically harm anyone, they are just trying to feed their families. Those were Rogelio's words to us. He also told us that we were traveling the right way. No jewelry, no fancy watches, no wallets or purses, two backpacks instead of luggage and one shoulder bag. I have to give credit to everyone on the boards for helping us in that aspect. As you travel through Guatemala, or anywhere for that matter, don't be so afraid that you miss out on wonderful people and places. Don't be afraid to open your eyes a little wider and see beyond the image that's been portrayed. You'll be surprised, amazed, and humbled by what you discover.

Life in Guatemala

Life in Guatemala #2

Life in Guatemala #3

OK, enough of the "Love Fest". I didn't think any road in the world could be worse than the road to Black Rock but I was proven wrong as the road leaving the border to Tikal was easily the worst EVER! It was a dirt road with so many potholes and rocks that you couldn't avoid them all. You just had to drive over them all and hope for the best. We bumped, swerved, and jostled for an hour or more before finally reaching paved road. Hmmmmm, I think there's a story behind that? Something about someone promising to pave the road and it never getting done. I can't remember the story, so I'm going to leave that one alone. Anastasio started off quiet but I was soon bombarding him with questions about Guatemala and he excitedly answered each one. Once going, Anastasio was a wealth of information. He pointed out any and everything, even down to some of his relative's houses smile . We passed through numerous little communities and some of the best scenery!



After awhile we began to get a little hungry so we whipped out the snacks and water. We offered Anastasio some of our snacks and a bottle of our water. It was much appreciated as he said it had been a busy morning and he hadn't had a chance to get anything to eat. After awhile we went through a little village and Anastasio turned off the main road. We went to the back of a little residential area to one of the most beautiful lakes I had seen.

Lake in Guatemala

I wish I could remember the names of all the little villages and lakes we passed but I'm doing good to remember this much. Here we were allowed to get out, stretch, and enjoy the scenery. We had 10 minutes, so we decided to walk along the lake. We saw some kids playing in the lake so we headed in that direction. As soon as the kids saw us they began to show off as all kids do. They would yell "Senorita! Senor! Mirar (Look)! Mirar (Look)!", then they would climb to the top of a tree and jump off into the water.

Kids Playing in Lake

Kids Playing in Lake #2

The longer we watched and clapped the more elaborate the dives became. From somersaults to back flips, they put on a really good show for us. Finally it was time for us to leave. We climbed back into the van to find Anastasio had picked some wild limes for us and he had some sugar packets so we made fresh lime juice with our bottled water. DELICIOUS!

After awhile, Anastasio told us that we would be coming up on the entrance for Tikal and he would need to collect the Park Entrance Fee to give to the guards there. If I remember correctly it was US $15.00 or 100 QZ for the both of us. Either way it was cheaper to pay in QZ, so we gave him the 100 QZ. I was a little leery of giving the money to Anastasio because I had read on one of the boards that someone had given the money to their driver and then ended up having to pay again once actually AT Tikal. So they ended up paying double. We decided that the guards and the entrance looked official and we could actually see Anastasio give them the money so we would go ahead and give him the money. If someone else asked for more money later, we thought THAT would be the person we would be leery of. After that entrance the road seemed almost deserted and was surrounded by dense jungle on both sides. We noticed Anastasio was driving slower and soon he came to an abrupt halt and pointed out a Toucan. Later he pulled over and pointed out some oscellated turkeys. A little later he got really excited and pulled over to point out a troop(?) of spider monkeys. This continued all the way to Tikal. Anastasio pointing out animals and us getting all excited. The closer and closer we got to Tikal the more and more excited I got! I could hardly wait! As we got closer to Tikal, Anastasio asked if we had reservations. We told him "No" and he said "No problem! We check Hotel Tikal Inn. No rooms there, still no problem. We check Jungle Lodge. No rooms there, STILL no problem. We check Jaguar Inn. No rooms there, STILL no problem. You spend afternoon in Tikal and then I take you to Flores for rooms. You can catch Express Bus in the morning from there to Belize City."

As we drove into the main area, Anastasio pointed out the commodores in case we wanted lunch or dinner, the Visitor Center, and the Museums. Then he took us to the Hotel Tikal Inn first. As he pulled up he said "We check here first, then Jungle Lodge. Jaguar Inn, not so good. We try not to go there." Now, I can't speak for Jaguar Inn one way or the other since we didn't stay there but Anastasio was the second person to tell us not to stay there (Rogelio was the other). The staff at the Hotel Tikal Inn were very nice. We told them we didn't have reservations and asked what they had available. We wanted one of the cute little cabanas around the pool but they were all booked.

Hotel Tikal Inn

Matter of fact, most of the hotel was booked and all they had available were rooms on the inside of the hotel. This room would run us US $60 a night and included dinner that night and breakfast the next morning as well as a guided tour but we had just missed the tour. We went to take a look at the room. I was concerned because it was way back behind the restaurant area at the end of a dark hallway. The room was very basic with two double beds, a desk, and a nightstand. Darren said it was just one night and he thought it would be fine. He's the picky one, so as long as he was OK, so was I. We went back up front and paid for the room. We decided to pay in QZ because I noticed as we drove in that the shopping wasn't what I was expecting. In fact I didn't see anywhere to shop. Anastasio told me there were a few places in the Visitor's Center but they were really expensive, so it didn't seem as though I was going to get the shopping experience I wanted in Guatemala. All this time Anastasio had waited patiently to see if we were going to be happy with this hotel or if we wanted to try others. When we were all settled, we asked Anastasio if he could pick us up tomorrow morning around 8:15am? We wanted to try to catch the express bus from Benque to Belize City. No problems. He would be there and make sure we made the express bus. Once the arrangements were made Anastasio was off and we went back to our room to pack one of the backpacks and hit the park. We packed what we thought were the necessities: map, snacks, bottled water, flashlights, alcohol swabs, band-aids, insect repellent.

We were hungry so we decided we would hit the commodores first. The menu was in Spanish so once again the limited Spanish came in handy even though I think our waiter could have translated for us. We had chicken, rice, beans, and veggies. I can't remember the price for lunch. While finishing up lunch we saw Anastasio sitting in the corner. He waved at us and came over for a few seconds. He was waiting on a fare to take back to the border. After lunch we decided to stop at the Visitor Center before heading to the ruins. Here, there is a small scale replica of Tikal on display.

Small scale replica of Tikal at Visitor Center

We spent about 15-20 minutes in the Visitor Center area browsing the shops, then we whipped out the map and headed for the ruins. I was a little perplexed because I expected to be able to see the ruins from where we were yet I couldn't see any trace of them. Even after all of my research, I was totally unprepared for what lay ahead. As we started along the path to the ruins we had to pass another guard at a little ticket booth. He took our tickets and then shook his head. Apparently something was wrong and he didn't speak English. He was trying to explain something to us but it was really hard for me to pick up on what he was saying. Finally he understood that I could understand certain words so he slowed down and I was able to understand that our tickets were for tomorrow not today. That was ridiculous! We were leaving first thing in the morning. We probably wouldn't even make it back to the ruins. I tried to explain this to him in my broken and limited Spanish. Then it hit me. Board members had said that if you got to the park at a certain time, say after 3pm, you would pay for a ticket for the remainder of the evening and that same ticket would be good for the next day. Apparently we had a ticket for the afternoon and the next day. I pleaded with the guard to let us go into the park a little early as we were only staying one night and were leaving early the next morning. He had pity on us, smiled, and let us in. We were SO thankful! After a few minutes of walking, the trails became denser and darker. The sounds of the jungle were all around us and not one of them was human. At Xunantunich and the ATM cave the fact that we were practically alone was great. Here, it was a little eerie but still fun. Like going into a haunted house on a dark night. There was literally no one else to be found anywhere. Really important side note: Make sure you have a REALLY good map of Tikal. We felt the map we had was inadequate at best. It kept us from having to spend the night in the jungle but half the time it didn't correspond with what we were seeing or where we were. After trying to get our bearings with the map we had, we finally just gave up and decided to keep walking until we ran into a ruin or someone else and then we would be better able to pinpoint where we were on our map. We walked for what seemed like an eternity through dense jungle trails. Honestly it was about 30 or 40 minutes of hiking during which we didn't meet another soul. I wasn't expecting this. I thought the hotels and Visitor Center were just right in the midst of the ruins. I had no idea the ruins were so deep in the jungle! This only served to add to the excitement and mystique of Tikal. Finally we stumbled upon the ruins of Group G.

Sign for Ruins of Group G

Ruins of Group G

It was an amazingly eerie feeling exploring these ancient ruins on our own. Not another person anywhere in sight. It was all ours to explore as we chose! No waiting in long lines. No pushing, shoving, or jockeying for position to try to get the best spot. No loud obnoxious tourists yelling across the compound. Nothing but solitude and the sound of the animals as they went about their business in the jungle. We had decided we weren't going to hire a guide because we wanted to be able to spend as much time as we wanted at each site so I had brought index cards on each site with us so we could at least know something about what we were seeing. If you're not going to hire a guide, I would suggest reading up on Tikal before you go. Even though I did this, I found the index cards useful in reminding me what was important about each site. We climbed everywhere, pointing out little things to each other and squeezing through tunnels.

Nikki at the Ruins of Group G

Tunnels and Arches at the Ruins of Group G

After a few minutes of exploring here, we were trying to decide where to head next when a young man appeared. He saw us looking at the map and thought we needed help. I think his name was Glenn?? He was from Europe. We told him we were trying to determine where we should head next since we only had this one day, towards Temple VI, Temple of the Inscriptions or towards Temple V and the Central Acropolis. He asked if he could make a suggestion and of course we said "Sure!" He suggested we head toward Temple V and the Central Acropolis because that would put us on track to see mostly everything. If we wanted to go to Temple VI, we would have to back track about 20 minutes to get there and then 20 minutes to come back pass Group G, where we already were, and on to the other ruins. He would save Temple VI for another visit. It was settled, we were heading for Temple V. Glenn was also headed this way so of course we all struck up a great conversation which made the time pass really fast. We talked about so many things but I do remember that Glenn was spending time in Guatemala City (months, I think). If I remember correctly, he was learning Spanish and was working with a group to help get school supplies and books to the children in Guatemala. He was a great down to earth guy. This was his second trip (?) to Tikal so he was kind of flying through it this time trying to hit some of the places he missed before. BTW, Glenn had an EXCELLENT map. It looked like a surveyor's drawing but I can't remember where he got it from. At Temple V, we said our goodbyes. Glenn went on after making sure we had a good grip on where we were and we stayed to explore Temple V only to discover it wasn't open for exploring. Apparently a royal tomb containing the body of a man was found here and the Temple is currently under restoration.

Temple V

Our original plan was to then head to the Lost World Complex, Temple III, Temple IV, and then come back through the Acropolis with Temple I and II in it but something massive rising above the canopy caught our eye as we left Temple V so of course we headed in that direction laugh . The best laid plans and all...

Back of Temple I

Whatever it was, it was just begging to be explored! But before we could round the corner to get to the front of this massive structure, something to my left was begging to be explored first.

Nikki Exploring Ruin 5D-43 in the East Plaza

It really doesn't take much to make me happy! After exploring the East Plaza we headed for Temple I, the structure that had first caught our attention. But once again, before we could make it to the front of Temple I, we were struck dumb by the beauty of Temple II. Sadly, this is one of the few pictures that didn't come out, so I will have to leave it to your imagination or memory if you've seen it before. This was starting to get ridiculous! We were never going to see the front of Temple I at this rate! We decided we were going to see the front of that Temple right then! No more distractions! We would get to Temple II AFTER we saw Temple I. And then, we saw the North Acropolis and we were once again stopped dead in our tracks.

North Acropolis

This was just too amazing to be true! Everyone was right when they said you MUST go to Tikal! Even Darren, who isn't a big ancient history fan, was amazed and impressed by what he saw. He kept saying "This is AMAZING!" And you know what the best part was? Once again, even in this HUGE space, there wasn't another person in sight other than a guard. We had Temple V, Temple I, Temple II, the East Plaza, the Central Acropolis, and the North Acropolis completely to ourselves! It was almost like stumbling across something that no one else had discovered.

Finally! The front of Temple I and believe me it did not disappoint!

Temple I

Of course, we headed straight for the stairs. Darren and I both wanted to see what was in that room at the top. Sadly, the stairs were roped off and you were not allowed to climb this Temple. I was a little disappointed. Ok, I was really disappointed. I had wanted to climb this one particular Temple since I saw it in someone else's photos but it was not to be. Darren, ever the one to cheer me up, says "Let's climb that one and go in the room at the top of it!" and points to Temple II. I instantly brighten up and we head that way, only to find that these stairs are also closed off. Dejection now sets in and Darren starts to look for something else to explore when he notices wooden stairs off to the left of Temple II. He points and says "There!" and we head to the top of Temple II. Once at the top, we do some exploring and decide this is a good spot to take a water break.

Darren in front of Temple I

Nikki With North Acropolis in the Background

After our little break we spend about an hour or so exploring the rest of the Acropolis area. We decide we better get moving because we still haven't seen Temple IV yet and we can't leave without seeing it. On the way to Temple IV, we hear a familiar sound. It's a lineated woodpecker!

Lineated Woodpecker

We also hear spider monkeys but have yet to see any. Along the way we run across an Altar. I am intrigued by the design of it and stop to examine it further.

Nikki Examining Altar 5

I would love to try to reproduce this and put it in our sunroom back home. I think I may have a project! Glenn has told us it's about a 10 minute walk from the Acropolis to Temple IV and sure enough we see it rising in the background.

Temple IV

We can also see that our solitude is coming to an end as there are groups of people sitting atop Temple IV. Of course this is one of the most popular spots so we kind of expected that. As we start to ascend the wooden stairs of Temple VI, a large group is descending the stairs all talking about how amazing the view is. Darren and I look at each other and hurriedly (and safely) make our way to the top. Once at the top, you guessed it, we are the only ones there except for a guard! The guard says hello and then slides all the way down to the very end. I guess he wanted to give us some privacy wink . Darren and I sit with our arms around each other and watch as the birds fly over the tree tops. Life is definitely good!

View from atop Temple IV

View from atop Temple IV #2

After about 30 or 40 minutes we decide it's time to go. Darren's a trooper. I could tell he was getting tired about an hour ago but he kept saying he was OK. We've seen all of the major Temples and quite a few of the smaller ruins so we decide to head back towards the hotel. We're both tired by now, it's getting late, and I have no idea how long it will take us to get back to the hotel. More animals start to come out the later it gets. At 3 different times we spot troops of spider monkeys, finally! This little guy was really elusive (hint: he's in the tree trunk).

Spider Monkey

This little guy, on the other hand, had no problems posing for the camera.

Spider Monkey #2

I was fortunate enough to spot a mother swinging through the trees with her baby. Birds were everywhere. And then the Howler Monkeys started up. Such a raucous I've never heard! It was like being in a whole different place! The jungle had come alive all of a sudden! It was an indescribable feeling! We enjoyed just holding hands and walking to the sounds of the jungle. We easily found our way back out by just following the "Salida" (Exit) signs. Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. It was just starting to get really dark when we passed back by the Visitor Center. There was a group of kids playing soccer in the parking area while Oscellated Turkeys walked around nearby. Back at the hotel, we went in search of the bar but the bar and dining area appeared to be closed so we headed back to our room. For the first time Darren went into the bathroom and noticed that the towel rack and toilet tissue holder were broken and that the shower drain was gunked up with something. That was it for him. We went back to the front desk to see if they had another room but they said they were all booked. I asked Darren if he wanted to try another hotel but he said he would try to tough it out. I can deal with a lot of things but the shower WAS pretty bad. The front desk told us that the bar was open and that the lights would come on in about 30 minutes. The Hotel Tikal Inn didn't have lights during the day but the lights came on from around 7pm until about 10:00pm. Then they were turned off and weren't turned on again until about 4:30am until about 6:00am. I think this is the way all of the hotels within the park operate. We decided we didn't want to be cooped up in the room so we ordered a couple of beers and went to sit out by the pool. The evening was nice and cool. Just right for relaxing by the pool. The pool itself didn't look very inviting though. The water was dark and it looked unclean to me but there were two brave souls who ventured in about an hour later. They were the only ones. Everyone else just sat around the pool. Someone came out to let us all know that dinner was being served. Darren and I were both still full from lunch so we decided to skip dinner. The staff seemed a little concerned about this since it was part of our hotel rate but we assured them that it was OK. They kept asking though and even brought us some food out to the pool. They seemed to be trying so hard that we actually thought about trying to eat but we didn't want to take the chance of making ourselves sick by eating when we weren't hungry. We politely and respectfully declined again. Many, many drinks later I figured out that Darren was trying to stay away from the room. I asked him again if he wanted to try another hotel. He said 'No. He would make it.' I felt really bad for him and was just hoping we could make it through the night. Finally we decided we better head in before the lights were turned off. Back in the room we tried to make the best of it. Darren wouldn't lay in the bed so he tried to sleep in the chair. I had spread my jacket on the bed and laid on top of it. I was afraid to pull back the covers for fear of what I might see. If I did see something (stains or whatever else), I, myself, would never make it through the night. We had planned to stay a little later in Tikal and do the sunrise but we were just too burned out. All of a sudden it dawned on me that if we weren't going to do the sunrise, then we could catch the 5am Mundo Maya express bus back to Belize City. I mentioned this to Darren and he was ecstatic. We headed to the front desk to see if we couldn't get on the Mundo Maya. There were 3 guys there. One was one of the guides for the sunrise tour. We told him that we wanted to try to catch the Mundo Maya and he shook his head and said he thought it would be too late to try to get on it. Darren's heart sank. He wanted to get to Ambergris Caye as soon as possible. One of the other guys said he would try calling for us. We talked with the sunrise guide while the other guy called Mundo Maya for us. Finally, he got through but they were all booked. The sunrise guide said "What about that other service? Try them." So he tried them but there was no answer. He kept trying though over and over again. He even tried different numbers. Finally, after about 15 minutes, the sunrise guide said he had to turn in as he had to be up at 4am to get ready for the tour. We thanked him for his help and he was on his way. Meanwhile, the other poor guy keeps trying. We finally tell him not to worry about it anymore but he just wouldn't quit. He finally was able to get someone and they were able to get us on a bus (not the Mundo Maya but it was still an express bus to Belize City). The cost was US $50 for the both of us. A van would pick us up at the hotel at 5am and we would meet our bus at the turnoff. Then it hit me. What about Anastasio? I didn't know where he was coming from in order to pick us up but I didn't want him to make an unnecessary trip. I didn't have his number and had no idea how to get in touch with him but the guy at the desk knew who he was and tried to find him in the phone book to no avail. We were at a loss as to what to do. We wanted to get the earlier bus but didn't want to stand Anastasio up. Then I remembered that I DID have Eli's number. He was Anastasio's friend, he would know how to get in touch with him. I got Eli's card and the guy at the front desk gave him a call. Everything was right with the world again! The guys at the front desk said they really appreciated our efforts in trying to contact Anastasio as many people stand their drivers up. The drivers arrive only to find that their fare has left with someone else. Not only do they waste gas but they lose other potential business as well since they've scheduled to pick up people who aren't even there. Meanwhile it's close to 11pm now and the lights should have been off an hour ago, so we head back to our room to try to get some sleep. Darren takes his position in his chair and I lie down on the bed. Needless to say, sleep doesn't come easy and it's not a very comfortable night. It's extremely hot in the room even with the windows open and the walls are paper thin. We can hear other guests snoring and using the restroom as if they were in our room. We sleep in spurts all night. Morning can't come soon enough!

Coming soon: Wednesday, November 3rd - Days 6 and 7: Paradise Found, At Last

Link To All Pictures From Day 5

Notes: This is my first time visiting any of the Mayan sites but Tikal was absolutely stunning! I've heard that there are other sites that rival Tikal in Mexico and I plan to make it there one day. Do yourself a favor and plan at least a day trip to Tikal. The ingenuity is amazing even if you know nothing about the ancient Mayans but if you know their history it will be even MORE amazing (if that's even possible). I think it's possible to do a really quick tour of Tikal in one day and be satisfied but if you're into archaeology and ruins, then you'll want at least two days. I could have spent 3 or 4 days there because there are so many chambers and tunnels to explore in addition to just climbing the ruins. Most people will be happy getting to the bigger Temples within Tikal and bypassing the smaller ruins but don't be fooled. The history behind some of the smaller ruins is just as interesting. Make sure you have a really good map. Tikal is really spread out and I didn't think there were enough directional signs. I would suggest mapping out your route before you get started in order to maximize your time there. And if you're into animals and birds, make sure you get a guidebook so you can identify the animals along the way. Also make sure you have PLENTY of bottled water and insect repellent.

The room that we had at the Hotel Tikal Inn wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst either. When we orginally looked at the room we just scanned it and didn't really LOOK at it. That was our fault. The room we had seemed to be an afterthought in comparison to the other rooms. I think the outside rooms were probably a little nicer but we didn't make reservations so we decided to make the best of it.

At no time did we ever feel unsafe while at Tikal. We were advised not to do the sunset at the Temples unless we had a guide and we followed that advice although we were able to see some of the sunset at the Temples but left before it completely set. Tikal is deep in the jungle and I can imagine coming back through the jungle to the hotel area wouldn't be much fun at night especially if you have no idea where you are or where you're going. And it's not the four legged animals I would be worried about. As has been stated many times before, follow your instincts and the same rules of safety you would while at home. If locals tell you it's not a good idea to go somewhere at a certain time, listen to them. Also, it should go without saying, but do your research before you leave home. If you will have to exchange money, know the exchange rates. Know the fees for entering and exiting each country if there are any. Know the approximate costs for transportation between certain places. Do NOT make it easy for people to take advantage of you. For the most part the people are nice, but if you can be taken advantage of rest assured that there are those that definitely will try to. But that's not just unique to this part of the country, it can and does happen everywhere.

Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 18
ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!!!!! I am so thrilled for you! (and envious)My boyfriend is such a chicken and would never let me venture as you did. Your report is as close as I can get to being there. Thank you so much.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 3,281
Another great report! And good general travel tips at the end.

Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 119
Fuzzy navel, that was great! I'm telling my husband about your adventures and telling him, if Nikki and Darren can do it, so can we! Your braver than I am, going to Tikal with no reservations. We are definately going to make it a day trip! Can't wait to hear about AC.

Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 6,251
WOW....great report cool

Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 15
Hi Jenn, Nicely done. Just back from two week first trip. Spent Thanksgiving in Tikal. Also stayed at Tikal Inn. Our stay there was better than fine. Alex,front desk manager was super. Pool was a tad cloudy but fun just the same. There for two nights. Met interesting travelers from all over the world. Went to Temple IV around 5AM with guide Noel. Wife and I were the only two on that trip. I loved it so much I went again the second morning, bouncing along in the dark with 15 other folks this time. It was indeed an incredible experience walking the jungle alone which happened numerous times during our two days there.

Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 249
Fuzzy ya did it again!! KUDOS !!

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Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 8,880
Awesome once again, fuzzy!! I love the way you tell the stories, so much good info but still delivered with such a sense of wonder and good humor.

Were I ever to have done any trip reports, they wouldn't be much of a read.

Went diving, loved it, had lunch, walked all over the place, went for dinner, hung out with friends, went dancing, went to bed. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat . . .except some days would say I went diving again after lunch, loved it. smile

A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,675
I have been reading your travel adventures, fuzzy, and have enjoyed the details. Your presentation is excellent, and I like the way the photos follow the story. I cannot wait to hear about your adventures on AC. Great job. smile

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 284
Well done! cool Paradise is coming, paradise is coming...... laugh

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