Human-powered ferry across the Rio Macal to the Xunantunich ruins (Julie Bleau)
This morning, the alarm clock went off at 3:40 a.m. giving us plenty of time to do our business and get ready for our departure at 4:00 a.m. Hartfield was our driver from Hopkins, Belize to the Guatemala's Border. Once again, we turned on Hummingbird Highway and crossed several Garifuna settlements and dense jungle of palm trees. At the border, we had breakfast and met Edgar who would be our guide for the rest of the day in Guatemala and in Tikal. It was a great day (warm and patches of clouds, but no rain). After a short stop for amazing shopping in El Remate, where we saw the complete reconstruction of a Mayan King tomb, all fitted with jade sculptures, we arrived at Tikal ! After only 3 minutes on sight, we saw a family of coatis crossing the road right in front of us. Later on we passed across two families of spider monkeys who were feeding and giving us a live jumping show from one tree to the other. Howler monkeys were sleeping while the lineated woodpecker was having lunch. It was very nice to hear him knock the wood to let his lunch out of the trunk of the tree. I had a quick thought of how wonderful it is to see this wildlife in their habitat and a smile build up on my face. We spotted a laughing falcon, a keel-billed toucan and finally a pair of red parrots flew above our heads before resting on the tree standing in front of us. All of those animal encounters were bonuses of Tikal's amazing ruins. As you get closer, the sheer scale of Tikal as it rises above the forest canopy is overwhelming. Dominating the ruins are five enormous temples flanked by two Acropolis We climbed the pyramids of the Gran Plaza, Central Acropolis and North Acropolis, Temples II and IV while only admiring the surroundings of Temples I, III and V. Most of these temples are taller than any structures in Belize and most in Mexico, some of them above 210 feet high. I found the view from the two Acropolises very inspiring. The North Acropolis is one of the most complex structures in the entire Maya world. In typical Maya construction fashion, it was built and rebuilt on top of itself, and there are over 100 smaller temples under it. The views from Temples II and IV, once you finished very steep steps 200 feet high (!) are spellbinding. The lost world offered a great view of the density of the jungle as well as its hidden city. After passing all morning in Tikal, we headed back via a jungle back trail providing a cool shade (jungle A/C !) to meet our driver. While walking, we encountered howler monkeys and sighted a white-tail deer. Our visit finished by the lake where crocodiles live. We were lucky or unlucky to see none, but got good pictures of the signs posted by the lake. We enjoyed a tasty lunch at the charming restaurant ''Serpiente Celestal'' within Tikal National Monument Site. After lunch we were back in the van driving towards the Guatemala-Belize border. The journey back was rewarding as well as we laid eyes on the two largest lakes of Guatemala and passed through Guatemala's jungle and lovely country side where cows and horses are crossing the roads by themselves, but do not always look before doing so ! The van stopped at Hamanasi at 6:15 p.m. It was a great trip well-worth the long drive to explore and walk Mayan's Ruins to get a glimpse of their time and the way they lived. It was a highlight of our vacation. At 7:00 p.m. we were ready to have dinner and sat quietly on comfortable chair to rest and enjoy the environment.
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