Friday, May 7, 2010

Guatemala Day 9, 10, & 11: Flores

We slept in and went to breakfast at about 8:30. Not the best breakfast, they brought my fruit uncut and then generic STRAWBERRY yogurt on the side with a side of granola. weird. Kylee had french toast -which was good and came with more fruit. After breakfast we went for a walk to see if there were any crocodiles in the close pond. Absolutely NO sign of them. We were so sad...but we did see a few turtles.

We arranged for our shuttle at 12:30 then went to hang out at the pool. It is so hot in Tikal that the pool felt great. Of course we were ready for our shuttle at 12:15 and it didn´t come until 12:45. Of course I am totally in a panic by then, even though everything is ALWAYS late here. We were the only one´s in our shuttle and thought we were going to be lucky but no...everytime there was someone on the side of the road, we picked them up. Soon we were not only full, but still picking people up! And dropping them off! It took us 2 plus hours to make a 1 and a half hour drive. Ugh. And did i mention it´s HOT. No AC in anything.

Lucky for us, our shuttle dropped us off right next to the Gran Hotel de le Isle and we walked right in. $77 for a room with AC and NO BUGS! Not a fancy room, but check out the AC unit in the top corner. woo hoo!

It´s a miracle. It´s so hot here. I think the further north you get, the hotter it is. It´s different though. In AZ you can´t just ride with the windows down and be okay - I think it's because there are black asphalt roads and concrete buildings everywhere. Here, it´s all jungle so if the windows are down you get enough of a breeze that you don´t feel like you´ll die.

Flores is a quaint little town. It's an island and it's very small and crowded.

The streets look like this:

Which is pretty much what it looks like in most of the cities. We walked along the water and did some shopping and then we got some GREAT pizza. Of course we were so excited to get some real pizza that we ordered a Grande (which was very large) and then we ended up leaving half of it. You´d think we´d learn our lesson, but no. At least we can take our leftovers on the bus this time.

After dinner, we walked and shopped some more and ended up at our hotel pool to kick back and read, then shower (best shower ever) and bed. It´s funny how even this old hotel feels like the Phoenician right now!

Day 11: Leaving Flores
We thought we reserved a spot in the fancy expensive bus but as we waited for it at 8:15 this morning - it never came. At 8:50 I went to check on it only to find out it only runs at night. Ugh. Our not-so-fancy bus leaves at 10:00.

We took the back seat again and the drive was not bad. I can´t wait to get back to Greg and the kids but I really don´t want to leave Kylee! Check out our bracelet collection, we like them a lot...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guatemala Day 9 continued: Ziplining!

Okay, the canopy tour (ziplining) was a blast. Kylee didn't inherit any of my fear of heights, lucky for her. I'm lucky I've done it before because I can feel that familiar feeling of panic and just keep going up. The zipping doesn't bother me, it's the climbing up and standing on the really platforms.

Those things are stinking high! At least once we were up there we just zipped from one platform to another, we didn't hike in between them (it was HOT.) Sometimes we climbed to a higher platform, but we didn't have to actually hike. It was a blast. For one of the zips, Kylee and I put our equipment on backwards and then flew like superman. It was a little unnerving having arms and legs totally free, but it was so fun. I thought we took a lot of pictures but apparently I took a lot of video. Just a couple pictures.

And a t-shirt to top it off. All of that for just $25 apiece!

After zipping we were pretty hot. It was the middle of the day, the sun was shining and it is about 90 percent humidity. Lucky for us, this hotel has a pool! We put on our suits and jumped right in. Then we snoozed in the sun for a couple hours. As we enjoyed the pool, 2 families of monkeys came to hang out in the tree above us. One family of howlers and one family of spiders. We're feeling like pros because we can tell them apart. They are so fun to watch. There were 10 of them and 3 little tiny babies. They just swing around eating food and jumping from one branch to another. They just hang there from their tails picking at leaves and looking was so cute!
When we got hungry we walked down to the Jaguar Inn - which is more of a campground. We were sick of the food at our place, so we thought we'd try hamburgers & french fries. The ketchup is gross, but the french fries were SO good. I also had a greek salad, which I assumed would be on lettuce but no. It was basically cucumber, tomatoes and onion with a bunch of feta cheese. It WAS nice for a change to have actual vegetables with NO oil. The feta was also a welcome change from the liquid cheese that is usually on everything. It was yummy!

We decided to try crocodile hunting that night. Our waiter hooked us up with a guide for $20 and we agreed to meet him outside at 7:00. So, we went home to change and shower and go back. We got there at 7:00 but our guide wasn't ready until 7:30. We "renegotiated" and ended up paying 100Q apiece. That's more like $20 apiece. Oh well, not my night for the negotiation :) Anyway, it was totally worth it. We walked through the dark jungle for 20 minutes and then got to a lake. When we saw this sign we knew we were getting close.

Then we saw this little guy and took a picture.

Are you wondering how we found him in the dark? Their eyes glow in the dark! Same with tarantulas. Yuck! Our guide was used to foreigners freaking out about the scorpions, but we are from Arizona so we didn't freak out. We took a picture...because he was BLACK. Sand scorpions in AZ are light colored and can be deadly. One of the most deadly species. THIS scorpion is ugly, but not deadly. He will hurt you, but not kill you. They don't even bother to treat the stings! Still, I wouldn't want to share my room with him...

Back to our hunting trip. As we approached the lake we shined our flashlights and immediately saw 2 big shiny eyes staring at us.

Can you see his creepy little eyes??
This is how far away we were...can you still see his eyes? They're the 2 dots closest together and in the mid-left the pitch dark. I swear he knew we were coming. We turned off our lights for a few minutes to see if we could get him to come closer and it was so spooky. Pitch dark and every sound we heard we could swear he was coming out to get us! When we turned our lights back on he was GONE. We followed the guide around a little "island" of land and shined our lights again and he had so kindly gotten out of the water and was in full view sitting on the edge of his house. It was pretty incredible. He was big and big, and big. and so very close! After we turned our lights off again he slinked back into the water and stared at us. We took off, I think he was getting hungry. We went to another little lake and saw 3 little baby crocs. Two of them kept their distance but a little one slinked up close enough to take a picture (that didn't turn out.) It was so little, it was practically a lizard. So cute we wanted to touch it, but it was kind of in the mud and we knew his mom would be fast enough to get to us. It was a fun, spooky night in the jungle.

We went back to the restaurant and shared a chocolate banana crepe and then went to bed. We are going to have to buy some nutella so we can make those things. Check out our beds. This was such a nice hotel!

Tomorrow we are traveling back to Flores for the night, then we will bus back to Guate city on Tuesday. :(

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guatemala Day 9: TIKAL

"In this remote area, one of the greatest civilizations of it's time established a city that endured for centuries. Set in the jungle canopy, the site today consists of over 3,000 structures extending over six square miles including temples, palaces, ceremonial platforms, ball courts, terraces, avenues and plazas. The Maya began building Tikal around 600 B.C. and at its peak some 1,500 years ago. Tikal was a wealthy metropolis, home to an estimated 100,000 Mayans, as well as an important religious, scientific, and political center."

This is an artists rendering of the whole park:

We had such a blast today! We started off at 5:45AM entering the "park." We didn't have breakfast or any water but we knew there would be vendors inside so we didn't worry about it. Little did we know, once you enter the park (it's really a jungle) you have a 30 minute walk just to get to the central plaza. It was HUGE.

There was a row of these "thrones." They say no sitting on them. We couldn't figure out what they were used for... The thatched huts are covering areas that are currently being excavated.

There were no vendors! By 7:00 we were pretty thirsty but the sites were so amazing that we just kept plugging along. Pretty soon we were VERY thirsty. Lo and behold, we found a discarded water bottle at the top of Temple V that half full. We drank it (mom of the year...) and it gave us the strength to continue. :)

Temple 4 was the farthest away so we went on a hike. When we finally got there and climbed to the top, we didn't ever want to come down. These are the stairs we had to climb up.

Yes, I know how good we look. Keep in mind that we have had very "iffy" showers and no electricity.

This place is incredibly awesome. The view. I can't even describe it. The Mayans knew what they were doing. Location, location, location. The top of the temple is still being excavated and Kylee wanted to go in it so bad...but it was padlocked. Such a bummer. This is the view from the top. Those buildings waaaaay over there are the other temples and the main acropolis. It's a pretty good hike.

This is the ledge at the top of Temple IV. We were the only ones up there. Can you tell how high up we are? No rails or anything. I think that we could fall off and no one would ever find us.

On our way down we "found" a little more water. YES, we could continue. We were so glad we came to the park early, it wasn't hot yet, and it was totally empty. We felt like we were discovering Tikal for the first time - all by ourselves. This place is HUGE! As we came out of temple IV we heard a big roaring sound. We were afraid that there was a lion hurt or fighting. We went toward the sound and it just got louder and louder. I've never heard anything like it, it was so loud. We knew there were Puma's and Jaguar's in the area so we were looking for a Jaguar. But no. It was a HOWLER MONKEY! Can you see him up there?

This little fluffy black monkey makes a roar like a lion. It was so cool!
We continued on to the rest of the ruins and Kylee just couldn't get enough of it. She's was bouncing off the walls taking a bajillion pictures of anything and everything. Ruins, birds, anteaters, monkeys...everything.

Here I am sitting in someone's house:

Every area was a new exploration, and it's all just out there in the open! It is so cool how the front side of a temple will be excavated and the back side will look like a mountain covered with vegetation. This is the front front of the building that has been excavated:

This is the back. What is under that? Who knows!
Same with this is the front:
And this is the back:
There were piles and piles of these stones. They are fragile, they break apart like chalk.
Here they have started excavating into the side of the mountain.

Here they started excavating underground and then they just stopped...

Makes you wonder what is under all the rest of the hills in guatemala. There could be ruins everywhere and we'd never know it. However, they could uncover these ruins for the next bajillion years and it wouldn't tell them anything unless they find more of these:

Before they translated these tablets, they believed that the Mayans were a peaceful, spiritual people who studied the solar system and lived in tranquility. When they translated them, they found out how wrong they were. They were a conquering, war-making tribe that fought constantly to exert their supremacy. These kinds of things always make me wonder what else historians are totally wrong about...

Some of the temples we climbed are so high and the steps are so vertical that it is amazing no one has been killed on them. If they were in America, they would NOT be allowed!

Can you believe how high this is?! That is a sundial down there. A real live sundial used by the Mayans who predicted the world's destruction! If I had one wish, I'd love to go back in time and watch a day in the life of Tikal during 700 AD. It would be INCREDIBLE to see that city in the peak of it's glory. I want to see the kings/queens/prietesses/whatever in those days. We have no idea what it was like...or how the buildings were put to use. All we can do is guess.

We were so hungry and thirsty by 10:00 that we hit the road. On the way out we saw that some of the booths were open so we picked up some water. Hallelujah, water. We were so happy, we took a picture to remember it.

I don't remember looking this bad...selective amnesia.

We went to the hotel for lunch and scheduled our Canopy zip-line tour for 11:00. Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guatemala Day 8: Travel Nightmare

On our first day of vacation, Kylee and I decided to buy an new bracelet in every town we went to. It was a fun little thing to shop for and we were getting quite a collection. The girls (and boys) around here have them all up their arms so we have some catching up to do! Little did we know that we would both end up keeping these bracelets on for months after we got home. Neither of us could bear to take them off. This is the beginning of our collection:

The first boat out of Livingston was scheduled to leave at 9:30 and if it went straight to Rio Dulce, it would only take an hour and a half. BUT, these are tour boats and they stop in several places so it takes almost 3 hours instead. If you want a fast boat you have to hire a private one and we're not doing that so sadly, the earliest we can get to Rio Dulce 12:30pm. Ugh. We are trying to get all the way to Tikal today.

The day started out great, it rained before we left our cabin and then we had breakfast and it was beautiful. This is where we had breakfast:

We had our fruit and yogurt and Kylee banana pancakes. Yum. Kylee had a pretty bad sunburn,

so we decided to put some aloe vera on it.

at least it LOOKED like aloe vera... After we smeared it all over her sunburn, it turned yellow and started REEKing. By the time the boat got there, we had it all washed off but it still smelled a little. It was funny. The boat was packed but we both really like boat rides so we settled in for the long haul. Along the river there were houses like this:

With boats like this:

Of course there were the usual shacks as well...
Our first stop was a little mayan village in the jungle. With some time to kill, we started off on a trail to some waterfalls. The trail was so cool we felt like we were in the middle of the jungle book. The Mayans are living pretty primitively here, they have no utilities whatsoever and they get everything they need from the river.

While we were on the trail, it started pouring. We took cover under some trees and figured we'd better try heading back to the boat. We didn't want to get left behind! When we got back to the boat it was soaked. WE were soaked. The guys in charge of the boat were rushing around in this torrential downpour trying to get all the luggage covered. We were watching them and feeling pretty grateful that they were fast, and good at their job. It was still raining as we re-boarded the boats. They gave us some plastic to cover up with but by then it was pointless.

I took out the rain poncho I had been carrying the whole trip, just so I could feel good about needing it. It was awesome.
By the time we got to Rio Dulce, we were soaked, the sun was out and it was HOT!! This is what people do at the docks...

This bridge is huge. It's pretty impressive. We were hoping we could bungee jump off this bridge, but when we asked about it they said that they stopped doing it a couple of years ago when there was an accident. (I was using "we" pretty loosely in that sentence...) Kylee was VERY disappointed.

You'd think we would have dried out on the boat ride but no, the humidity was so high that our sweat just added to the wetness. The bus stop was about 1/2 mile uphill from the boat dock so we took our suitcases and started walking. A guy told us to follow him for a shuttle so we did and we did a complete circle right back to the dock we started at. Urgh. Then he told us it would be $150 or more for a private shuttle to Tikal. See ya. Still burning stinking hot. Another guy said $100 to Flores. We were tempted, but no.
At the bus stop a bus pulled up FULL of guatemalans. It was beyond packed, 4-5 people on a seat and standing room only. Nope, not gonna do it. We were told a "first class bus" would be there in 45 minutes so we started talking to one of the shuttle guys. He said he had one at 3:00 with room in it. We saw our friends from the truck ride at the bus station so we thought we'd share a shuttle but no, the shuttle guy now wanted $100 per person to do that (I know, what the heck?!) I ran back from the shuttle place and Kylee said we just missed the first class bus and our friends got on it. Double-double UGH. I was dripping, literally dripping sweat and I had just ran up and down the dock (uphill) twice. SO mad I missed the bus that I lost it. Kylee was a good sport, she went down the dock to get another shuttle but they kept increasing the price so we decided to wait for the next bus at 3:00. I realize that at this point I should have just given them the money but I am STUBBORN...the bus was only 60Q apiece. That's less than $10! And they go to the same place! So, we blew some time and cooled off at an internet cafe. At about 2:00 we decided to get some lunch. I told Kylee to make sure the bus was still coming at 3:00 so she went up to check and it was THERE! Sitting there, about to LEAVE! Talk about panic... But we made it. Thank heavens. The bus was half empty and we had the whole back to ourselves. WAY more comfy than a shuttle and 1/5 of the price. woo hoo!
When we got to Flores, we were still and hour and a half from Tikal, our destination for the night. We were dropped off almost alone, at dusk, in a strange city with strange men standing around in groups. There were no shuttles so we had to pay $40 for a cab. A scary cab so scary that he had to tie the trunk shut and my door didn't even open. I couldn't escape if I had to!. 20 minutes into the ride it was getting dark and we were doing the one thing our travel books said never to at night with a stranger! We were scared. But, an hour later we were safe at our hotel. And our room had a bathroom! With a shower! and hot water! it's a miracle!

We love it to death and we both shower before we head to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Most expensive meal yet, and we don't even care. In Livingston we ate dinner for 20Q, and typically we can have an expensive meal for around 100Q but here our dinner was 300Q! Kylee had cheese ravioli and I had peppercorn steak that looked weird, but was pretty good. Tomorrow we tour Tikal bright and early! Can't wait.