As we weren’t going to Belize, we’d be heading back through Flores after Tikal, so we decided to leave some non-crucial things at Buenas Cosas to make the bikes lighter. Memo tried telling us that it was dangerous to ride to Tikal but, with two years of experience so far, I was pretty un-moved. The thing that was more concerning, was the information about the prices of food at Tikal. It’s a long way from anywhere, at least on a bicycle, so we decided to go grocery shopping to try to save some money. As neither of us have a stove, mine is still in Utah, we went with the idea of oatmeal for dinner and breakfast which ended up being a grand failure later that night when it tasted like bad wallpaper paste.

Neither of us are sure why Memo thought the way he did about the road to Tikal. It was empty and the biggest interaction we had was when a bus stopped to let us catch up just before a big hill to grab on. Peter did and got pulled most of the way up whereas I watched on and slowly span to the top- so much for bad drivers! Peter thinks that Guatemalan drivers have treated us nicer giving us more space, but, for me, other than the rare guy who drives far too close, I’ve not personally thought badly of the drivers in most places on the trip, outside Miami, but then I ride further into the lane than Peter does.

We’d been planning on camping at the Tikal campground, but 10km short there was an open space and we decided to throw up tents there to save the 30Q ($3.75) per person camping fee. It didn’t end up being a great idea, because the heavens opened and we were camped in a place where it was difficult to stake the tents out. With my rain fly not properly staked out, water was dripping in. Thanks to Peter, who got out of his tent and used his boy-scout experience, the dripping slowed down to a manageable level and I didn’t wake up with a lake in my tent.

We had planned to get to Tikal to see the sunrise, but, even though I was awake around 6, it was still raining and I wasn’t too desperate to take the tents down in the rain. Peter’s usually asleep until I wake him up, so I decided to go back to sleep. The rain cleared up around 8 so we got to Tikal by 9. Considering it had basically been raining all night long, we wouldn’t have seen a sunrise anyway and so didn’t feel too bad.

When we got to Tikal, we looked for a place to leave our bikes. We’d been told that the person at the camp-site would look after them, and he said he would, but for 10Q ($1.25) 1/3 of the camping fee. When we saw the palapas, we realised we really should have camped there the night before. We could have camped under the palapas and they’d have stayed dry. Thankfully the guys at the ticket booth offered to look after the bikes without asking for money so we had a secure place. My stomach was feeling a bit off, possibly caused by where we’d brunched the day before, but at least having paid 150Q ($18.75) to get in we didn’t have to pay a bathroom fee and there was paper in them, a rare luxury in Guatemala.

Maybe because it was a Thursday, or maybe because of the weather, but it didn’t seem as busy at Tikal as I’d worried. There were still large numbers of organised tours, but it only took a few minutes waiting to take pictures without too many tourists blocking your view. Considering guides charge around $50, we decided to skip one and just followed along with random groups when it suited us. While some guides can be great and full of information about the history, others are basically there to entertain and tell stories that are of questionable veracity.

We’d read stories and seen pictures of people who had been to Tikal 10-20 years ago and had been able to climb up all the temples, even sleeping on them after a quick bribe to a guard. It’s really not that way any more. Temple 4 is the only one of the six main temples that you’re allowed up, and apparently guards are a lot less corrupt. To be fair, unless I had my tent, I’d really not want to sleep in the middle of Tikal because of the obscene number of mosquito bites I’d end up with in the morning. Also, having slept on top of
the Great Wall of China, I don’t think it’d compare favourably to that amazingly ridiculous experience.

I enjoyed Tikal, but my stomach issues made it hard to really do so. The clouds and rain also got in the way of it, and no matter how much people talk about the majety of temples hidden in cloud, I don’t think we got that. The view from temple 4 would have been much better with a light covering of wispy clouds.

Having ridden to Tikal, we’d hoped to get a lift back to Flores, but there was no-one in the car park when we set out. We had gone about 5k by the time the rain started, but thankfully within 15 minutes a pick-up came past and I was able to thumb a lift even while riding. It was a Guatemalan and his friend from Florida. They took us most of the way back to the main junction, where the Flores-Tikal road joined with the one coming in from Belize and so the traffic got heavier. In the ride the issue of guns came up, and the Guatemalan mentioned that basically everyone was packing heat and it was down to a combination of the very bloody 40 year civil war and the influence of the US. It wasn’t the first time that we’d heard people in Guatemala blaming the influence of the US for problems that the country has, Rafael shared similar opinions when we were getting our tour of Guatemala City.

The final part of our way back to Buenas Cosas was a lift in the back of a crisp delivery man. Peter found him in a petrol station, and it involved us squashing up between the boxes. Even though it was very uncomfortable, I actually managed to sleep a little as I was feeling so crappy. Just before getting back to Buenas Cosas, we went back to the place where we’d brunched on the way to Tikal – maybe not our smartest idea. It had been delicious and cheap, but we were not sure if it had been the cause of our problems. The next morning, when I woke up OK, but Peter felt horrible we figured it was the cause. Even though there was a bit of tension between us and our host we managed to have a rest day. If Peter had been feeling up to it, we would have left in the afternoon, but that wasn’t an option so we spent the whole rest day there.

View from Templo 4

Coatimundi fighting

Peter playing with Coatamundi

Talking about Temple IV

Tikal overview

From Temple IV