Friday, December 4, 2015


With the cave tour done in Belize, I decided to nix the other things I'd considered in Belize (one because the road was said to be pretty bad, the other because I'd heard lackluster reviews) and head out for Guatemala. First stop: Tikal. Well, really, the first stop was the border crossing.

I left Belize in good weather - one of the few times the sky actually looked pretty blue. Got the bike all packed up, said goodbye to a few people, and headed out. I didn't go very far before the blue skies turned into clouds, and soon after a drizzle meant that I had to deck out in rain gear. Perfect, just what I want for a border crossing.

When I arrived at the border it was still drizzling. I stopped on the Belize side where I had to go into the exit of the building to get my vehicle permit nullified - waiting in line with all the people entering Belize - and then turned back around and took the bike into Guatemala. After riding down the sidewalk to avoid the carwash-looking fumigation facilities for cars, I pulled over to a building where a guy put on a backpack with a tank to fumigate the bottom of my bike without fumigating me too.

After getting my passport stamped and starting on my paperwork for the bike, I saw a set of familiar faces: the Belgians from the hostel in San Ignacio. They hadn't even been packing up their things when I took off on the motorcycle, but they'd already beat me on the border crossing with all the extra delays the motorcycle causes. They were headed off to Flores and I was headed to Tikal directly, so we said a few hellos and goodbyes and then they went on their way.

I finally got all the paperwork done, got a new sticker on the windshield (for a fee) and then asked for directions to Tikal, verifying that the road wasn't too bad. Other than a dirt section, they said, it was pretty good, and that held true. I'd heard the roads were worse in Guatemala, but at least on this trip I had no problems. I got to the entrance to the Tikal park nice and early at 2pm only to find out that if I waited until 3:30, I could buy a ticket that was good until the end of the next day as well instead of needing to buy two tickets. So I sat around at a restaurant with no power and read a book for an hour a half, and then bought my ticket and headed in.

I asked around at a couple of hotels, but they were really expensive - close to $80, though they included dinner, breakfast, and a tour. There were only a few of them, and they had a pretty good monopoly on the situation, so they could charge pretty high prices. Instead of settling for one of those, I headed over to the camping area where I parked my motorcycle next to a palapa, set up my tent to put my stuff inside, and hung my hammock from the rafters of the palapa (pulling out the hammock's mosquito net for the first time as well).

After calling an early night and setting my alarm, I woke up at 3:45 in the morning, put on a few warm clothes, and headed to the entrance of the Tikal ruins for the sunrise hike. I paid my entrance fee, and then waited around by the gate in the pitch black night and admired the stars. The guard had mentioned something about a tour, so I figured I'd wait a bit and see what happened.

Sure enough, a group from the hotels showed up not long after for a tour - including Toby, the girl I'd met on the ATM cave tour in Belize. I chatted with her a bit until her tour guide beckoned for her to come along, after which he gestured to me and told me to come along as well. Cool, looks like a tour was included with my ticket after all!

But the tour guide was... lackluster. Maybe I'm just spoiled from my Palenque tour, but I really didn't feel like I was getting much value out of the tour guide that I couldn't get from reading signs or looking a few things up on the internet later if I was really interested. His English was good, which was a bummer because it meant I wasn't practicing my Spanish at all. I thought about ditching the tour and going off on my own a few times, but stuck with it because I didn't want to be rude.

Around 5:00 we made our way up to the top of Temple IV to grab a seat on the steps above the trees and wait for the sunrise. As the sky got lighter and lighter, we got an amazing view of... some clouds. Unfortunately it was a bit too cloudy to see much of anything. We did get a nice audio show from the howler monkeys, and catching the tops of a few of the other pyramids through the shifting haze was cool, but not much to talk about as far as sunrises went.

We headed back down the steps of the temple and our guide started taking us around to a few other places, a few of which we'd walked by in the dark and I'd hardly seen. At some point around 7:00 he and I were up at the front of the group alone, and he leans over and says "Oh by the way, the tour costs 170 Quetzales" ($22).

Wait what?! If it costs money (and more than my entrance fee and camping for the night combined), why didn't you say that at the beginning of the tour, not three hours in? If he'd told me at the beginning, I would have taken off on my own right then and skipped the tour altogether. I refused to pay on the grounds that had he told me a price earlier, I would have said no, and it's not like he had to do any extra work due to me walking with the tour. He had the audacity to ask for a review on Trip Advisor after that too - I don't think you want my review, buddy, I wasn't a fan of the tour before you tried to trick me into paying for something I didn't want.

Free from the tour, I headed back up to the top of Temple IV since the sky was starting to clear up, and was rewarded with some fantastic views. (Here's where I'd put some awesome pictures if I could get them off my dead phone.) I sat for a while and admired the view before walking down and doing a hike around most of the rest of the ruins. By the time I started seeing other tourists coming in, I was headed towards the exit. 9am is a bit early to leave for an all day ticket, but I'd already spent five hours in the ruins, so I headed back to my campsite and packed up. Not long after I was on the road to Flores, the city on an island.

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