We were walking at a brisk pace. It was just after six in the morning, and we were trying desperately to make it to Temple IV of Tikal in order to watch the sunrise over the Mayan ruins. I was completely astonished on how hot it already was, but never the less, I hauled. After climbing a series of steps, I was there, overlooking the foggy landscape that once was cultivated by one of the most brilliant civilizations of all times, only to suddenly mysteriously collapse. As I sat there listening to the sounds of the jungle, I was able to just picture Mayans at work…thousands of years before I stepped foot on their land.
Just a few hours north of Flores, Tikal is in the heart of malaria country. The group that I have been traveling with had made our way to Flores the night before with the intention of visiting Tikal for sunrise the following day. After securing accommodation, we went about to find the best deal…something that doesn’t exist for an attraction such as this. Transportation out there and the guide were relatively cheap, but what got me was the fact that I paid 6 times more to get into the national park than the nationals! But, realizing that I only live once, I was able to shut my mouth and prepared myself to enjoy the day. Our transportation met us at our hotel at 3:30 in the morning…giving most of us only a few hours of sleep. Sleep deprived, we piled into the shuttle and made the hour and half trip towards the ruins.
The hike up wasn’t to terribly difficult. But due to it being quite foggy, we did not actually witness the sun rise, but were instead able to gaze out over Mayan ruins with close to no light and human noise…just listening to the sounds of the jungle. As we sat in silence, this magical place felt like a spell had been cast as light began to seep through the heavy cloud cover. As the clouds broke, we began to disembark and further explore the rest of the Mayan ruins.
Although the sunrise tour is popular, the park is still quite deserted in the early hours of the morning. Our guide took us throughout the ruins, explaining different aspects of Mayan history and when each of the temples was built. Although Tikal is currently in the middle of thick jungle, thousands of years ago they kept all of the vegetation cleared to better expose the temples. Can you imagine being the head gardener back then?
My favorite thing about third world countries is the lack of safety everywhere. There were only two temples we were not allowed to climb (due to people falling to their death), but other than that, almost everything was fair game. Now I’m not one to be scared of heights, but a couple climbs up definitely had me shaking. Some climbs only took a few minutes, but one had you on a ladder for a good ten minutes. I also couldn’t help but laugh when I think about an attraction like this in a developed nation. Not only would they have an elevator to take you to the top, in which the top will be completely enclosed with glass, but they would also make you wear a harness and rope, just in case for some odd reason the bullet proof glass at the viewing platform couldn’t hold.
The tour ended at the Great Plaza. It was almost ten in the morning, and I was ready to get out of the sun and head to bed. We finished exploring, taking photos, and witnessing the handy work of this great civilization before making our hike back. At the entrance, we hit up the cheesy tourist shops to enjoy a cold drink before making our way back. The afternoon was then spent sleeping and recovering from the ridiculous amount of heat and humidity.