It’s been a while since my last post since Brian and I have been on the move practically every other day. I believe we left off at Palenque, Mexico – the home of one of the best preserved (or reconstructed) ruins of such a grand size. We heard many stories from other travelers (we were guidebook-less for Mexico) on how the city of Palenque is the pits, and the true charm of the area is found by sleeping in a hammock in a cabana outside of town. I, being completely freaked out by the thought of sleeping out in the jungle, decided we should take a look around town first before resorting to this option.
Luckily, town has a great hotel/hostel area, and, dripping with sweat, we found a place we were happy with, and with cable TV. I’m glad we chose to not listen to everybody else on this particular route especially because we discovered a restaurant with THE BEST nacho chips we have ever had in our lives there!
The following day, Brian and I braved the sweltering jungle heat to explore the gigantic ruins. Being too cheap to pay for a guide, we often found ourselves wandering aimlessly and making up stories about each temple along the way. If you go to Palenque, make sure you hit their little museum (included with entrance fee) because it definitely helps to fill in the gaps. After sweating all day, we thought it would be nice to hit up Agua Azul for some cooling off, but unfortunately, we were unable to find proper transport from the ruins straight there and decided to just call it a day.
From Palenque, we booked a ride crossing the border back into Guatemala and all the way to Tikal. There was the possibility of booking this same trip back in San Cristobal, but for 100Q more. Brian and I both felt good about waiting until in Palenque to set this up. The ride involved a shuttle to the border, a jungle boat ride across the border, and shuttle after straight to Flores (the town that acts as a hub to Tikal). Don’t be fooled by the emphasis on “jungle boat ride” because in actuality it really just felt like taking a boat down a dirty river with little vegetation. Our ride was also saddened by some news we received along the way. We met up with a Belgium guy from our hostel in San Cristobal and he told us how another girl from the hostel, who we had hung out with a few days before, drowned at Agua Azul the same day we wanted to go. It was very sad to hear about. Apparently, there are some very unsafe places to swim there, so please be aware of the warning signs if you are planning a trip to this area.
The trip had a way of redeeming itself when we were dropped off at the Guatemalan migration office. This building was very interesting in the fact it was a) in the middle of freaking nowhere, and b) surrounded by nothing but cows. You could tell these guys were bored by the fact they found such joy in annunciating and nationalizing my name.
Finally, 8 hours later, we were in our hotel in Flores and wanting to crash, but unable to call it a day just yet. We heard about a sunrise tour they do to Tikal on the bus to Flores and were determined to shop around for a better deal. We only found one, but it required you to leave the park at 11am. We didn’t like the idea of being forced to leave at any certain time, so we eventually decided to pay the 300Q for the package, which included
1) the 150Q admission to Tikal (Be aware they recently upped this rate for foreigners. Our guidebook said admission was about $7, but it is now around $20!!!)
2) roundtrip transportation
3) ability to enter the park at 4am to climb Temple IV and watch the sun rise over the park
4) guided tour for 4 hours of the temples and jungle life
Also note that if you are wanting to do a tour like this to buy the packages that INCLUDE your admission fee to the park. The people on our bus that did not pay beforehand were actually skimmed of an extra 10Q each.
The sunrise tour was great, and not so much for the sunrise, but for the ability to sit in silence and listen to the jungle wake up. Howler monkeys, parrots, and crickets filled the air. It was also nice to see most of the park in the morning when it is less busy and a lot cooler. The guide was a great addition because he helped up see wildlife we would not have otherwise – spider monkeys, tarantulas, giant elephant beetles.
That night we slept like babies, only to rise and pursue yet another adventure.