31 December 2014
It is New Years Day! If you would have asked me one year ago as I stood in Times Square watching the ball drop, if I would be married and in Guatemala in exactly one years time, I would have said, “heck no!” Guatemala is always a place I have wanted to visit and now here I am!
Today was a great day. Andrew accompanied me as I walked around Flores and Santa Elena snapping photos pretending to be the next National Geographic prodigy. We booked our tour to Tikal, the largest Mayan ruins in all of Central America and spent the rest of the morning walking around purchasing souvenirs and snacks for the trip. Visiting Tikal has been on my destination list for quite sometime and I can’t believe I actually got to see it today!
At 12:30pm our tour bus picked us up outside our hotel and we were off to Tikal. We spent the next four and a half hours exploring the dense jungles of Guatemala and discovering huge Mayan Temples along with way. Tikal is absolutely stunning. It is the largest Mayan ruin that went undiscovered by the Spanish and therefore still exists. Cortez and the Spanish destroyed everything Mayan in an attempt to build Catholic Churches throughout Central America. Our tour guide was an indigenous Mayan and it was an incredible experience to hear all about his religious traditions and cultural norms. One thing he kept saying was that no one knows what happened to the Mayans or why they did what they did… Tikal is a Mayan mystery. We saw the jungle canopy from above, viewed all kinda of birds, monkeys, and other wildlife, and stumbled upon dozens of Mayan ruins. The largest ruin was over 72 meter tall, and that isn’t even the largest one. The largest one is at El Mirador, a 60km hike to a 180 meter tall temple. Andrew and I already decided that when we are going to come back to Guatemala to hike it.
What an incredible way to spend New Year’s Eve, hiking around an ancient civilization. We returned to our little of Flores and ran into Elder Lutz! We have him a few things his mother had sent with us to give him and we able to pass those off. We spent about an hour chatting over some tacos and tamales… Elder lutz and his companion from Bolivia are doing great and it was so fun to see them. After our dinner date with the missionaries we walked around the little island collecting snacks for New Years Eve. We typically purchase some cookies, bananas, refill our water and gum stash, and never leave without ice cream in our hands.
12:00am: Happy 2015! The entire city sounded like a war zone tonight with fireworks going off literally EVERYWHERE. The sky was filled with birds swarming in circles trying to escape all the smoke. We are only at day 6 of our 15 day adventure, and we have seen so much. Backpacking with Andrew is so much more fun than any of my previous backpacking adventures! I am so lucky to have such an incredible boy in my life. I can’t imagine starting the new year any better.
Today was our 5th day out of the country and it was another day of adventure! We woke up late this morning (we’ve been traveling non-stop to get to Guatemala) so that was a nice way to get some extra recovery time in! Unfortunately that meant we missed the morning bus to the Mayan city of Tikal which left at 8am. Both Kylie and I really wanted to see the city so we made plans to get there later that day. We spent the morning before the next bus taking photos of little Guatemalan people (that’s what Kylie calls them sometimes) and gathering snacks for the day trip at the ruins. When we got to the bus depot on Flores island we found that they didn’t have buses leaving for Tikal until the evening, so we set out into the city of Santa Elina to find the bus depot to. We walked through the crowds of vendors selling live chickens, turkeys, fruits, vegetables, etc and noticed along the way a tour scheduling office for people going to Tikal. We stopped inside and found out they had a bus leaving shortly for the site. Kylie got excited but when I saw the name of the group (San Juan travel) I told Kylie I didn’t think we should go with them. When I’d researched your groups to travel to Tikal with, San Juan had been under investigation for assisting in highway robberies of tourists (partner with the group, get a cut of the cash etc). Kylie was a little frustrated (from my perspective) but she agreed to continue on to the bus depot. When we got there however we were approached by a man trying to sell us tours into Tikal but I felt a little uneasy about the man and group. I mentioned to Kylie that I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation and thought we should look elsewhere for a tour group into Tikal. I think that might’ve been tough for Kylie to hear since she really wanted to get up to Tikal today and not have to wait until tomorrow. I sensed a little frustration that I was again stonewalling Kylie in her goal to get to Tikal. From my perspective, I was concerned with safety and a tour company with a reputation like San Juan and a sketchy looking man running a tour bus didn’t sell me on the ‘safe’ requirement I have when traveling. We made our way back to Flores chatting about trying to find another company that I felt comfortable with.
On the way back to the island I felt a little bad – I didn’t want to stifle Kylie’s love for adventure but at the same time couldn’t bring myself to allow us to dive head first into a situation I wasn’t confident in. Turns out we made the right call! When we got back to Flores we found a tour company that was offering us a cheaper rate than the others and leaving at the early time we had hoped to get! The blessing of compromising in this scenario!
We made the right decision since Tikal was amazing. Tall looming structures above the jungle canopy below proved to be an impressive sight. We took a bunch of photos to document the adventures in the nature park as well.
We’ve had an incredible day and some great lessons learned!