Tuesday, April 11 - Day 5
We “woke up” (I didn’t really sleep) and ate our crappy pre-ordered hotel breakfast with crappy coffee to match. We met the people with whom we would be going to Tikal with: a family comprised of a father with an English accent, and two sons (Will and James). They lived in Davis, CA. We got into the van, drove to the border of Belize/Guatemala, went through immigration, switched vans, got a new driver, and drove for 2 hours on the world’s worst road to Tikal. The scenery was kind beautiful, but devastating: definitely the poorest area either of us has ever seen in our lives. We arrived at the entrance of Tikal where the driver receives a paper with the time stamped on it. From that moment, the vehicle has 20 minutes MINIMUM (yes, minimum) to arrive at the parking area. This is to ensure that nobody drives too fast in this protected area. It is home to many wild animals, including jaguars. If you take less than 20 minutes to arrive from the front entrance to parking, you are not allowed in.
So Tikal was the capital of the Mayan civilization. It is located in a protected area that is bigger than the entire country of Belize (which actually isn’t saying much seeing as though Belize is the size of my living room). We met our guide, Walter, who was the most amazing tour guide we have ever had for anything anywhere. He was incredibly knowledgeable. From the amount and depth of information he had, he could easily have had a PhD. He had been to Chicago for the sole purpose of seeing an ancient Mayan text at the Newbery Library. I am not going to go into all the ruins we saw and learned about in Tikal as it would take days. I will say that it was incredibly HOT. After the tour, which ended at about 2:00, we ate a lunch of grilled chicken and rice. We got back in the van and headed back towards Belize. We stopped at a gift shop where I bought a set of placemats and napkins for our house (fascinating, I know). We returned to the hotel, swam, and relaxed. We tried to find a restaurant called Café Sol, but it was nowhere to be found. It probably would have helped if the restaurant had an address. (While driving around trying to find the restaurant, we saw what we dreaded ever seeing: MS13 graffiti). We ended up eating at a place called Hannah’s where the same waitress who waited on us the first night we ate at our hotel (when I discovered sour sap ice cream) waited on us again. This was odd because she didn’t even work at our hotel! The manager just needed extra help that night, and she was available. Go figure.