Llegamos a El Remate cerca del atardecer. Al día siguiente, bien tempranito, partimos hacia Tikal para poder visitar las ruinas sin tanto calor. Tikal es uno de los centros mayas más grandes que se hayan descubierto. Las ruinas son bastante impresionantes, aunque sólo el 30% está descubierto. Subimos al templo IV, que es el más alto de Guatemala, con casi 70 metros. Desde ahí se puede ver toda la selva y los distintos templos. Después visitamos el mundo perdido y el templo III para terminar en la Gran Plaza, donde se encuentran los templos I (el del Gran Jaguar) y II (el de la Máscara). Para ese entonces, después de 3 horas de caminata, ya estábamos más que acalorados. Los abus se quedaron paseando un rato más pero los M.E.L.T. decidieron volver al hotel. En el hotel había un muellecito sobre el lago Petén Itzá. Nos metimos al lago a nadar un poco, y después T, M, E y abu Beto se fueron a andar en kayak. Al día siguiente fuimos a visitar otras ruinas llamadas Yaxhá. Yaxhá también es muy grande, aunque sólo una pequeña parte está excavada. Son menos turísticas, pero muy lindas. En Yaxhá escalamos el Templo 216 desde donde se observan dos lagos: el Yaxhá y el Sacnab. A la vuelta, almorzamos y nos preparamos para despedir a los abus en el aeropuerto. Pero antes de eso visitamos el pueblito de Flores, una isla en el lago Petén que está casi totalmente dedicada al turismo. Un poco tristes porque los abus se fueron, volvimos al hotel y nos preparamos para partir hacia México. Sin embargo, E tuvo una muy mala noche, con un poco de fiebre, asique decidimos quedarnos un día más para que E se recupere. M, T y L estuvieron en la pileta, pintando tarjetas de cumpleaños para E y jugando. Ahora sí nos preparamos para despedir Guatemala y entrar a nuestro último país: México.
The Mayan sites of Tikal and Yaxhá
From the Candelaria caves we continued for about four hours to El Remate, a small town on the eastern shores of Lake Petén Itzá and about 30 min from Tikal. The road included a short river crossing (Sayaxché) where our cars were searched by the military and then a relatively straight road but replete with unmarked ‘túmulos’ (speed bumps). The túmulos were like walls, obliging a complete stop, and appeared without warning after curves, atop hills or under the shade of trees. The many villages and roadside shops were evidence of how much progress a road can provide to remote regions but also how destructive it can be towards the environment. The jungle or forest had been deforested almost completely to give way to corn plantations.
At El Remate we stayed at a very nice hotel with access to the lake. E, T and Abu Beto went kayaking and ‘fell’ several times into the incredibly warm lake. Abu took his own kayak and E and T another one. By the time we came back T was paddling by himself and Abu Beto was dragging behind E’s kayak. It was a lot of fun and M joined us for a little bit. L and Abu Susi watched from the safety of a shaded hammock.
The morning after we arrived we headed early to Tikal, probably the most impressive and best preserved Mayan site. We hired an official guide (not very good) and took off for a three hour walk through the jungle and thousand-year-old temples, palaces and shrines. The first things we noticed were the overwhelming sounds of the jungle, mostly from insects like crickets, and the intense smell emanating from pepper trees that accompanied us during the visit. We first headed to the tallest structure, Temple IV, that affords a view of the jungle from above and the peaks of a few other temples. We continued to a complex called Mundo Perdido (Lost World), site of the Great Pyramid and the first buildings to be excavated. Many of the temples were built in pairs and while sometimes both had been excavated, others had only one structure visible and the other only recognizable as a mound covered in trees and other vegetation. We continued to temple III and then to the Great Plaza, the most impressive set of buildings. We had been recommended to leave the Great Plaza as a final treat but by the time we got there we had little energy to keep climbing. M and T did a great job keeping up with the grownups most of the way but were ready for a break so MELT headed back to the hotel and Abus stayed a little longer exploring the Great Plaza.
Early the following day we visited Yaxhá, another Mayan site where few structures have been excavated but has some pyramids and temples that rival Tikal’s. This time we didn’t hire a guide and strolled around the site. We climbed a few temples that also had great views, toured the ball field and several twin pyramids. The Abus were leaving that same day so in the afternoon we all went to the town of Flores that is next to the airport. Flores is a small island on the Lake Petén Itzá crammed with hotels and bars. We were having a drink on the terrace of a bar by the lake when a swarm of thousands of bees got so close that everyone had to take shelter inside. When we left the bar through the back door a man dressed in a Hertz outfit appeared as if by magic asking if we were returning the car today. A bit surprised we followed the man to the airport and promptly returned the car.
Once more it was time to say a sad goodbye to the Abus. We parted quickly to try to make the moment less sorrowful and went back to the hotel reflecting on all we had been through these past ten days with them.