Tikal and Flores, Guatemala

Temple IV at Tikal

Temple IV at Tikal

The mist was thick in the pre-morning dark.  We wove our way forward, sometimes avoiding hidden tree roots and large stones, and sometimes not.  Our flashlight was dim and the moisture in the air scattered the little light it provided

The jungle was waking up around us.  A mysterious bird called out nearby, and another responded in the distance.  A symphony of crickets played at increasing volume the deeper into the foliage we went.  The screech of a howler monkey cut through the air like fingernails on a blackboard.  The air was still, but leaves rustled as if by a light breeze

Still in total darkness, we came upon a wooden stairway leading up.  Upward we climbed, first on wood and then on stone.  The effort both warmed our bodies and flushed away the cobwebs of sleep, more than any cup of coffee.  And then we waited

The jungle grew increasingly louder, with birds chirping and insects buzzing.  The howler monkeys may have been preparing for battle, their screams rising louder than all the rest.  The darkness wasn’t nearly as dense, but the fog seemed to thicken as if to make up for it.

As the sky lightened, the clamor died down.  The only sounds remaining were from our own breaths, and those of the people around us.  And the groans of disappointment

We had climbed to the top of the tallest temple in Tikal to watch the sunrise, and all we could see was fog


Rio Dulce and Livingston, Guatemala

Fishing the Rio Dulce

Fishing the Rio Dulce

From Lake Izabel to the old port town of Livingston, the wide Rio Dulce winds its way to the Caribbean Sea, making its way through lush jungle and soaring canyons; past old Spanish forts and giant marinas, old stilt houses and new extravagant mansions, Mayan locals fishing from their dugout canoes and international voyagers in their yachts.  The blend of old and new in this beautiful natural setting adds to the charm

There are few roads here; the river is everything.  For ages the Mayan people of the region lived off the river, and many still do today.  The Spanish built forts here, using the Rio Dulce as a staging area for Atlantic shipping.  Today the river is used as a base for Caribbean sailors


Lanquin Caves and Semuc Champey

Outside of the small Mayan village of Lanquin, Guatemala are two natural geological formations that draw visitors from around the world, the Lanquin Caves and the pools of Semuc Champey

The Lanquin Caves are a 15+ km long network of caves through which flows an underground river.  From the town of Lanquin, it is only 9 km to get to both the caves and pools.  9 km of single lane dirt and rock road.  With 12 people smashed into the back of a pickup truck whose suspension has long been neglected, we bounced and jostled like cattle on our way to market as we went up and down countless hills.  On occasion the truck would stop to slip into a lower gear, before climbing straight up the sheer walls of the next hillside


Antigua, Guatemala

Arco de Santa Catalina and Last Night's Rain

Arco de Santa Catalina and Last Night’s Rain

Antigua Guatemala, literally, is the old capital of Guatemala.  After a few earthquakes shook the place up and destroyed a few thousand buildings, the seat of government was moved to Guatemala City and the old city was ordered abandoned.  Few people listened

A lot of those old dilapidated buildings were replaced, but many of the ruins of churches and convents are still there…  perhaps the Vatican was lacking in cash.

Everybody that backpacks through Guatemala spends time here.  The town is full of hostels and tourist focused restaurants and bars, which provides some great dining options, at a price.  After a ridiculously cheap 6 weeks in San Pedro, everything in Antigua seemed expensive by comparison