Sunday, May 08, 2005

Stairmaster in the jungle

Our base in Guatamela was El Remate, a wonderfully sleepy lakefront town that seems to only just be surfacing on the Lonely Planet radar - possibly because the bus transportation to Flores in more straightforward. This small village has only a few hotels, many of which face right onto the lake. We stayed at the Sun Breeze Hotel where we were taken care of by the wonderfully tranquilo Humberto and his wife Saida. Our room looked right onto the lake in addition to many grazing cows, horses, roosters, dogs, small children playing, women doing laundry, etc. Our first afternoon we stumbled across a picture perfect palapa - a little thached hut that jutted out over the water. This was an ideal place to take a swim, read, or just take in the scenery....all of which we did.

Day 2 in Guatamala began at 5am with a minibus ride into the Tikal National Park. This was to avoid the hordes that arrive by the busload on day-trips from further afield later in the morning. We were given 8 hours to explore before the return ride home, which we were initially concerned would be vastly longer than we wanted, but it turned out to be about as long as we needed.

The temples are quite breath-taking, rising out of forest and surrounded by jungle as far as the eye can see. For 1000 years they were left abandoned and became completely overgrown, turning into oddly shaped hills with the roots of enormous trees gripping the old stones. One is still free to clamber around over much of the temple complex, although it's quite a workout staggering up and down all those steps. As Katie remarked, such big steps for such small people....

There are a few areas that were closed for public safety after a couple of tourists died after falling down some steps a few years ago. On some of the temples you can certainly see how that could happen - Temple V (above) in particular has extremely steep sides and I was very careful walking around at the top. The lawyers wouldn't allow you anywhere near these things in the U.S., but that's just another reminder of why I'm travelling.


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