For week 6, the whole crew took an expedition across the entire country. We visited Tikal (known for the Mayan ruins), Yaxha (a lesser traveled archaeological site), Livingston (on the Carribean), and Lake Atitlan. Everyone piled into a huge bus and off we went. We picked up a couple more Guatemalan students from school in San Marcos and then continued on. It was a 20 or so hour bus ride from San Pablo to Tikal because the two are on completely opposite sides of the country. We broke down once in the middle of nowhere around 4 in the morning and had to wait at a service station until they opened in the morning. Everybody just slept.
We made to the department of Peten as it was starting to get dark. Peten is the largest department in Guatemala and it comprises the whole northernmost chunk. It is largely uninhabited and is a omplete jungle. As we were driving through Peten, there was more lightning in the distance than I have ever seen. The clouds were ominous andpowerful over the jungle plains. The air was hot and humid, but with the breeze of the bus, it was nice. We finally made it to Lake Peten Itza around 10pm, nearly 24 hours of travel since San Pablo. We stayed in a hostel just a block from the lake. The hostel setting felt straight out of Survivor. The buildings were made of trees, we were in the jungle, strange artifacts were hung in the dining area, and the dining table and chairs were solid pieces of trees. The owner of the place showed us his money collection after dinner. He had money from every imaginable place on earth from all different time periods! Demetrio would have been stoked.
Early the next morning, we piled back into the bus to go to Tikal. The drive into the park felt like we were entering Jurassic Park. There was a huge gate, we were in the thickest part of the jungle, and everyone official was dressed in archaeology attire!
We walked through the park for the rest of the day with the guide of the hostel owner. He was very knowledeable about the history of the Mayans and the ruins. The pyramids themselves were epic. Massive is the only way to describe them. The steps to the top are huge, the height is incredible, and the number that were built was nothing short of amazing. Something that was interesting was how unprotected alot of the park was. We were able to climb most of the pyramids and there weren’t security guards everywhere. Another enjoyable aspeect of the trip was the lack of people in the park. When we we walked to the more remote areas of the park, there wasn’t anybody else around that wasn’t in our group.
Legend of the Hidden Temple Styyyyle:
After Tikal, we went back to the hostel, ate dinner, and then went for a swim in the lake. The lake was amazing. The water was warm, there was no wind, and there were thousands of stars out. Across the lake in the distance we were able to see a thunderstorm play out with an incredible lightning show. The next morning we went to Yaxha. Yaxha was equally interesting and had a good number of sites to explore. We climbed the tallest pyramid there which put us above the canopy where we had a great view of the lake, as well as howler monkeys swinging in the trees.
We stayed one more night in the hostel and then we drove Southeast to Livingstone which is located on the Carribean. We hopped in some boats and went to a small town on the beach to our hotel. There, we ate dinner really quick and then got back on the boats to go to a secluded beach where we played in the water. The water was ridiculously warm. It was 80 and humid in the air, and probably 80 in the water. When you walked in, there was almost no feeling of transition. When you got out, you felt the same as when you were in the water because it was so humid out and it took so long to dry!
The view from the hotel patio:
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel, jumped in the boats, and went over to the same beach as before. We pulled up to the dock, someone came out, took our orders for lunch and then we boated away to another beach. Drive thru on a boat, I will! When we got to the other beach, we hike up a stream for 15 minutes until we made it to a nice waterfall and swimming hole area. The water felt so refreshing because it was still cold while the ocean and the air were stiflingly hot.
After swimming, we went back to the other beach. When my boat was pulling into the dock though, we couldn’t stop fast enough and the captain of the other boat jumped out to push our boat away and keep us from crashing into his boat. Phil saw him struggling, and jumped out to help, but misjudged the depth of the water and twisted his ankle! I saw Phil rolling around in the water and I jumped out to help him and before we knew it, we were all sitting on the beach, Phil with an icepack, trying to figure out if he broke his ankle or just twisted it. We ate lunch and then half of us left the beach a couple hours early to take Phil to the hospital back in Livingstone. He got x-rays and an ankle brace and we met up with the rest of the crowd and began driving to Lake Atitlan. We got back onto the road about an hour after sunset, and we continued driving through the night. We saw the sunrise from the bus just an hour or so from the Lake. Once there, we ate breakfast, and then got into another boat and took it across the lake to another Pueblo. Lake Atitlan has 7 little pueblos surrounding it, each with its own style. We went walking around 3 of them, picking up knick knacks, clothes, and hammocks. We also went to a secluded beach to swim for 20 minutes.
After the lake, we headed back to San Pablo, arriving sometime late in the night, concluding Guateca week 6.