Wow we have just had an amazing time visiting Tikal, an ancient Mayan city in the middle of a huge jungle. We arrived in the afternoon and as it was after 3pm we got a ticket which was also valid for the next day as well. We stayed just outside the entrance to the park in a hammock under a palm leaf canopy, surrounded by what sounded like a million insects. So we were able to stay in the park until it got dark (very , very dark!), and then get up at 4:30pm to climb the tallest temple (which overlooked the jungle for miles and miles) and watch and listen to the jungle wake up. The howler monkeys are the first to wake up, just as it starts to get light, and we could hear different groups howling over the jungle, and then the birds start to wake up.
We then spent the day walking round the site, and climbing the temples, for temple 5 we climbed up a 60M wooded ladder! We saw toucans, a huge tarantula like spider, leaf cutter ant motorways heading of into the undergrowth, where each ant was carrying pieces of leaf much bigger than themselves, and lots of howler monkeys swinging around in the trees. Including a large group of males howling at each other, who were so loud.
We have finally left Xela .. we had a very long dusty, bendy and bumpy shuttle bus ride from Xela to Coban, a very wet miserable town which we were a bit worried we would be stuck in all weekend as there are no buses over Easter, but we managed to get a rather expensive tourist shuttle bus out of there on Friday. We got the shuttle bus to Flores a very small holiday like island in lake ‘lago de peten itza’, attached to the main land by a small cause way – and are now sat in our shorts with gorgeous sunshine outside – you probably do not want to know this as the weather back home sounds pretty terrible..
We have come up here as Tikal, a large ancient Mayan site deep in the jungle is close to here and we also need to leave the county for 3 days to renew our visa which runs out on the 2nd April. The border too Belize is only a few hours away, and there are some other mayan sites we can see near a town called San Ignacio which is only 30 minutes over the border (and they have dark beer! Chris’ main reason for choosing to go to Belize over Mexico).
So we hope to go and visit Tikal first, and hopefully camp outside so we can see it early in the morning before all the tourists arrive, and apparently according to the guy who told us about the camping it is amazing at night as this is when all the animals in the jungle wake up…. Then we will go over to Belize to renew our visa and drink some dark beer.
After we are hoping to go and help on a wildlife sanctuary in the jungle, which I have just found out about, and is only a 10 minute boat journey from here.
So we have just e-mailed them and are waiting to hear back…but for now we have a nice airy room with a view of the lake and our own bathroom – ohh the luxury of having a bathroom close to us in the night.
We stayed in Santa Anita La Union until Tuesday, deciding to head north to Coban before Easter (Semana Santa) as the busses and hotels are busy over the easter period.
We had an interesting time in Santa Anita, its the people there were welcoming and very open to talking about the Guatemalan War which raged for 32 years, and their experiences afterwards.
They are struggling to survive now as the money from the coffee only brings in around 500 british pounds per year and they have an overpriced loan from the Govt banks which they cant pay back. But they are determined to survive and are selling their coffee to a US based fair trade cooperative called “just coffees”. even then they only get about 80p per lb of coffee, not much when you think how expensive organic fair trade coffee costs in the shops in britain (about 3.50 for half a pound)…
Now that we have finished the projects we were working on here in Xela, we are going to go and stay on the finca we went to visit on Tuesday, Finca Santa Anita.
We are going to get the bus there tomorrow morning but I think we will be back in Xela briefly next Wednesday to bring a new batch of banana bread and to put up the posters we are going to make to advertise the bread.
At the finca we will stay in a large house for volunteers (but I think it will only be us and 2 other people), and eat our meals with a local family. We met the family we will be eating with on Tuesday and they were really friendlly. The father was keen to sit and talk with us, so I think we will definitely get to practice out Spanish, the mother made the best tortillas we have had so far, and they have 4 small sons and a daughter.
There is no hot water, but the weather is warmer towards the coast, and I am sure we will get used to showering quickly. There is also no Internet! so I will not be able to play with my facebook page….and there seemed to be a lot of big bugs and animals at the finca (which kept us awake in the night), but I am sure we will get used to them.
Chris has finished building his wooden computer.
It had no case, so this one has been made out of an old tea crate, and he put a plastic cover on it so it can be used for teaching people about how to use computers.