Maya Kingdom: Tikal

After a long bus trip, jumping into the Semuc Champey pools was a delight but like everything in life, it must come to an end. Two nights flew by and we were on the road once again, this time heading to Flores, a colonial town that sits on Lake Petén Itza, close to the Tikal Maya ruins.

Something very strange happened at the tail end of this bus trip and I want to share this with you as I think it might be helpful in your future travels. When we arrived at Santa Elena, the town next to Flores, we switched buses to get on another shuttle that was supposed to take us to Flores. The reason the driver provided was that the bus we were in needed to be cleaned. It got funny when a Guatemalan guy of about 5’ 3” wearing a kids shirt and showing off his belly button told everyone that in Flores (which is essentially an island) there were no ATMs and that if we needed money we should get it now. Andrea and I found this extremely suspicious and we did not pull out money, although most of the other passengers did.

Once everybody had their pockets filled with cash, the new bus driver made another suspicious stop. This time at a travel agency, what a coincidence! He claimed to have the best and cheapest Tikal tour around and that we should buy the tours now as tickets sell out fast (even though it is low season!). Now that the travelers didn’t have the excuse of having no cash, this was the perfect scam. Props to the Guatemalan sales man because he nailed it – almost everyone bought their tickets here except for a Spanish girl who said “First the ATM, now the travel agency? I’m not falling for that.” Andrea and I agreed, so we didn’t purchase any tours either. After arriving at our hostel, Los Amigos, which I recommend to anyone, we noticed that:

#1 There are ATMs in town
#2 He did not have the best rates in town. Through our hostel and other hotels the rates were equivalent or, more often, less

Advice to all my fellow travelers: Always do your research and follow your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!

The next morning we woke before the sun was up to get on the 4:30am tour to Tikal and this way try to avoid the unbearable afternoon heat while taking the 3-hour tour of the magnificent Maya kingdom. Andrea asked me before leaving if the GoPro and Canon cameras had full batteries, and with no hesitation I responded: “Yes!” We arrived at around 5:45am at the Tikal National Park and met our tour guide for the day. As soon as our tour started and Andrea started taking pictures guess what happened? Yes, the camera died. Both of the cameras had zero battery! This means that the pictures you are seeing came from my iPhone 5s so I apologize for the lack of quality! Hopefully you still enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed being part of what was once one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Maya empire.

-Gerardo

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