Monday, 6 March 2017

Tikal and El Remate – Days 171 to 173

Templo I at Tikal in the evening sunshine
You know it's called rainforest.......?

So, after the last entry, I finally got him out and we walked acres the causeway to Santa Elena, traveling light, small packs for three nights away. (Hopefully everything will be as we left it in the locker in the hotel when we get back!) Via the ATM, which is scary expensive by the time you've added their charge and our bank charge, we arrived at the bus station in Santa Elena. We had been told, in no uncertain terms by the man in the tourist information, to make sure we only got the ATIM bus as that was 30 Quetzals, the other would be 50. 
Waiting for the collectivo to fill up
Could we find ATIM? No, we did find Laurent, the German guy trying to buy a ticket to Palenque, we may have put him off buying from San Jose travel, leaving him wondering what to do, if you are reading this Laurent, I'm so sorry! Brian was suddenly off on one, not seen him like this before, storming about trying to find the right desk, ranting as people wanted us to get on any number of other collectivos, at other prices. Finally we were told to sit here and wait, it would be along at 13.05. All this for a saving of £2.20 each, admittedly the price of a beer we were to discover when we got to Tikal, but we have just spent £44.00 on overnight bus tickets to Antigua. Let's have some perspective here!

The Peten district of Flores
It turned up, we got on, we drove 5 minutes and it sat in the market waiting to fill up for 20 mins, but hey, it's OK. Finally set off on an uneventful journey, not overfull, people on and off, pleasant young driver and conductor. Got to the Tikal gate and had to buy our tickets, slightly nervous as we actually wanted to buy for tomorrow, which would let us in after 16.00 today, but it was only 14.30. It was fine, then discovered we were still 20km from the park entrance, so glad we didn't have to nip back for tickets! 
Pizotes blocking the road to Tikal
By this time there was us and three more tourists on the bus and that was it, so as we passed warning signs for jaguar, snake, pizote, turkey, not that I knew what the third one was when suddenly there they were, crossing the road. Good as gold the bus stopped, everyone off for photos, great, but not what you necessarily expect from a locals collectivo! The boys were very sweet, pointing out our hotel, confirming times for departure tomorrow, just very nice. Checked in, looked at the pool, longingly, well it had been a long, hot journey, and were taken to our room, it was miles, we really were out in the wilds, and this while only expecting to have electricity between 18.00 and 21.30. It was going to be a very dark night!

Using the pool facilities at the Tikal Inn
Quick dip in the pool to make the most of the facilities, and cool off (the other option, cold shower as no electricity....) before heading into the park for our sneaky 16.00-18.00 slot, in theory we had to be out before 18.00 as otherwise they would charge us for a sunset ticket at another £10.00 on top of the £15.50 we'd already paid. In practice they couldn't give two hoots, but we were out as we were starving!

Our room block about 5 minutes walk into the jungle from the Tikal Inn reception
No pets allowed in the park so this must be a wild animal
It was lovely to be arriving feeling cool and chilled as everyone else was leaving. We went straight to the Gran Plaza as this would be really busy in the morning and it was fab, people sitting around, great atmosphere. So having seen two of the biggest pyramids it was my turn. We'd heard about Tikal being in the jungle and there being lots of animals, and that was what it was all about for me. So, having already ticked off pizote (coati) on the drive in, and seeing a small rodenty/deer like thing shortly after walking in, and ocellated turkeys (turkeys trying to be peacocks) in the Gran Plaza we went to see what else we could see, already pleased with our score. Another pizote, two howler monkeys, one young and one making lots of noise. Then came the birds, a toucan, yes a real toucan with a ridiculous beak, and a smaller variety, with an equally ridiculous beak!

The Gran Plaza, Tikal. Acropolis Del Norte (centre), Templo II (left), Templo I (right)
The best photo I got of the Toucan
Nearly out when we came upon a family of spider monkeys playing in the trees, looking up watching them, almost missed the peccaries running through the undergrowth just in front of us!

Straight to dinner in a little cafe, the hotel being too expensive, good fried chicken and chips, cooked in the dark, as the power wasn't on yet! While waiting we were thoroughly entertained by an oropendola, a black bird with a gold tail, a great call, and when he'd finished a spin round the branch into a handstand!

Our best photo of the smaller variety with ridiculous beak
Not a bad tally, along with a young ginger tabbycat who as pets aren't allowed, thought he must be a margay at the very least, if not a jaguar! Early to bed as we wanted to be up early, to miss the crowds and heat, though we expected it to be busy as there is a big thing about the sunrise photo! (Every morning in Flores I heard people leaving at 03.00 to get the bus for the sunrise photo! Now yes, you can guarantee the sun will rise, but you can't guarantee the sky will be clear, and it's not, more often than not!) which they charge you an early entrance fee for!

And the best photo of a spider monkey
The agouti crossing our path at 06:30am
We ended up slightly later than planned, just after 06.30, well we'd had to watch the agouti (small rodenty/deer thing as the previous day) rushing around ahead of us, just in time to catch the back end of a huge group walking in, before going to the same cafe for breakfast and walking in just as the heavens opened. No rush then we had a leisurely breakfast before deciding we couldn't be bothered to walk back to the hotel where we had left our bags, containing our waterproofs, and we were going in! We skirted the Gran Plaza, going to all the outlying ruins feeling we had the whole park to ourselves for about two hours, which was great, we only had to shelter for a short while under a tree to avoid a bit more rain a couple of times! We sadly didn't add to our wildlife tally by much, other than a big black, and a smaller brown tarantula which I could probably have done without! As the sky cleared and the sun came out we had seen all the areas, the only shame was finally meeting people as we got the the last big pyramid, but hey, you can't have everything. 

Templo III
A very nice man offered to take our photo in front of the Gran Piramide
Returned to our little cafe for a snack before getting a collectivo to El Remate, a tiny place half way between Tikal and Flores, on the same lake as Flores. Arrived at the Sun Breeze hotel just as the heavens opened again. This knocked out the electricity for the whole village, back to civilisation? It came back, I could finally check my email before another of those 'super safe' electric showers, and out to dinner. Wearing long trousers, it was cold, fabulous! Slightly disappointing meal for both of us, I'd got the two pieces of Brian's steak he decided he couldn't face chewing ready to sneak out, when a really skinny dog sneaked in. In his best Spanish B said "sentarse" and the dog sat, so against our better judgement he had to have the meat while we were still in the restaurant!

Not sure if this was alive or dead but we didn't try to find out
Home to look at the lake and fireflies, which we'd also seen an the park, I love them, and to listen to the terrible karaoke from somewhere nearby. Not quite what we expected!

But this one definitely was
Some sort of worship going on in the Gran Plaza at Tikal
Brian wanted to go hiking in Cerro Cahui, a bit of local jungle, so after breakfast and meeting the most gorgeous 6 week old puppy at the hotel off we set, along the 1.5km to get to the entrance. We arrived just after a couple of French girls, who needed change for the 40 Q fee to get in. It was worth this (£4.40) for comedy value alone. The two men selling tickets just hadn't got a clue, one went off to get tickets, fine, after much confusion he explained that they had run out of tourist tickets at 40 Q each, so we had to have 8 locals tickets at 5 Q each, like we really cared about a ticket at all, but apparently we had to have them, though it took him about three journeys to wherever to get enough for all four of us. 
A very well preserved stone carving
In the meantime I'd asked if there was a map, 'just inside', 'oh, ok, we'll take a photo.' Oh, have this little slip of paper, that looks remarkably like a map. He then went on to point out that if we did this loop, it was 1 1/2 hours, and if we did this one it was 3 hours. 'What about if we do this one, in slightly paler print?' As he squinted, held it up to the light, and refused to borrow my glasses, 'that's the three hour one!' 'Please fill out this form' detailing why we had come, and how we had heard about it 'pen?' This completely threw him. Very entertaining all in all and we finally set off, up a single path before reaching the split where the loops started, we went the opposite way round to the girls who were talking and scaring off anything we might have seen! Point proved, when we bumped into them at the half way point, we had seen two spider monkeys, and some very pretty birds, all of which as usual, refused to be photographed, and they'd seen a red bird!

At the end of the pier in El Remate
"If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise?" Judging by the noise one falling leaf makes, it would be absolutely deafening! There you are walking as silently as possible, all your senses tuned for maximum animal viewing, you stop, listen, focus, and there it is, a single dried leaf slowly making its way to the ground! Unbelievable! As for the noise a bird hopping in the undergrowth or a lizard scuttling under a leaf make, I at least expected a tapir or anteater if not a jaguar!

At least he got some exercise before falling asleep in the hammock on our veranda while I sit inside charging and typing! Beer and crisps soon, then tomorrow slowly back to Flores and our overnight bus to Antigua and three cats with five names at the Housesit. Talk about making things difficult!
Who can resist this little 6 week old puppy at the Sun Breeze Hotel in El Remate? All conversation stopped when he wandered out
Our room at the Sun Breeze Hotel, complete with hammock, which was very nice
Walking round the lake shore to the Biotopo Cerro Cahui reserve. There's yoga going on on the end of that pier!
On the Cerro Cahui jungle trail
There's a spider monkey
One of the three viewpoints. Unsurprisingly the view from each was almost the same, just at different heights. El Remate is in the distance on the left of the lake. We'd walked from there!
A quite impressive ants nest in a tree with mud trail up the trunk
Our tickets to get into the reserve. We had to have 8 x 5Q tickets each. We didn't want tickets and no-one asked to see them, but they insisted we had to have them!
This was one of the restaurants we went to in El Remate. They told us the bridge was safe, but there were planks of wood missing and it swayed alarmingly!
But the evening sun from the platform at the end was quite good. That's looking back towards Flores
We thought there might be a good sunset whilst we ate our dinner, but it sank behind the cloud and just went dark
This is a proper picture of an agouti that Jackie got off the internet, but I don't think it is necessary as my photo above was perfectly good enough!

This is the video I took of the Oropendola bird doing his handstand to make his call. Not very good I know, so Jackie found this Youtube clip which is a bit better than mine!


  1. Loving reading the adventures you are having in the Central America we've yet to see. Only 3 years to go!!!! Good to see you both well and really enjoying it

  2. What a fab place. Love the upside down bird singing. Must Skype soon. Xxxx