(Ed. Note - I wrote this in a rush on Tuesday morning before we left Flores for the last time and did not get a chance to complete many of the thoughts, or even, the article. Please do not judge my writing on this piece, and please check back in a few days when I have a chance to complete. We are heading to Lanquin and underground caves today so do not expect to have Wifi for a few days. Maybe not until the weekend when we are in Rio Dulce.) When we arrived in the Gran Plaza, the 1,300 year old social and administrative center of the vast Mayan archeological site of Tikal, moments before the sun did its turn on the other side of the globe, we were tired and sweaty but still managed to get a smile out of Coconut and J for the family photo album. This is because R, applying knowledge gleaned from our visit to Palenque a week earlier, had brilliantly thought to advance purchase the "no complaints and unlimited photo" package for the low cost of a soda and Iron Man 3, to be screened upon return to the van.
From the entrance to Tikal, where we purchased our entry tickets, to the parking lot for the ruins is a twenty minute drive through thick, turkey-infested jungle. From the field where we camped, along with fifteen million mosquitoes with teeth like Jaws and an appetite to match, to the Gran Plaza is another thirty minute walk. This place is in the middle of nowhere.
If anyone not from Guatemala ever thinks about Guatemala, I am making these numbers up, there is a five percent chance they will think about the scene from Return of the Jedi where the X-Wing fighters buzz the stone temple comb poking through the tree canopy - that's Tikal - and a ninety-five percent chance they will draw a complete blank because, and I am not making this up, who ever thinks about Guatemala anyway?
A ticket purchased after 4 p.m. on Day 1 allows entry to the site on Day 2 and R and I took advantage of this by waking early and walking most of the marked paths to some of the ruins Coconut and J would be less likely to want to see. This worked out perfectly. When we got back to our camp at nine, the kids were awake (and boiling inside the van) and by ten we were back on our way to the Gran Plaza and some of the major sites.
Twenty odd years ago, R visited Tikal and bribed a guard (she won't tell me how) to let her sleep on top of one of the temples. She couldn't remember which one, but with the help of one of the current guides, we decided it was Temple IV.