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Tikal, Zip Line, and Markets

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Yesterday, we visited Tikal. The most impressive Mayan ruins in Central America. It would take a couple days to see everything, since Tikal is in fact a city, so we just saw the highlights with the time we had. Rather then try to describe how incredible this place was, I’ll leave it to the pictures which will, of course never give the sheer grandeur of the site justice, but certainly can do pretty good job. Or you know, you watch Return of the Jedi, which has about a 6-second scene here.

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One of the many temples, and sacrificial alters in front.

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Main plaza and residential area.
Throughout the tour there were howler monkeys, which turned out to be not that big, though the noise they make would suggest otherwise; guttural and extremely loud it gave an eery addition to the tour.
The best part was easily when we climbed temple 4 (the largest) and looked out over the rainforest with peaks of ruins in the distance, it felt, other worldly and was completely worth huffing up the steep steps for!
On our way back we stopped at a store less touristy than Tikal, where proceeds benefit the local school. While what they had for sale was interesting, and Natalie and I picked up Jade rings (collected from the near by river), what was most interesting was the coffee. They had free drip coffee available while you perused the store. Great coffee comes from Guatemala, but I wasn’t expecting “lobby coffee” to be any good. I was wrong, it was fantastic, good enough to drink black and actually enjoy. If only the US could throw away it’s folgers and Starbucks in exchange for this sort of complimentary coffee!

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Zip line! I’ve done this before and always enjoy the mini adrenaline kick it produces. Though this was a sort of mini rainforest, it was as ever great fun to go careening over 100 feet of the air through sub tropical forest. Best of all, it was my little sisters first time and I love that I got to share the experience with her. I actually used to be quite afraid of heights, but through time I’ve managed to get mostly over it, and now, this doesn’t faze me a bit, and I am so glad!

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Ladder up to the first platform.
After this we had to go back to the main lodge to meet our parents. The bus, however didn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. We were with a bunch of locals, and when they decided not to wait and head back walking (about a mile) we decided to go along too. Generally, locals tend to be more patient than I when it comes to public transportation, so to see them decide walking was the better bet, we figured they probably knew something we didn’t. And true enough, we got back, passing the bus headed in the opposite direction. Though, there was a fair amount of slipping down a steep hill, but still, way better than waiting while howler monkeys perched above you, threatening “rain” at any moment.

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Next, the sky way tour, a two and a half mile canopy walk that takes you to the top of the hills overlooking the forest, and lake beyond. These weren’t nearly as rocky as others I’ve been on, so it was a great relief not to feel as if you may be pitched from the bridge at any moment. And then, you were rewarded with this view:

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Though Tikal and all the hikes (and tours in general) were incredible, I have to admit the final portion of this excursion was an easy highlight from the entire trip.

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First, our guide was fantastic, and for someone who is generally skeptical of guides I have been blown away with the quality we’ve had on these trips. This one though, David, was exceptional, and an easy favorite. After our afternoon of hiking, he took us to Flores, and island on the lake. It is beautiful; looking out over the water the wide tree lined streets are filled with motorcycles and tuk-tuks passing color saturated buildings filled with foreigners and locals alike sipping cortados. I think I could easily spend a week or more on that little two by two mile island, but we only had time for lunch.

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After, when David presented us with options to finish off the afternoon we opted against the boat tour or museum for a chance to wander through the local market (with a local: the best way). It was the first authentic experience we had, and it was so worth it. Though not too crowded it was clear we weren’t at La Lancha anymore, people and micro buses filled the streets, butchers prepared meat and fish filling the air with that particular market scent as we wove through dark alleys that had we not been with a guide, we would have easily been lost. The best part (for me anyway) was stopping at a spice counter and having David describe everything and help me pick something out that I wouldn’t likely find in the US. Apparently, they also have super hot peppers that you probably wouldn’t want to cook with (Simpsons reference here). As our last excursion of the day, and the trip, I was glad to have gotten the opportunity to see local culture, even if only a little bit.

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Tomorrow, we make the long drive back to Belize City to begin our venture home. Though our time here was brief, it was undoubtedly one of the best family vacations I’ve ever had the pleasure to take. I feel fortunate to have seen these places, and even more fortunate to have been able to do so with my family. It was a great adventure.

And on to the next one.

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