Sunset on Lago de Peten Itza, El Remate, Guatemala
After our quick 3 day visit to Belize we crossed back into Guatemala to visit the Mayan Ruins at Tikal near El Remate. To get to El Remate we took a collectivo taxi to the border, a collectivo minibus down a moderately maintained dirt road and went ‘a pie’ (on foot) for the final few kilometers since the collectivo did not go that way. A collectivo, by the way, is typically a taxi or minibus that stops for anyone who wants a lift. More often than not, the maximum occupancy of the vehicle is exceeded!
We arrived in El Remate, Guatemala on foot after the collectivo minibus dropped us at the crossroads a few kilometers away. We found an eclectically painted place with a great view of the lake named Sak Luk, so we set up base camp there for a few days.
Sak Luk is owned and run by Erwin Benfeldt, a well known artist in Guatemala. Later in our travels, we saw a piece of Erwin’s on display in an art gallery in Antigua.
Sak Luk is the place in El Remate where the budget minded, backpacker-types stay. There was an Italian chef with his Swedish girlfriend on staff to prepare hearty Italian food for us.
Sak Luk’s proprietor and resident artist.
Dinner for the hungry traveler.
After dinner, we would all hang out and discuss where we went, where we were going, where we were from and the taboo subjects of politics and religion. Travelers are a diverse and interesting bunch, but suprisingly, very like-minded. Our usual evening roundtable had the countries of Sweden, Israel, England, France, Germany and the US represented.
The main tourist destination near El Remate is Tikal. We spent a day amid the spectacular Mayan ruins. The complex was huge and set in the jungle. We had a guide named Juan who was very informative and obviously knew a lot about the Mayans and the Tikal site in particular. Here we are standing on top of the pyramid dedicated to the wife of one of the rulers, King Jaguar, whose temple is in the background.
Temple V is an extremely tall and steep pyramid. Pat climbed to the top via a wooden staircase (ladder?) up the left side. They don’t let people climb up the stone steps anymore because tourists kept falling off and getting scraped, bruised and killed.
Our guide Juan describing the meaning of the inscriptions in a stella.
A view of Temple IV, the tallest Mayan ruin in existence, from the top of a pyramid in the Lost World.
Descending Temple IV.
There is a lot of wildlife in Tikal. The guy to the left is a howler monkey. We saw two groups of howler monkeys having a dispute. When agitated, they make a noise like a large cat roaring. It is awesome to hear that sound emanating from a 3 foot tall monkey! The park was also home to toucans and a pointy-nosed, ring-tailed rodent. We also saw spider monkeys. They are more agile than their howler monkey cousins (much quieter too) and therefore make a tough target for the camera!
New sites within the park are still being excavated. When the new structures are uncovered, the stone blocks have to be removed one at a time and labeled as to their location due to the vegetation that has grown into the structures. If a block has crumbled, a replacement is made and after all of the blocks have been removed, cleaned and labeled, or reconstructed if necessary, the structure is rebuilt.
Sounds like fun, huh?
Tikal was amazing and is a ‘Don’t Miss’ if you visit Guatemala. Stay tuned for more installments of the trip to Guatemala. Next stop: Lanquin and Semuc Champey!