It was very bright well before 6am, so there was no sleeping in for us. We went outside on the deck, and the sun was already completely up. There were nice views around the lake, and it was already hot outside. The shower in our room was like Kramer's shower from Seinfeld. The pressure and amount of water was impressive, almost too much. Being up so early, and not having our tour start for some time, we got ready leisurely. But then we got a call that we needed to be ready 30 minutes earlier. So instead of getting a normal breakfast, they made a to-go breakfast for us. Crystal really liked the coffee, but the fruit and the bread were so-so. The boat ride across the lake was slow again; we weren't sure why the boat didn't go faster. Getting into the town of Flores, we noted that it looked like it had a nice little downtown area. We wouldn't really have a chance to look around, however, since our hotel was across the lake and this was our only full day.

At the pier, we were met by our driver Carlos and our guide (Eric Oswald Garcia). Eric thought we spoke Spanish for about 30 seconds, which was about 29 more than usual. This morning we drove east across Flores, then headed north from Flores to Tikal. There were a couple towns and neighborhoods, but it was mostly empty, as we traversed around Lake Peten Itza. As we got to Tikal, there was a zip line just before the park entrance. We were curious if this was a time waster, i.e., it gave something for people to do whilst guides did all the paperwork necessary for their groups to enter the park. In any event, we put on harnesses and got gloves and walked up the ladders into the canopy. We can't remember how many separate lines there were, but maybe around 8-10. On some of them, Crystal did the "superwoman" pose where she was going headfirst instead of feet first. The views above the canopy were quite nice, and the whole process was nice enough. It took 30-45 minutes or so, and Eric told us we were all checked in once we got back to the park entrance.

From the park entrance, it was about a 10 minute drive to the parking lot area. Once we got out of the car at the visitor's center, Eric showed us a large scaled model of the park, and the various complexes around the park. He explained the layout and also showed us where he'd be taking us. The first thing that we saw was a large group of racoon-like animals called coatimundis, that were snacking on something (can't remember if it was a flower or a seed of some sort). There were lots of cool trees all around, including several Justin recognized, such as Ceiba speciosa (which are often called Chorisias in the US - they're the ones with the green spiky trunks with the pink flowers in the fall). Eric showed us one complex that was half restored and half not. The half not restored just looked like a giant mound - it probably would be noticeable for it's odd shape, but it certainly didn't look that odd. The restored half had very clean lines and steps, and it was easy to imagine how over the years tree litter and blown dust and everything else turned the stair steps into a dirty ramp.

Our next stop was a larger area with Temples 1 and 2 and a large courtyard. Eric told us that the numbering of the buildings had no particular rationale, but rather that they just numbered the first place restored #1, the next place #2, etc. Temple I (also referred to as the Temple of the Great Jaguar) is dedicated to Jasaw Chan K'awil, who died in 734 AD. The pyramid wasn't completed, however, until 740-750 AD. It's over 150 feet high, and probably the most "famous" of the structures at Tikal. Temple II is a little shorter, around 125 feet high, and is dedicated to Jasaw Chan K'awil's wife. Next to them on the north of the courtyard was the North Acropolis, which had a number of levels and smaller buildings on it, and across the courtyard was what is called the Central Acropolis. When we got to the courtyard, Eric explained the background to us, and informed us that we'd have time to look around. He looked up at the sky, and said "it's around 11:20, so why don't we meet here at noon." Crystal looked at her watch and it was exactly 11:20.

We did our exploring, starting with Temple II, which you can climb up the back of, and then walk around to the front. From the front, Temple I is directly in front of you, across the courtyard. The views from up there were excellent, and the sky was mostly clear, with just some occasional clouds. After exploring Temple II, we walked around the Northern acropolis for a bit. The steps were quite steep, but nearly as hard to navigate as in Ayuthaya, which remains the most difficult temple area we've explored. Perhaps because it was so dry (it was the end of the dry season), there weren't many bugs and the humidity didn't seem so bad. Crystal went back to meet with Eric, and Justin took a short trip up to the Central acropolis to look at that a bit. One item of note from there was a giant red tree next to Temple I. The tree is called Bernoullia flammea, and if possible we'd like to get one for our garden in Pahoa.

From the main courtyard area we went "off road" to the next stop, Temple III. There are some wider paths and some narrower paths around Tikal, and Eric explained that during the wet season the narrower paths are very slippery and hard to traverse. But since it hadn't rained in several months, we could take them and they were a bit of a shortcut. Temple III is known as known as the Temple of the Jaguar Priest and was the last of the great pyramids to be built at Tikal. It is taller than Temples I and II, standing 180 feet in elevation. The walk up was a bear, and lots of the other tourists around us were struggling (candidly, we were a little as well). The roof there was flat, and from up there the views of the rest of Tikal were great. Temples I and II were to the right, and Temple IV was to the left. Everyone up there was on the north edge, trying to get the same photos, so we patiently waited our turn, got our photos, and then headed back down. Eric told us that this was an astronomical temple back in the day.

Our last stop was at Temple IV. It was built to mark the reign of the 27th king, Yik'in Chan K'awiil. It is the tallest of the buildings within Tikal, at 212 feet high. Despite being the tallest building, the walk to the top wasn't as bad as we expected, and it was much easier than climbing up Temple III. The view from the top of Temple IV was also nice, but not as good as from Temple III. It is more recognizable, however, as the view from Temple IV was filmed for Star Wars (Episode IV, the "original" one). The view depicted the fictitious "hidden base of the Rebel Alliance" in the final scenes of the movie. After heading back down, we took another shortcut through another "slippery" area to lunch. We had a tasty (albeit very hot) soup. Crystal got some steak, and Justin got some chicken. We both got a Gallo beer to drink, and it was refreshing on a hot day. There was one odd thing at lunch. There was an Asian mom and adult daughter sitting next to us, and after the food came, the Asian mom made a point of having the waiter take half the food away, saying it was too much. Why she didn't just eat half the food, we don't know. It's not like the restaurant could (or would) re-use the food that she gave back.

After wrapping up lunch, we drove to Yaxha, another Mayan ruin, and one we hadn't heard of before. We were on a paved road for a bit, then on dirt. The dirt part was a bit rough going. We arrived around 4pm, and there weren't that many people there. It wasn't nearly as large, and there wasn't a ton to see. Eric showed us a nice looking river, but then explained that there were crocodiles in there. We climbed up a steep pyramid, and the views were good, but it was quite windy at the top, as we were above the trees. Eric showed us some hieroglyphs, and we didn't know that the Mayans had created hieroglyphics like that. Our last stop was another steep pyramid, where we walked up to watch the sunset. On the way there, we saw a toucan way up in one of the nearby trees. We've now seen a couple, but in every case they were exceedingly difficult to see through the trees.

At the top of the pyramid, whilst waiting for the sunset, we saw some spider and howler monkeys. We also saw an orange-breasted falcon, which apparently had a nest on top of the pyramid. Along with us at the top of the pyramid were about 20 other people, and some guides. One of the guides indicated to everyone, just before sunset, to stay quiet until the sun had completely set. In the silence we heard a woodpecker off in the distance, and also heard a group of parrots flying by. The sunset was very nice, and pretty much exactly when it set, all of the guides informed their clients that we had to walk down immediately. When we got back to the car, Eric and Carlos opened up a cooler, and we got two of the Gallo beers.

The drive back to Flores was very quiet, and we mainly listened to podcasts. We asked Eric and Carlos about jaguars, and they said that they had seen a couple, but the amount of sightings over decades in the area didn't give us much hope. Nonetheless, Justin kept his eye out. Meanwhile, Crystal kept her eyes closed. We got back to town around 8pm. As we got back into town, Justin asked about the boat, as the hotel didn't know what time to expect us. Eric said he'd already called, and that the hotel had told him the boat was "already there." But at the pier, there was no boat. We waited 5-10 minutes, as the boat likely came across the lake. We wondered where the moon was, but there was nothing tonight. But then it came up just as we were arriving at the resort. We went back to the room to drop off our stuff, then went to dinner. We switched soups from the day before. For the main course, Justin got chicken pepian, and Crystal got chicken chipilin. We had a couple cocktails, and no wine, tonight. We got to sleep a little earlier tonight, ready for our next country.

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