Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tikal, Finca Ixobel and back to Lago Atitlan!

What a journey! We don't want to leave! Tikal was truly amazing! We arrived in the afternoon and got a room at the overpriced, but amazingly located Jungle Lodge. If you buy your entrance ticket after 3 pm, you can go in the next day without purchasing another ticket. We accidentally walked in from the exit to buy our ticket and the guard with the large rifle got up so quickly, it scared me, but he just wanted to help us and talk us into buying a guidebook to Tikal! Teddybears with rifles... So, we checked in, swam in the heat-busting pool, took a short nap and then walked into the ancient Mayan city. We walked to Temple V and climbed the crazy steep stairs to the top. We chilled, ate a cacao pod in the shade and talked to a man from Florida who is traveling on the Green Tortoise bus. Just when we asked him if he had seen any animals, the monkeys went swinging by! They are so amusing to watch...they use their tails so much, it is really like having a 5th limb. Sometimes, they simply hang from their tail, so they have their hands free to stuff their faces with leaves! They appear so carefree and playful!! We also got to admire ring-tailed lemurs, toucans, green parrots, parrakeets and tons of other birds. We wandered through the main plaza which used to be the center for about 120,000 people! You can just feel it bustling with energy between the 2 main temples! We arrived at the famous Temple IV at the far end of Tikal about 5 minutes before closing. We decided to climb it real quick and there were a few others on the backside. The guard was kind enough to let us watch the rosy sun drop behind the clouds before escorting us and the two remaining Cheech and Chong chillers from California out of the park. It got dark as we walked out and I have a picture of Temple III with the moon rising above it embossed in my mind. The guards said we could stay in until 8 pm if we paid them another 50 quetzales (about $7). We passed, as it was about 7 pm by the time we got out anyway, but we did pay them the 50Q to let us in early in the morning! It usually opens at 6 am, which means you miss sunrise on the temples, but if you go in with a tour guide, they let you in around 5 am. This usually costs $10-20, so we paid the nice guards and went in with another group with our headlamps. It was so gorgeous to be standing under the starry morning skies in this sacred land and we saw a huge scorpion too! The mist rolled in by the time the sun rose, but it was worth it to sit in silence as the birds and monkeys awoke for the day.

We shuttled back to Flores and then took another 2 hour shuttle to Finca Ixobel. The mini-van wasn't full, so they cruised town, picking up mounds of people until we were stuffed to the brim! We got to buy a big bag of mangos for $2 in the process. Littering is a major problema here...they throw their cans and plastic right out the window when they're done, but they seem to balance it with mega-carpooling! Just when you think the van is full, 5 more people pile in! One of the issues with littering is that everything used to be plant based. Instead of plates, they used banana leaves and when they threw those on the ground, it was good for the plants. They keep throwing things out the window, but now it's plastic, styrofoam and batteries.

Finca Ixobel was a welcome rejuvenation point. Everything was easy. Finca means plantation and Finca Ixobel is a chunk of about 400 acres purchased by an American couple in 1972. They grow most of the food they serve and dinner had a salad buffet...glory hallelujah and yum! We were able to pay someone to wash our clothes for the 1st time in 2 weeks (stinky!), walk up the mountain, swim in the pond and they even have a bar by the pond open at night, pumping dance music and bad 80's tunes! We palyed darts, ping pong and chilled deep in the hammocks! Our bed was in an awesome treehouse with no electricity, just candlelight and cool mountain breezes!

We contemplated journeying to the Honduras Bay Islands for the remainder of our journey, but decided to minimize the exhausting travel days and take the overnight bus back to Guatemala City and head back to San Marcos at Lago Atitlan. We really love it here and are happy to know where we are sleeping for several nights in a row. We felt another earthquake this morning, which makes 4 since we've been in the country! Nothing to make me run for the doorway, but enough to wake us up! When in the states, leaving for 3 weeks sounds like such a long time, but it goes by quickly when your days are rich with experience and we are actually hard pressed to find anyone else traveling for under a month! I have gotten to use my Spanish alot and learn new words everyday. We are talking about trying to spend a few months in a Spanish speaking community to finally take it to another level. It seems very silly to me to be limited in speaking's the one goal on my list that is the least fulfilled at the moment, but I am patiently working on it!

Tomorrow, we must check out of this sweet community to sleep in Antigua for a night before shuttling to the airport on Friday. Goodbye to fresh picked mangos, Mayan tongue, women carrying gigantic baskets of fruit balanced on their heads, enormous hummingbirds sipping breakfast out of hibiscus flowers and warm sunshine on the volcanic lake! See you in North America!

Heartfelt blessings! Kelly Ordway

p.s. I can't wait to share pictures when I get back!!

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