The results of the last poll sent me north from Antigua to Tikal on an aggressively terrible bus trip. We started on a cushy shuttle to Guatemala City to catch our overnight bus. I almost got in my second bus driver fight in two days – it went like this:I get out of the shuttle. Driver yells something unintelligible. Me – (in Spanish) I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Driver yells louder. I shrug my shoulders and repeat myself. Driver grabs me and shoves me toward the back of the van. I stop, slap his hand like a naughty child and wag my finger while saying “no, no, no.” Driver yells “FUCK YOU MAN YOU FUCK MAN!” Irritated, puzzled and amused, I give the international whoa buddy, calm down double hand signal and say “Calm down” in Spanish. He spits at my feet and repeats himself. Then walks by and shoulder checks me. I laugh and give him a thumbs down. I’m pretty sure I won. Turns out I wasn’t getting to the sidewalk fast enough for him.
Part two of this terrible bus trip was more of a grind. Our driver wasn’t ‘drive off a cliff’ suicidal but he was definitely ‘floor it and pass trucks on blind corners on steep mountain roads in the pouring rain’ suicidal. The second my bucket of rum and sleeping pills got to work on my eyelids, we would swerve to the right and condensation from the AC above me sprayed me in the face. Eleanor slept like a log. There was another bus that left the same station 30 minutes before us. It showed up 30 minutes after us.
TIKAL was the most powerful city state of the Mayan civilization. Much larger than the ruins of Copan. The scale and precision of these buildings is breathtaking – all of it created by a people without the use of domesticated animals or the wheel. I got a kick out of our guide showing us temples and telling us we used to be able to climb it but can’t any longer because some idiot ________(insert nationality) tourist fell off it. In the morning, we got up at 3:45am and met a different guide to take us up to the tallest temple to watch the sunrise. It was pitch black so I couldn’t see his face but my curiosity was peaked when I kept getting flashes from what I thought were his teeth. When he dropped us at the base of the temple, I insisted on a photo. Guys, the little dude in the middle is Marcos. His teeth are paved with gold.
This morning was my favorite moment of the trip. We had 30 minutes alone on top of Temple 4. 230 feet up, above the canopy of the jungle, cool wind, sky full of stars, staring out at the faint outline of the moon on the horizon – just a hint of a crescent. This was the first time I felt completely relaxed on this whole trip. Not to get precious about it – I’m sure it had to do with sleep depravation as much as anything else – but as I was sitting up there I started feeling calm, happy, satisfied, relaxed – all these things… I’m still feeling great three days later. As the jungle woke up, people slowly started to join us for the sunrise. Around 5am the howler monkeys started letting out deep guttural screams that echoed across the canopy so loud it sounded like the jungle was being torn open. After the monkeys, the birds started up… The soundtrack was spectacular.
As an added bonus to any Star Wars fans, the view from Temple 4 was used as the setting for the Rebel base in Star Wars – A New Hope. Here’s a CLIP.
After a quick breakfast, I said goodbye to Eleanor and hopped in a van that dropped me at a dusty intersection after about an hour with instructions to “go that way.” With all the confidence in the world and the ability to say “I want go Belize,” I hiked down the road a ways and waved down the first van that stopped. “I want go Belize?” Two hours later I crossed the border into the first English speaking country of my trip. A shared cab stopped a bus for me by driving in front of it. I tipped the driver and started another terrible bus ride. This one was six hours of no leg room stopping every half mile terrible. Once in Belize City, another shared taxi dropped me at the ferry and the ferry took me 45 minutes east to Caye Caulker where I promptly found a hotel room and passed out for the night. More on this soon!