Today we visited the ruins of the ancient Mayan city, Tikal. Leave it to the Kinnons to leave something as important as this until last. To be perfectly honest, I was a little worried that I might by psyching myself up too much. We've all seen the travel posters for Guatemala, right? The giant temple in the main Plaza gleaming in the sun, towering over the jungle. Maybe I had built this up too much in my mind. After all, we have climbed El Castillo at Chichen Itza, the High Temple at Lamanai, both La Iglesia and Nohoch Mul at Coba and The Acropolis at Ek Balam. Let's just say, we've seen some ruins, but I was still really looking forward to Tikal.

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

In order to get the most out of our visit, we hired a licensed bilingual guide (not cheap) at the entrance and asked him to give us a tour of the highlights of the site. It is recommended that vistors spend three days investigating this large ruin site. We had about three hours. Think, the Griswolds at the Grand Canyon.

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

Our guide was very knowledgeable and excellently managed our time in each grouping so that we would be able to see as much as possible. He was a bit at a loss with us, as much of the geological information pertinent to this part of the world, interesting facts about the flora and fauna and much of the Mayan history we were already well versed in. We trekked through the jungle, all the while our guide pointing out interesting plants and vines and listening for monkeys in the trees overhead. He seemed quite taken aback to hear my kids comparing and contrasting this archeological site with those at Xunantunich and Lamanai.....in Spanish.

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

Unlike most sites where visitors can still climb straight up some of the temples, Tikal has errected a series of well built staircases up the sides of the structures making it easy to walk up and take in the panoramic vistas over the jungle. OK, I know, it's wonderfully safe and it keeps the edifices from getting needlessly worn and possibly destroyed....but it's just not the same as scrambling up on all fours, shaking at the knees and running into the bums of fellow climbers. As the days of climbing pyramids and temples will most likely be over soon, I suppose this solution will have to do.

Tikal Guatemala
Pyramid 4

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala
View to the Main Plaza from Pyramid 4

Tikal Guatemala
I guarantee you, Rob has no idea how close his foot is to the edge! Eeeek!

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala Montezuma Oropendola

Tikal Guatemala Montezuma Oropendola
Montezuma Oropendola - We saw a lot of these on and around the site.

Tikal Guatemala
The North Acropolis

Tikal Guatemala
Standing on the Temple of the Masks looking over the Main Plaza to the Grand Jaguar Temple.

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala
Pyramid 5

Tikal Guatemala
The stairs are steeper than the pyramid!

Tikal Guatemala
While we were at Pyramid 5, this fellow, a large male "pizote" stopped in to raid the garbage bins then stuck around for a photo shoot. He had no fear of me at all and came right up to say hello.

All in all, it was a good day and the ruins were exciting to see. I think I would like to return to Tikal the next time we are in the San Ignacio neighborhood and try to spend the night onsite. I hear that is quite an experience in itself! Perhaps the biggest surprize of the day happened as we were driving back down to El Remate. Pulling up behind another car that had stopped by the side of the road, we discovered they had found a family of howler monkeys hanging out in the trees along the road. There were several juveniles, a mother with her baby and a big daddy. We had enjoyed an up close encounter with semi-tame howler monkeys at the Baboon Sanctuary in Belize last year, but this was our first sighting in the wild.

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

Howler Monkeys in Guatemala

This completed our day and put the perfect finishing touch on our family journey. Exhilarated, we headed for the border and braced for a long ride home.