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Towering temples at Tikal

Tuesday, October 24th 2000

A few years ago the road to Flores was notorious for armed robberies, but the road had recently been paved, which sped up the journey enormously and cut incidences of robbery to zero. I arrived in Flores safe and well after a nine-hour journey. Flores is about an hour's drive from Tikal itself, and I got the earliest bus to the ruins. It was a bit slower than it should have been, because the driver got into some kind of fight with a passer-by. I didn't have a clue what was going on and so I kept myself to myself as blows were exchanged and bloody noses given. Eventually the business sorted itself out, and our flustered driver drove on to the ruins.

Tikal is deep in the jungle. Most other Mayan sites have had their plazas and temples cleared of vegetation, but at Tikal the forest still covers much of the site. Tikal's biggest temples, 64m tall, was the tallest structure in the Americas until the Spanish arrived. I spent a day climbing all the temples and pyramids I could, and enjoying the awesome views over the jungle from the top. The jungles of the Petén stretch for hundreds of miles around, covering the whole of the Yucatán peninsula, and from up the top of the 64m Temple IV the views were incredible. They were also strangely familiar, but it was a long time until I happened to re-watch Star Wars and realise that Tikal starred as a rebel base.

It was nice to be back in fearsome heat. It was hot and humid, and this was a relief after two weeks of chilly weather in the highlands. I spent some time pondering the fact that I was going to return to England in just four days time, and came to the conclusion that I would die of flu within a month.

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