Tikal Temple Trail, Guatemala
Situated in the northern part of Guatemala, the ruins of Tikal are considered by many to be the best remaining examples of Mayan architecture around. They are certainly the hottest.
As we climbed onboard the battered minibus in Flores at 5am the air was thick with anticipation. Even the driver, slumped half-asleep over the wheel with headphones hanging from his ears, failed to quell the feeling of adventure. Each traveller was lost in their own thoughts and the conversation was minimal as we left the small town and headed out into morning mist.
As the bus, laden with well-fed westerners and their backpacks, struggled up a hill, we entered the jungle. The anticipation was heightened by yellow warning signs at the side of the road. The first showed the shape of a rattle-snake, the second the unmistakable outline of a jaguar, while the third was surely the silhouette of a turkey? This worried me: what are these jungle tukeys and should I be afraid of them? What do you do if faced by an angry jungle turkey?
I didn't have time to mull it over, we had arrived. Clambering out ungracefully, we made our way to the gate. We passed two silent guards holding pump-action shotguns in the shade of a tree. It was 8am and already it was sweltering. The man at the gate said '42 dollars' in broken english. Piecing together the last of our notes and coins we paid and walked in.
From the first moment, when we were shaken by the terrifying roar of a group of nearby howler monkeys, we knew we were somewhere special. To get to the different temples you had to walk through dense jungle, most of the time alone. The thought of jungle turkeys had left our minds, but the thought of the jaguar was running strong.
The crowning glory of the trip was climbing Temple IV and looking out over the jungle. It was jungle in all directions, with only the tips of a few of the other temples breaking the green sea. This was the king of Mayan ruins, this was something else.
You don't have to wake with the rooster at 5am. Buses leave every hour up to midday.
Bring a big bottle of water with you. If all else fails they do sell snacks around the park.
Bring some footwear that's comfortable to walk in. Flip flops didn't quite cut it for me.
Give yourself 2/3 hours to explore, and remember if you miss the midday bus home, there isn't another for two hours. Alternatively you can pay one of the waiting drivers to get back to Flores if you can spare the cash.