For my 25th I decided to cross off my last big item on my Guatemalan bucket list before leaving. So we went to Tikal, the national park in the northernmost department of Peten and home to the famous ruins of a Mayan empire, that pyramid image you always see on tourism adds for Guatemala.
We took a groggy 5am bus from Nebaj to Coban, then from Coban to Sayaxche via Chisec (including an adorable 20-second boat ride across the Rio la Pasión), then Sayaxche to Santa Elena, and finally landed in Flores around 3 in the afternoon, having made a northbound journey through the Department of Alta Verapaz. In Flores we were proper tourists and bar-hopped the many happy hours along the lakefront and found amazing street food for dinner. After Flores we checked out the Caves of Actún Kan, a small tourism endeavor in Santa Elena where you can explore some amazing caverns. You have to bring your own flashlight but it doesn’t get much traffic so you’re likely to have the caves to yourself which is seriously a trip. After that we took a bus up to El Remate for the afternoon before venturing into the jungle to camp out in the national park among the ruins. We snuck around the construction on Temple IV to catch the sunset until the guard scolded us and we even got up at 3:30am to hike through the dark and hear jaguars purring in the night to get back up the Templo for the sunrise. It was overcast in the end, but the eerie call of the howler monkeys in the mist was so cool and then we had the whole Plaza del Gran Jaguar to ourselves. We found a quiet corner of ruins with a modern mayan altar and held a small ceremony for 2 Ee (B’ey, en Quiché Maya), asking for clarity and work, Día del Destino.