|I left the flap to my tent open last night with the netting closed, so I fell asleep watching fireflies outside my door and listening to howler monkeys and jaguars. Very cool.
I signed up to do a sunrise tour this morning, which is the only way to get into the park before 6am. My guide woke me up at 4:15am, and by 4:45, we were on our way. There are three nice things about seeing Tikal at sunset and sunrise: there are hardly any tourists, it's not too hot, and those are the times when the wildlife is the most active. We climbed Temple IV to watch the sunrise, but it was not as nice as the sunset the night before because it was quite misty and we couldn't see much. I was glad that I had made the effort to climb Temple IV last night. After that, we had a tour of the major areas of the ruins and climbed 3 more pyramids . I think that I can now safely say that I am an expert at climbing Mayan ruins. We were done by around 9am, had breakfast, and then I went back in to take a few more pictures.
I was finished with Tikal before noon, and wanted to get to Belize, so I started asking around in the parking lot where the shuttle- and bus-drivers hang out. It was going to cost me $50 USD to go directly to San Ignacio, but I could take a shuttle to the nearby villages of Ixlu and El Remate for around $3. My "plan" (I use that term loosely) was to go to Ixlu and see if I could catch a bus to the border, and if that didn't work out, then I could find somewhere to stay for the night. The shuttle dropped me off on the side of the highway at Ixlu where I waited for about an hour before a passing van picked me up (don't worry Mom; this is perfectly safe and it's how everyone in Central America travels). The van was meant for 16 people, but when I squeezed in, I counted 28 and I ended up having to sit on an old man's lap. When we drove away, I thought that we had forgotten the guy who was in charge of collecting the money, but it turned out that he had decided to ride on the roof. These vans/shuttles don't have scheduled stops; they just go up and down the highway picking people up and dropping them off wherever. Definitely the highlight of the ride was when a farmer got on and sat beside me with his machete.
I was dropped off at the Guatemalan border and crossed on foot without incident, and then I found a taxi on the other side to take me to San Ignacio, about half an hour away. The whole trip from Tikal to San Ignacio came to fifteen or sixteen dollars, which didn't seem too bad. I checked into a guest house called the Hi-Et (get it? sounds like Hyatt? ha!) and I have the cutest little room with my own balcony overlooking the street below for $10 a night. AND I found a grocery store that sells President's Choice chocolate milkshakes! Who knew? San Ignacio is a small town on the banks of the Macal River, and there's not a whole lot going on here, but it's a great place from which to do some day trips, so tomorrow I'm going on a caving tour to Actun Tunichil Muknal. Sounds exciting!