Moving on to beautiful Lake Atitlan was a thrill. We were lucky to find a pleasant hotel overlooking the lake that had a beautiful courtyard full of Poinsettias, in full bloom! Claire and Alan went for a dip in the ice-cold lake, but the rest of us were not so brave. Still we did enjoy some leisure time at the hotel, enjoying the beautiful view.
The lake is surrounded by volcanoes, which makes for a pretty backdrop, although it also makes for a difficult existence for the people who live here. They have had many cities destroyed over the centuries by volcanoes. Our next destination, Antigua, was once the capital but suffered so many earthquakes and such devastation that they moved the capital to Guatemala City.
The next day we were back in the van, moving on to the southern beach, an opportunity that the youngsters didn’t want to pass up! Living in the Midwest as we do, the chance to be on an ocean beach is exciting. Burt and all seven young people stayed a couple of days here, while Jeanne, Bob and I decided we wanted to see the important Mayan ruin of Tekal, in the north of Guatemala.
We got a local bus back to Guatemala City—everyone crowding into the front seats (?) while the conductor hung out of the open door calling “WHAT-A-MAL-A” over and over, trolling for more passengers. We got a taxi to a hotel, with growing nervousness about seeing armed, uniformed men on every street corner. Yes, Guatemala had been having some political problems, but we really didn’t expect this.
Since this was Christmas Day night, we decided to go out for a nice dinner. However, when we left the hotel and walked down the street, each time we came to a corner an armed, uniformed man pointed a rifle at us as we continued on our way. This was not pleasant. The first restaurant that we came to was definitely our choice! We ducked in, ate a rapid dinner, trying to be cheerful and not mentioning the unmentionable, and left. On our way back to the hotel, in spite of it only being about 8:30 PM, the streets had become totally deserted, except for the armed men on the corners. We were very relieved to get back to our hotel.
The three of us were sharing a triple room. During the night I awoke to a tiny sound of what sounded like/looked like the doorknob being tried. I couldn’t quite make it out in the dark, and tried to relax to fall back asleep. Before I did, Bob got out of his bed, went to the door and tried the knob. Yes, it was securely locked. Obviously he had heard what I had heard!
The next morning the three of us had tickets on a flight to Flores, the town next to the Mayan ruin of Tikal. We went outside to get a taxi to the airport. A cab was right there so we all got in the backseat. Just then the hotel bellman knocked on the front passenger window—he had followed us outside. The taxi driver opened the front door and the hotel bellman lifted up a jacket that was lying on the front seat., put it down again and closed the door. Apparently he was looking to see if there were guns under the jacket!!
Then we discovered the taxi had taken us to the wrong airport. I suppose, in spite of what we told him, he assumed we would be going to the international airport, when, of course, we needed the domestic airport. Luckily we had enough time to make our flight.
We landed in Flores and got a taxi to take us to Tikal. What a stunning site! It was deep in the jungle with many pyramids and other edifices having been excavated out of the tangle of growing things. This city was settled about 700 BCE, with these monstrous buildings having been built by about 250 AD.
The many pyramids, temples, and acropolises took us hours to climb and investigate. Some giant pyramids had not yet been cleared of the jungle growth, which made them even more dramatic. It is amazing to contemplate how they could have built these huge temples so long ago, without sophisticated tools. They were indeed a mighty people!
Late in the day we caught a flight back to Guatemala City. Our other people drove up from the beach and joined us. We shall explore Guatemala City a bit before we move on to Antigua.