Today was a transit day between Coban and Semuc Champey. Again I used the local buses and it was very cheap and easy to navigate. First I took a bus from Coban to a crossroads in the middle of nowhere where I had to change to a bus bound for the town of Sayaxche where I needed to take a little boat across the river to change to the final bus bound for Flores. I stayed at the Casa de Grethe on the other side of the island of Flores – across the waterway. It was nice and quiet there with lots of hammocks for hanging out and air-conditioning in the room to keep cool at night! The family that ran the hostel were really lovely too and very welcoming. The following morning was a Saturday and Australia was playing in the world cup against France that day. I got up for the 4 am game start time and they let me watch the game in the downstairs lounge which was really nice of them. Everyone here is obsessed with the World Cup! I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hammock and exploring the town of Flores – it was awesome and just what I needed after a few action-packed days in Semuc Champey!

On Sunday I took a tour to the Mayan site of Yaxhal. These ruins are not as well known as Tikal – the site that the majority of tourists visit. This city was at it’s most powerful between 250AD and 600AD. Yaxha means blue-green water in the Mayan language. Our guide showed us around the various pyramids and structures and explained a bit about how the Mayans had managed to live in this area - with land that wasn’t great for agriculture. The land was flat though and provided a great view of the surrounding areas so that they could stop any potential invaders. The site is quite special because there was a twin pyramid complex. The only other place where this occurs is at Tikal. The site is really out in the middle of nature and because not many tourists visit, it was really tranquil and untouched. Only about 10% of the ruins have been excavated – so any time we saw a mound of earth we knew that there was a building waiting to be excavated underneath! We were also able to climb the different pyramids and take lots of photos, finishing the tour on top of Structure 216 – from which we were able to watch the sun set over the lakes and listen to the howler monkeys going crazy in the trees below.

Monday morning I was up early and ready for my trip to Tikal. It was a 4:30am pickup, although by the time we got on the road it was about 5:30. It was about a 40 minute trip out to the site, with the sun rising out the front window, and we were there in time for the gates to open at 6am. Our guide Antonio was really knowledgeable and keen to explain all aspects of the Tikal site. He had a lot of knowledge about the local medicinal plants and trees as well as the wildlife. We saw some spider monkeys and some toucans as well as different lizards and insects. The site at Tikal was interesting because it is not the sort of place where you should build a city. There was no water source for 30km, the soil wasn’t great for growing food, and it was very hot. So why did the Mayans built here? Access to the stars, protection from intruders, access to building materials and the limestone for building the temples. The Mayans built huge water reservoirs to store rain water and ate the fruits from the local trees when they were low on food – which was apparently quite often.

It was about a 25 minute walk out to the first set of ruins. This was apparently the maternal hospital where the women went to give birth. We walked through a tunnel into the main building which we were able to climb up onto for a view. Next we moved on to Temple 5. This temple was absolutely incredible! It stands 58m high and you aren’t allowed to climb it, but I got a really nice picture at the bottom of it! Next we went on to the main plaza – where we were able to climb the stairs to the top of Temple 2 where we had views over the main plaza, Acropolis and Temple 1. Finally we went on to the tallest structure in the complex, along the way stopping at different temples that we would climb for more amazing views. Finally we arrived at Temple 4 which was the highest in the complex and where we had amazing views out over the whole site, the tops of the temples peeking out from the jungle. We spent about 5 hours exploring the site – and by the end of the 5 hours it was getting pretty hot out!