Monthly Archives: May 2017

Tikal

Tikal1

We organised a trip to Tikal via our hotel.  It was just not possible for us to stay in Flores without visiting Tikal.  We had been there before, in 2010 when Ashley had his arm in a cast.  But Tikal is very, very special.  Yes, it’s a popular site, never devoid of tourists, but it’s also huge with widely separated plazas and some excellent chances for wildlife spotting.

We were there all day and nearly managed to miss visiting the grand plaza with the temple of the Jaguar.  Quite how that happened  I am not quite sure – we left it till last then took a wrong turning.  We ran most of the way there and got back in time for our collectivo back to Flores.

I don’t think anything I can say would do this site justice.  There are a great many really lovely plazas.  My personal favourite is the plaza of the seven temples.

I mentioned the wildlife.  We did see monkeys but no monkey pictures here (we got better monkey pictures on other sites).  We did not manage to get a photo of the dead monkey being eaten by a vulture.  Those vultures do a great job of keeping the forests clean.  What we did see was a trogon.  This was the only sighting of a trogon we got the whole time we were in Central America.  We also saw a motmot but it had lost half of its tail (and therefore could be described as a mot)…  The tree in the picture is a Ceiba tree, sacred to the Maya people it represents the underworld, the real world and the heavens.

 

In which we break the curse of Bonampak

Bonambak1

Yes, it’s been a while since our last post.  We were in Berlin….

We were warned not to take an organised tour from Palenque to Bonampak.  You may recall that part of the purpose of this trip was to break ‘the curse of Bonampak’.  We tried to get there on three occasions.  On the first it was deemed too difficult due to terrorist activities.  On the second the murals were closed and on the third attempt we ran out of cash in Frontera de Corazol.

We ignored the warning and purchased an organised tour.  This was incredibly good value.  We were picked up at our hotel in Palenque, taken for a good Mexican breakfast, driven up to where you get on the launch to Yaxchilan boated up the river to Yaxchilan, taken back for a decent Mexican lunch, on to Bonampak.  Overnight in a really good jungle lodge on the river then picked up and driven to Flores in Guatemala.  We were the only English speakers on the bus, though there was another bus with some Canadians in it.  We met a lot of Canadians on this trip.  Central America is a lot warmer than Canada in January and February.

On the way to Yaxchilan I saw a pair of toucans flying.  They look….. improbable.  How can they fly so elegantly with those great, heavy beaks?

Yaxchilan is one of our very favourite sites in Central America.  The lintels are just amazingly delicate.  Some of them are in the British Museum so if you are ever in London you can see them there.  Some of them, however, remain in situ.  The wildlife is also rich.  When we were there in 2010 a Fer de Lance was spotted less than an inch from Ashley’s foot.  This time the wildlife seen was less poisonous (and mostly monkeys)!

And we finally got to Bonampak!  It’s a lovely little site but….  They are quite rightly highly protective of the famous frescoes.  Only three people are allowed into the frescoes at once and there was a sizeable queue.  This meant that we felt we couldn’t really stay staring at the frescoes for the several hours we would have needed to take in all the detail.  Ashley managed to get some pretty decent shots.  The rest of the site is very restful.  Nicely laid out and presented.  And the crowds, of course, are queuing up to see the frescoes.  What struck me was the contrast between these amazing frescoes and the carvings….  After what we had seen just a few hours earlier at Yaxchilan, the carving seemed…. interesting but blockier… less delicate, less sophisticated.  It made me wonder what the frescoes at Yaxchilan or Calakmul or Tikal must have been like….

So, we broke the curse.

WP_20170123_07_21_33_ProAfter Bonampak we stayed for one night at Ya Toch Barum, a jungle lodge run by local Lacandon people.  Not just a lodge but an entire complex with a recycling centre and a shop which doubles as an internet cafe along with a restaurant.  We were shown to a very pleasant bungalow… in which the light did not work.  We found someone to come and fix it – it turned out not to be fixable so we were upgraded to a bungalow on the river.

After breakfast we were shepherded across the border into Guatemala and on to Flores.  Flores is pretty but very, very touristy.  Our hotel was lovely (great roof terrace overlooking the lake) but the discos and bars along the shore of the lake were a bit too noisy for our liking.  Not crowded – just noisy.

But noise or not, Flores is very beautiful and a great jumping off point for a visit to Tikal.

A weekend in Akyaka

Akyaka-balcony-scene

Taking a break from Central America, and home, we headed off for a weekend in Akyaka.  It is a good place to go late April or early May, it is before it heats up, and before the throngs descend, well, unless you go May bank holiday weekend, in which case it is very busy.   Akyaka is an easy two and a half hours away along good highways so also serves as an excellent opportunity to blow the cobwebs off the bike and check that all is well post winter.

Akyaka-Nova-apptWe stayed in our usual apartment hotel, a simple and comfortable place with facilities to make a breakfast of eggs, cheese, bread, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, honey and strawberries, along with copious quantities of tea.  It would have been possible to cook an evening meal, but why.  Part of the whole point of going to Akyaka is to partake in the local restaurants, many of which are a cut above those in other resorts.   We indulged, a seafood dinner of fried squid and prawns in garlic and tomatoes along with a huge salad and mezes.  Then there was slow kid, an utterly delightful kebab of aubergines and meatballs (not served in the usual way) which we went back for the following night, and slow roast lamb shank in onions and mint.  Then there was ice cream, hand made goat milk ice cream, Hilary discovered the one with roast almond and honey.  So yes, we ate very well. Akyaka-river-and-beer

Between indulging in food and the occasional beer by the river, we had a couple of days out, one walking in the nearby farmland and wetland.  We were hoping to see bee eaters but beyond a possible long distance sighting did not.  We did see a red backed shrike, egrets, storks and a glossy ibis.  The second day we went to Kaunos, it’s an easy day out from Akyaka, in part along a winding road with stunning views of lake Koycegiz, but with a poor surface so we did the return via the small ferry into Dalyan.

Kaunos is a great site, one we have been to a few times.  It is really well maintained and in a wonderful setting, so there is great wildlife in what feels like an archaeological park.  We saw the expected rock nuthatches around the theatre, but the best wildlife is around the old harbour.  Egrets, loads of tortoise, lizards – star agama mostly, and a snake, well we thought it was a snake but it turned out to be a glass snake which is actually a limbless lizard.