The promise and the sunny road to Tikal

We woke at 4am under the promise of watching a sunrise over the Mayan ruins. Edy, the smooth linguist, who arranged our hotel room also sold us ‘the once in a lifetime trip to Tikal’. The jack-of-all-trades was quick to recommend the first bus of the day to catch the sun rising over the horizon and hitting the ancient city. ‘The jungle wakes up when sunrises’, Edy said, beginning to count the benefits on fingers. ‘Howler monkeys, exotic birds, insects fill air with the noises. There (sic) are also less busy, not as hot as afternoon and not too much rain.’

Waiting in the moonlit street surrounded by a dozen other droopy-eyed tourists, the door-to-door speech echoed in our minds. The semi-darkness hid our sleep deprived faces as we waited in silence for our ride. The realisation that we had all potentially been duped in a Third World country was worn on our faces. However, the doubt soon vanished as the distant roaring of an engine cut through the quiet.

Alerted by the welcoming noise everybody flocked towards the oncoming van waving their tickets high in the air. An uninterested portly driver stepped out and took a moment to look at the collection of diversely handwritten tickets. He chose a seemingly arbitrary couple who boarded the bus and drove away. Moments later another vehicle spurred more competition in the crowd, tickets again brandished, an equally chubby apathetic driver, more random victors. For the next hour we watched as the twelve dwindled down to two. And so there we sat, slumped and alone on the curb, in the now deserted street.

By the time our bus arrived, day and our promise had already broken. Already weary we sat down and for the next hour or so drifted in and out of sleep until our arrival at Tikal.

© John Brownlie 2012


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