Guatemala 1: San Ignacio, Belize to Flores, Guatemala

Racing recommenced early with the team having a relaxing omelette breakfast at Flayva’s.  As this was a race, and there were unknown challenges ahead, the team quickly packed and readied themselves for the journey ahead.

They said goodbye to the only awake third of Team Ireland, and walked out to the street to hail a passing collectivo. Some friendly local Belize guys soon pointed out the clamped out corolla which the team then boarded.

Waiting for a shared taxi…

Driving with one other passenger, they arrived at the frontier and set about getting the last of their Belizian dollars changed, paid their departure taxes, completed their visitor survey and then walked to the other side.

There they completed passport formalities with no real difficulties, other than the Guatemala border official requesting 10 Quetzal illegally (Q7.5 to the dollar at the border rate) for the passport to be stamped.  Recognising this as an entry fee scam, the team refused politely, and had their passports stamped anyway.

Next they got a cab to the collectivo stop and were soon in a chicken collectivo (a lady brought her chicken with her) heading west to Flores.  The collectivo rapidly travelled the 100 km west through Petén towards the town of Saint Elena.  Having paid an extra 5Q, the driver continued to the island of Flores.

A speeding herd passes the chicken collectivo
Flores panorama

They soon arrived at their accommodation in Flores, dumped their bags and had a quick lunch.  Then it was back to Saint Elena to the bus station where they were told they had just missed the last direct collectivo to Tikal. Into another alternative collectivo they hopped and headed back east the town of El Ramate, which was part of the way to Tikal.

Their driver told them when the local bus would arrive and what colour it would be and soon sped off on his way.  Another collectivo passed by, but this unofficial van was charging more than the racers were willing to pay.  Plus their earlier driver had told them the local bus would be along at 3.00pm.  Asking other locals it was clear the local bus would be arriving later.  With no other options, the team then waited some more, fearing this costly delay could see them eliminated. Just when they were about to start back to Flores on foot, at roughly 3:30pm, the bus arrived.

Turkey on a chicken bus Turkey close up

Boarding the chicken bus, with no chickens, only a well-behaved turkey, they sped through the Guatemalan countryside.  It wasn’t long before they were deposited at the Tikal visitor centre in the heavy rain, about 1.5 hours before closing time.  Through some negotiation, they were able to secure a ticket for an hour (until the last collectivo left for Flores) and for all of the next day.  They raced into the ruins and randomly completed one isolated section before having to run (without slipping in the mud and mossy rocks) back to the car park.  They boarded their minibus and were soon deposited back in Flores for dinner, mojitos and ice cream.

Temple VI, Tikal on dusk Ice creamery with attached xylophone band

Having not fully completed the ‘visit the ruins’ task, the team decided to return the next morning to avoid facing a potential time penalty later at the pit stop. They soon were asleep.

They were woken early the next morning by the 7am tour bus, having been earlier woken by the 4am ‘sunrise’ tour bus.  Rather than travel to Saint Elena, they asked a waiting driver for a return ticket direct to the ruins.  This swiftly saw them at the Tikal ruin site by 8.30am.  Their tickets purchased the previous day were shown and soon they were racing to get to the top of Temple IV, the highest in the complex, leaving their fellow passengers in the company of the included guide.

After a brisk 20 minute walk with a slight stop in the grand plaza, the team arrived at the top of temple IV.  Simon exchanged basic pleasantries in Spanish with the national parks person, and the team sat to enjoy the view, which was the main challenge of this leg of the race.

Tikal ruins Starwars or the view from Temple IV, Tikal
Ang meditates on Temple IV Racers on Temple IV

About an hour or more later, Team Ireland climbed the stairs and both teams exchanged stories from the previous day whilst looking out for howler monkeys and trying to work out which of the temples were filmed in Star Wars.

Soon it was time for both teams to depart.  Team Ireland went off on their race route while the Amazing Exclusive Race Australia team, true to form, headed off into the jungle.  They were soon alone with nothing but Mayan ruins for company.  Moving quickly, they visited the Mundos Perdidos (Lost World), the six temples and the Grand plaza again before they raced back to the return bus to Flores.  They were the last team to arrive at the bus, so Simon was forced to sit on the floor.

View towards the grand plaza from Temple IV Mundos Perdidos
More ruins Big tree, Tikal
Grand plaza, looking south Grand plaza, looking north

Soon they were back in Flores, the pit stop for this leg of the race.  There they enjoyed a long late lunch, a short break and then a tasty dinner during the rest period.


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