I had a plan. It was to cycle through the remote Guatemalan jungle to the famed ruins of Tikal via the little known ruins of El Zotz. I was unable to find any information to confirm if it was possible. The best I could do was load up with a couple of days of food and just go for it. Not all things go to plan.
Flores to El Zotz
With a couple of days food in my bags and a sense of discovery I set off to the ruins of El Zotz. The first 60km or so to the town of Cruce dos Aguadas. I stopped long enough in the small village to buy food, water and eat the Guatemalan staple of fried chicken and fries. From here it was into the unknown.
The trip to Tikal via El Zotz ruins is a common hiking trip sold to adventurous travelers in all the Flores travel agencies. But information on the trip was not easy to get for an independent traveler. The first couple of kilometers was easy going on a dirt trail to the start of the reserve. I knew there was an entrance fee into the reserve but there was nobody in attendance to collect it. I opened the gate, let myself in and kept on cycling.
It was about 14km from the park entry to the ruins of El Zotz. The trail was in good condition and I zoomed along the trail in less than 2 hours. The jungle in this section was stunning. Above me were the cheeky Spider Monkeys, the athletes of the jungle. Their noisy companions the Howler Monkeys also showed up from time to time.
On arrival at the ruins the two friendly Park Rangers stopped to talk to me. An hour later I set up camp with them for the night. I was offered a shower, use of the kitchen and restrooms. I was advised not to walk around at night time without a headlamp due to the high concentration of snakes. They mentioned that they would see one or two every week on their nightly journeys to the restroom at night. They also mentioned I was the first cyclist they had ever seen on the trail.
I was awake early to visit the nearby ruins. I set off on foot, leaving my bicycle with the Park Rangers. Like it’s neighbour El Mirador little restoration had been done. It was very much in it’s natural state. I climbed several of the pyramids, walked around the ball court and wandered around the jungle covered ruins for an hour. Like many of the remote ruins that I have been seeking out lately, I was alone. Just me and nature. I seem to feel a great peace when I’m exploring these ruins alone. Many times I wonder where are all the tourists, how come places like this are not be visited by hundreds people everyday.
The Bat Cave
It was mid morning when I returned to the Ranger Station to pick up my bicycle. I cycled off to the nearby Bat Cave. Unfortunately, the bats make their grand escape at sunset every night. If I had known this last night I could have visited the place last night. 1000s of bats escape the cracks and crevasses to venture into the night sky in search of insects. Anybody else visiting this place, make it part of your plan to be here at night.
The narrow trail
The rangers had told me that the trail gets much narrower from this point. I set off with little expectations and it wasn’t long before I was on this stunning narrow trail that carved it’s way through the jungle. In many ways it was paradise for the adventurous explorer.
The trail continued to get smaller and narrower. I had a map of the trail on my GPS. It was clearly marked on my Pocket Earth Pro app. But as the trail continued to get narrower. At times I has to get off and push but as the trail was so narrow it was almost impossible. I persisted.
Am I lost?
The trail was getting too narrow to cycle and impossible to stand beside my bicycle and push it. I noticed a couple of things that made me think that I was either lost or not on the correct trail. Firstly, there was no evidence of any parts of the trail being hacked away by machete. Not only were there no freshly cut branches but no evidence of any old machete cuts on the branches. Secondly, there were several small trails that branched off as I hiked. Am I lost?
Time to turn around
My GPS said I was on the trail but my instinct told me differently. I got off the bicycle and scouted the trails ahead. Things got even more enclosed. With only 10km to the famed ruins of Tikal I had to make a decision. Continue, and accept the conditions or turn around. I chose the lesser of two weevils and turned around. At that moment a family of Howler Monkeys signaled their approval at my decision with an angry display of loud howls. Time to find an alternative way to Tikal.