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Explore put Lonely Planet Magazine to the test

Added 03 Sep 2014
Explore put Lonely Planet Magazine to the test

If you’ve seen a copy of October’s Lonely Planet Magazine (on sale now), then you would have already read about Christa Larwood and Justin Foulkes’ exciting adventure through the Guatemalan jungle. Trekking through deep, wet rainforest, camping in the jungle, scrambling to the top of temples in time for sunrise and exploring what was once the most populated city in Central America were all part of Christa and Justin’s challenge when they agreed to recce Explore’s new Maya Trek to Tikal.

Never one to miss out on the opportunity to travel, Explore’s Product and Operations Director, John Telfer, jumped at the chance to accompany Christa and Justin as they became some of the very first travellers to venture along the newly opened route. Here’s what he had to say:

“What better news than to find out that a new walking trail through the rainforest has been inaugurated by the Guatemalans to the most splendid Mayan cities of all, Tikal…

Guatemala has always been one of my favourite countries, I led the very first Explore group there back in ’85 and love anything with a sense of journey, so when I found out about the new route I got really excited. The route was obscure but extraordinary at the same time - what was the infrastructure like? How tough would the walking be? How well supported would the groups be? It was all unknown. Yet the prospect of three days walking accompanied by locals from the Cruce Dos Aguadas Community, the people who know the rainforest better than anyone else, had the Lonely Planet team and I hooked.

Maya Trek to Tikal
Photograph credit: Justin Foulkes

The bad news; the 45km trek turned out to be nearer 70km and it was a tough three days for us all. The good news; future travellers need not worry. With time for reflection, a little bit of juggling and a 4WD, the distance covered has now been trimmed down to 60km over four days making it a much more enjoyable but equally rewarding moderate to challenging graded trek.

Maya Trek to Tikal 3

So what were my highlights? If you haven’t done it before, sleeping in a jungle environment is something else; nothing beats the primordial sound of howler monkeys as you lie alone in your tent. We woke up early each morning to climb to the top of an obscure Mayan temple to watch sunrise over the jungle canopy. Spider Monkeys watched us curiously and Toucans flew by as Tikal become visible on the far horizon - our end destination. A limestone cliff near one of our campsites was home to thousands of bats; as they came out at dusk, such was the volume of their flapping wings that it sounded like the sea.

Maya Trek to Tikal 4

What made the trip extra special however was the care taken by the people from the Dos Aguadas community. I’ve always had a soft spot for local community set-ups but this was something else. As their horses carried our bags, they taught us about the flora and fauna of the rainforest and cooked simple, locally-grown food. Most important of all, we got to know them over the course of the three days and shared many meals and much laughter.

So, now the recce’s done and the story’s out, our new Maya Trek to Tikal is available to book. Don’t expect posh nosh or creature comforts (though you do get your own tent!) Do prepare yourself for a wonderful journey with Tikal at the end, one of the finest destinations anywhere on the planet. And by the way - our tour also includes walking in the countryside around the Colonial capital Antigua and scaling the volcanoes that loom over Lake Atitlan”.

View full details on our new Maya Trek to Tikal.