• A Personal Look at Tikal National Park, Guatemala

    0 comments / Posted on by Rita O'Neal

    In May 2012, I was lucky enough to go on a trip with a friend to Central America - my first time. The focus of our trip was going to be in Belize, but being the nature lovers that we are, we wanted to take full advantage of everything around us and planned a day to go into Guatemala, to spend the whole day at Tikal National Park, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  After 2 days in Belize, walking along the red clay roads and sitting among the giant boulders at the base of an amazing waterfall, I didn't think it could get better than that.
    We left early on a day arranged by the resort we were staying at with another couple, trekked into Guatemala, and switched vehicles to a van to take us to the park.  Our guide was great and explained the scenery on the drive, We finally arrived at the entrance to the park and met our park guide.  Most times I would rather venture into a park by myself (or with our group), so that we can fully explore everything ourselves and take our time, not feeling rushed to move onto the next thing to see.  For Tikal, I'm glad we had a park guide to take us through the rich history of not only the park, but the people who built it, and of surrounding Guatemalans.   
    He told us that Tikal is one of the largest archaeological centers of pre-Columbian Maya civilizations. Some of the architecture dates all the way back to the 4th century BC!  He told us about the rich Mayan history while we walked between the monuments, temples and old palaces. Since we were there during the rainy season, it was still extremely warm and humid, and there was always the chance of showers (warm rain showers are my favorite!) while walking through the rainforest.
    One of the things I was most excited to see while there, though, were the animals! Animals that we donít get to see in California, but was hoping to get a peek while walking through the park ñ spider monkeys (so cute!), howler monkeys, toucans and green parrots (though Iím terrified of birds!) and jaguars. I was fine with seeing these up close, but was hoping the jaguar would be on a far-off rock or something, close enough for a picture, but not close enough to where Iíd pee my pants. While we saw pretty much all the animals on my list, the jaguars were off in the distance somewhere and never made an appearance. While looking for monkeys, I was waiting for my friend near one of the restrooms and felt something fall on my shoulder. I thought it was just something falling from the trees, no big deal, and then BAM! Something hard hit my shoulder bone again.  I stepped back to look up and it was a howler monkey! That sucker was throwing big, hard berries right at me! What a punk. He thought it was hilarious though, and followed us through the trees for a little bit of our walk. Better berries than poop, right?
    The architecture of the ancient city is just simply breathtaking. Something that Americans just canít possibly appreciate with the short history of our own country.  Some of the temples are over 230 feet high, have palaces, residences and inscribed stone monuments.  As a sports lover, I definitely appreciated the courts that the guide explained were for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame.  He explained what some of the hieroglyphic texts carves into the monuments meant.  There was a larger pyramid that we were able to partially climb and it was breathtaking when you got to the top ñ literally. We climbed up semi-steep stairs with wooden handrails that didnít make me feel 100% steady, and then once on the pyramid, you could climb higher on the actually limestone. Once you got to the top, you could see across the entire park, above the top of the rainforest, with occasional other pyramids and temples peeking up from the tops of the trees.
    The day at the park completely drained us and we fell asleep in the van on the way back to our hotel in Belize.  It was completely worth the long drive into Guatemala, and if you every find yourself in need of a Latin American historical adventure, I highly recommend getting yourselves to Tikal National Park.  The history alone is enough to blow your mind, but the architecture will completely take your breath away!
    Sheena Caines blogs at http://sheenabean13.com

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  • Catching the Sunrise at Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park in Indonesia

    1 comment / Posted on by Influencer Outreach

    Mt. Bromo in East Java, Indonesia is a popular destination among travelers in the area for one big reason: a glorious sunrise view of a massive active volcano, along with the surrounding sand sea and crater. 

    There are two main ways to catch the sunrise above Mt. Bromo. One is to take a guided Jeep tour, which starts before the sun rises, bringing guests up the road to the lookout point for the Bromo volcano and crater. Immediately following, the Jeeps then take guests to the crater itself, driving through the sand sea and arriving at a steep staircase which leads to the crater mouth. Still smoking and very much active, the Bromo volcano is quite an amazing sight from both near and far.

    For those with a slightly more adventurous spirit -- and a love for trekking -- there is a trail that leads from the town next to broom (Cemoro Lawang) to the viewpoint.  Beginning at 3-3:30am, hikers don heavy jackets, head torches, and sturdy shoes as they make the 2-hour ascent to the viewpoint. Along the way, there are many areas slightly further down that also provide great lookout spots for those who get too tired mid-ascent to keep going. Enterprising locals all along the trail sell hot drinks, snacks, and when the trail joins the road, offer motorcycle rides to the top for rather rich amounts of cash.   

    Getting to the viewpoint early is advisable, as this is a popular sunrise spot and generally full of photographers and tourists trying to catch a glimpse of the sin as it rises over the horizon. To avoid crowds, stop at one of the viewpoints lower down, or stick around well after the sunrise when most of the Jeeps leave to take guests to the crater.   

    Though a fair trek from the more popular destinations of Jakarta and Bali, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is a must-do for anyone who loves lush green mountains, the excitement of active volcanos, and beautiful sunrises.


    Kristin Addis blogs at http://www.bemytravelmuse.com

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  • 6 Tips For Hiking With Kids

    1 comment / Posted on by Rita O'Neal


    We're planning a family trip to Kauai in August and I'm so excited to visit Waimea Canyon (http://www.gohawaii.com/kauai/regions-neighborhoods/west-side/waimea-canyon) with my 3-year-old. It's considered the Grand Canyon of Kauai at 14 miles long and 3,600 feet deep. It will be a lovely sight to photograph and take a family hike around but I really have no idea what to expect so I've been researching online and found some great tips on what to do while visiting that I'm excited to share with you below. Not everyone gets to visit the lovely Kauai (this will be my first trip there), but these tips come in handy during any hiking trip with kids. 

    1. Limit Expectations: Keep your first hiking adventure small, and don't push yourself or your family to make it to the end if it isn't really going to happen. Making it to mile 2 out of 5 is pretty good for a first hike! Plan for a very small walk, then keep going if the whole family is willing (knowing that the long walk back awaits). Be sure there's a bathroom on-site, or bring along a kids collapsible potty for emergency gotta go situations (especially if working on potty training). 

    2. Dress Appropriately: Check the weather forecast and keep in mind weather conditions when you choose your attire. If you're hiking through an area that may have poison oak or a lot of bugs, you may want to wear long pants tucked into your shoes. If it's an open dusty trail shorts should be OK. Either way, you'll want to wear close-toed shoes with grip. Be sure to apply sunscreen or sunblock (not the kind that sprays as that can be inhaled and also the wind can blow most of it a different direction than your skin). Reapply your sun protection after 40 minutes-1.5 hours depending on the instructions on your product.

    3. Inform Your Child(ren): If this will be your first hike or longer walking trek, talk to your child about it ahead of time to prepare her for what may happen during the outing. Let her know the different sounds she'll hear, animals she'll see, and that she will need to dress a certain way because of the type of outing it is to stay safe. Talk about the length and distance of the trip so that she knows how long to expect, and what to expect when out.

     4. Prepare Your Pack: Bring a light pack with ample water supply (a lightweight water pouch that can go flat when empty is great for longer walks. Otherwise your usual water bottle is nice if you can carry it). Other items depend on your trip, but a first-aid kit, some snacks and sunscreen/sunblock are a must.

     5. Bring a Carrier: If you're child has sensory needs, is always wanting to be picked up, or is a baby then you'll want to bring a carrier. If you wrap, then that's a great option. My daughter prefers a soft-structured toddler carrier so I can wear her on my back. It's great for getting through the airport and it doesn't have the bulky metal frame of some hiking backpacks for kids so I can store it easily in my luggage if needed. It's no fun going on a long walk or short hike with your child only to hear, "I'm tired, I can't move. Carry me!" when you still have the long trek back left. Bringing along a carrier makes things so much easier once that inevitable request comes up.

     6. Enjoy the Hike: Take photos to remember, talk to your child about trail safety, and play some fun games where you try to guess the animal sound or spot things.


    Do you have tips for hiking with kids? Please share!


    Shari Wargo Stamps is a Bay Area content creator and publishes Savvy Every Day(http://www.savvyeveryday.com), a lifestyle website for families worldwide.

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