Arriving at night, we drank a few cervezas, bunked down, and headed out the next day on another ramshackle bus on the mountain road that led to Tikal.
Tikal didn't get many visitors back then. There were just a handful of us, and we were free to wander around the spectacular ruins of the sprawling ancient city.
We climbed the steep steps of the 154-foot-high Jaguar Temple, which is now off-limits since a visitor died after falling.
We slept in hammocks in open-air thatched-roof huts in a clearing in the jungle, making sure to cover thoroughly with blankets, despite the oppressive heat and humidity, to protect ourselves from swarming mosquitoes.
There was one fresh water spigot for the camp. It was turned on for short periods during the day and guarded by armed Guatemalan soldiers. Each meal was a simple plate of beans, eggs and rice.
For an adventure-seeking 22-year-old, it was a spectacular time. The inconveniences and modest dangers were more than offset by the experience.
I don't recall anyone there talking about the Mayan calendar or the end of the world. Maybe 2012 was too far off, or perhaps none of the people there who spoke English paid much attention to it.
I'm pretty confident the world won't end today, despite the Mayan calendar. But the event does remind me of a time when I took a road less traveled to a place where it felt as though I had reached the ends of the earth.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.