Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tikal...amazing!

Tikal...when I think about Mayan ruins and history, Tikal is one of the first things that comes to my mind.  K and I have been to Mexico many times.  We've been fascinated by the ruins there.  We've been to Chichen Itza, and were some of the lucky ones who were there when you could still climb the Great Pyramid.  Although I chickened out and only K made the climb.  I regret missing out on it now though!  We've seen the beauty of Tulum sitting on the edge of the sea.  We've climbed the tallest pyramid in Coba, the relatively unexcavated site in the jungles outside of Cancun.  But Tikal...that to me is the ruin of ruins!  Tikal isn't in Belize, it's in Guatemala.  But from where we were staying, it's a day trip away.  There are many great ruins in Belize, Guatemala too for that matter.  Those countries were thriving in the Mayan period.  Millions of residents.  Many more than live there today. 

Our journey began early, after breakfast.  We left with just one other couple and two of the employees from Chaa Creek got to go with us since it was the slow season.  Off we went with our guide and we had about a fifteen minute drive to the Guatemala border.  We'd cross on foot, going through customs and immigration.  After paying the necessary fees and getting our passports stamped, we picked up a different vehicle and off we went.  The country was incredibly beautiful.  We drove mainly through dairy farmlands and past several lakes.  We were told that most of the villages had no running water, so you would see the women at the lakes set up in little huts doing their laundry.  It wasn't unusual to see pigs on the road as well!


The countryside for most of the drive looked like this.  Note the rocky road....most roads in Guatemala that we were on, and many roads except the Western Highway in Belize were just rock.  Made for some bumpy driving!






Once in Guatemala we had about two hours to go until we picked up our guide Walter, about thirty minutes from Tikal National Park.  Our Chaa Creek guide told us that they don't allow Belizean guides, so we had to have a Guatemalean guide for the tour.  Walter was amazing.  He was so filled with knowledge, from everything from the Mayans, to the structures in Tikal, to the country to the plant life and animals we'd see.  Made for wonderful experience.  As soon as we crossed into the park, we were immediately taunted by some Spider Monkeys.  They were throwing leaves and branches down on our vehicle. 



We parked and got out of the van and headed toward the park.  Walter stopped at a little hole in the ground and asked us if we'd ever seen a tarantula before....um, no!  So, he sticks a piece of grass in the hole and out pops a huge fuzzy tarantula!  Great start to the day!  We hadn't even seen the ruins yet and we'd already seen spider monkeys and a tarantula!

Walter told us all about the history of Tikal and the Mayans in Guatemala as we made our way to pyramid IV, which is the tallest pyramid, standing over 230 feet high, way above the canopy.  As we approached it was just breathtaking to see as the top peaked out of the jungle. 



We were able to climb this pyramid.  High above the canopy, the view is spectacular.  We could have sat there all day...but to see more, we did have to go back down!



We then went to the Great Plaza and learned more about what life may have been like around 600 AD.  We had time to explore and climbed pyramid II as well.  Pyramid I can not be climbed anymore.  We saw quite a bit of wildlife, including many coati, toucans, foxes, many more monkeys, and an anthill that was perhaps 4 or 5 feet long! 







Our last stop in the park was pyramid V, this pyramid appears to be the tallest, but IV is actually taller.  This one seems taller because it's fully excavated.  The steps up are straight up.  The view is amazing, as can be seen above.



I loved Tikal.  To me it is truly a mystical place.  I'm sure I could spend days there exploring - we just touched on the highlights.  The national park is over 200 square miles, with the structures in 10 square miles and only a small fraction have been uncovered. 

After our drive back to Chaa creek, we cooled off and relaxed in the pool and had a wonderful dinner with the highlighed being Shrimp with a Coconut Sauce....possibly a perfect day!

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