Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Tikal: Shock and Awe

The ride from Semuc Champey to northern Guatemala with our friends from California was an all day event, leaving us a little road weary as we arrived in Flores. Thankfully, the first hostel we tried had one room left with four single beds, so we snatched it up, threw our stuff down and headed out on the town. Flores is a picture perfect little town on a small island in a medium sized lake. We are happy to have got here when we did as the lake is rising at an alarming rate and is beginning to overtake the road that encompasses the island. We walked along this road doing our best to navigate around the water until we came across the most impressive display of street food we have seen on this trip. Nearly every local dish we have enjoyed during our journey was available at absurdly low prices. Burritos, taquitos, fresh Jamaica juice, tres leches and more cakes and deserts than we could handle! Together we laughed and feasted, sampling appetizing foods from different ladies. Although we thoroughly enjoyed this cute little town and the local flare and cuisine it offered, our purpose for being in this lovely place was short lived as our goal was still one hour away; the mighty Tikal.

Travis and I had been anticipating Tikal, the grandest Mayan Ruin site, our entire trip. Unlike Copan, Tikal is in the heart of the jungle and is quite spread out. For six hours we walked around, covering many kilometres, trying to take in the extrodinary experience one temple at a time. We were extremely impressed by the height of the temples as more than a few extended beyond the confines of the jungle canopy. One thing we did not realize before coming to the site was how many buildings are still waiting to be excavating and deciphered. Our admiration for archeologists is now extremely high as we witnessed differing stages of their work in progress. We saw more than a few Mayan structures as completely overgrown, simply appearing as just another hill amidst the dense jungle background. It would have been easy to walk right by them without realizing what lie underneath the foliage if it wasn't for Travis's keen eye. The years of tedious work to reveal just one ruin is unimaginable. Travis and I enjoyed climbing to the top of every structure that wasn't roped off and each time we did the views were stunning. Exhausted after exploring, we left the site and headed back to the tent we had rented for the night where we visited with our California friends once again and then crashed hard.

After a solid sleep, Travis and I were back up at 3:30am to head back to the ruins, marking the earliest I have ever woke up on my birthday. We stumbled out of our tent and headed for our guided sunrise tour of the ruins. The temples took on an entirely new dimension when viewed only in the light of the moon. They loomed like giant monoliths piercing the jungle roofline, defiant against the surrounding nature. Having the place to ourselves also added some mystery to our tour, even though we had seen most of the temples just a few hours earlier. Our guide demonstrated how a clap made beside one temple reverberates off another, echoing loudly through the sky. This phenomenon gives Tikal its namesake as it is known as the 'city of whispers'. We climbed up Temple IV to silently watch the sunrise with the upper portions of Temples I,II and III gracing the skyline with their prominence. This is also the view that appears in Star Wars Episode IV as the hidden rebel base on Yavin IV as Travis made certain to point out. The best part for me though was the mist resting over the far off hills and the birds singing as the sun rose higher in the sky. Our hearts were filled with gratitude to experience this beautiful place. Afterwards we finished what we had missed the day before and made a video for our new niece who arrived later that night. Although we were sad not to be home for Charlee's birth it served to build our excitement for going home sooner than planned. Also knowing I get to celebrate my birthday with her for years to come fills my heart with joy. 





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