Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tikal and Yaxha

I knew of Tikal far before I had ever heard the name and far before I ever took off for Guatemala. Only in my mind Tikal is Yavin IV the secret base of the rebel alliance where Luke came to fruition and listened as Admiral Akbar dispensed important intel on the destruction of the Death Star.

I got my chance to see Tikal for real this weekend and it is an amazing place. It was one of the major city states in the Mayan empire with skyscraping pyramids and temples. One of those places on earth that everyone really should try and see because it puts you in awe with mans ability to create.

I took off for Tikal in the early morning waking around 4 and heading for the airport with Cathy. Since Andy and Lindsey had already seen Tikal and were on an adventure of their own it was just the two of us for this trip. When we arrived at the airport in Flores we were greeted by Carlos who would be our guide for the next two days.

Our first tour would involve seeing some of the major temples and sites in Tikal. To get there Carlos insisted we take a pickup truck and we were carted through the walking paths like lazy people at airports, we felt a little like aholes but it was pretty fun at times to watch people give us snooty looks. It was even more fun to see the other group from our school who had taken the bus 11 hours to get to Tikal and wave at them as if we were local celebrities in the big homecoming parade.

We got to the first temple which was the massive temple iv and it was a blast to ascend and then take in the views. You get such a ridiculous view of the jungle and the other pyramids from temple iv it really is amazing.

After that we were greeted with the rain. It had rained all week in torrential proportions in Antigua and today would be no different. We went from pyramid to pyramid and got soaked. When i attempted a handstand for a picture i almost ate it when i slipped on the grass. None the less we were able to tour around the city and see all of the pyramids, temples, and residences.

One of highlights was standing listening to some history of the mayan people and i didnt realize that i was standing on a huge ant hill. The ants attacked me like ferocious beasts and bit the crap out of my legs. It was a continous pleasant surprise throughout the day to feel a sharp pain in my back or behind my knees and have a nice ant bite waiting for me.

We finished up the tour in a thunderstorm but were able to see some really nice sites. I was a big fan of the central plaza which had some smaller temples as well as houses and places for human sacrifice(i think thats what someone said at least). It was interesting to see everything in such a close proximity.

The next morning we woke up early again to try and catch the sunrise and this was one of highlights. For about 20 minutes on the top of temple iv we watched the sun ascend, though blocked by clouds though it was still beautiful, and watched the fog dance over the jungle top. The silence and the early morning were really something to behold. Its a must if you ever travel to tikal.

Other highlights from Tikal: -climbing one of the steepest ladders i have ever seen and having a group of australian tourists on the way down tell me that they thought i was an aussie and that my accent sounds more australian than american
-carlos explaining to me where the word ok came from before he lectured me on the need to have at least two girlfriends, one is simply not enough according to carlos
-the smell of my clothes, a potpourri of sweat mud and rain.
-a sweet dessertt of rice and milk, surprisingly tasty

Yaxha is a second site of ruins that was recently discovered. It is a little more of a small town compared to a major city that tikal is. It was pretty impressive and had some great stuff to climb and see as well. They also had some ball courts where the mayans played their sport. It was much smaller but there was more stuff in a close proximity to each other and it was all newly excavated so it was pretty exciting to get the opportunity to see it.

We then got to head into Flores which is a cool little beach like town. We took a short boat ride and at one point the carlos asked me to walk to the front of the boat and take a photo of everyone. I wanted to Carlos that i am petrified of boats and water and the idea of walking to the front was making me nauseous but im pretty sure he wouldnt have understood that and i was forced to the front to be the photographer in the group. Later on some of the folks in the group were snacking on some mango ice cream when the people of flores lit off some fireworks. One of the german ladies we were with was shocked and confused by the fireworks and when she approached me to ask why they were doing she missed a step and went tumbling down a flight of stairs, i was left with her hat in my hand as i attempted to grab her hand to no avail. She went down hard putting a pretty big scare into our group. She was unharmed for the most part despite having two artificial knees. She did sustain a massive gash under her chin but Cathy used her nursing skills to take care of it. Needless to say Carlos felt like ending the day there and we all headed for the airport and our return trip to Antigua.

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