|Up at 6:00 and try to shower. The hot water took a while yesterday so I turned on the shower and sink and did the few last bits of packing. Back in the bathroom there was still no hot water. Five minutes later still none… So I washed with cold water – no shower though. Then down for breakfast.
The first thing I noticed was blue sky. The clouds had cleared and the temperature had warmed considerably! It looked like the start of a nice day.
Meal was the same as yesterday but the place was packed with college students. We finally got done and packed up the van about 7:45 and headed off for Guatemala. The road was quite bumpy most of the way but when we approached the border it was actual pavement! The trip only took about 30 minutes.
At the border we waited in line for about a half hour then each of us paid $37.50 BZ as an exit fee – 30 for the tax and 7.50 for conservation. Our luggage was taken through and transferred from one van to the other. On the Guatemala side there were about 15 armed guards with machine guns. We got through immigration without any issues though.
On the road to Tikal we passed several military check points. One was manned by an armored car with a 50 cal. Machine gun mounted on the top. After being checked out we journeyed on passing at least three more places were armed soldiers were next to the road. We also passed a lake quite swollen from the recent rains – so much so that picnic areas were under water. I was told that they had more rain in the last week then they usually have all winter!
We arrived at the Tikal park and found that we were staying in the Jungle Lodge – the resort that is attached to the archeological site. Nice place – well situated, pretty buildings, nice room (with mosquito netting). Down side – internet only in the main building and there is no electricity from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Since we have to leave for the airport at 6:00 there may be an issue…
In any event, we dropped our bags and met up with Henri our guide. We walked through the jungle for about half a mile looking at some amazing vegetation and trees Ceiba tree being especially interesting. Not only the national tree of Guatemala but also a tree considered sacred by the Maya – the tree of life. The above world in the branches, the trunk is the living world, and the roots the underworld.
Then into the site itself. Imposing piles of rock jutting hundreds of feet into the air. The city was huge. The site is only the ruling complex where about 400 families lived. The rest of the 30,000 folks lived in smaller areas around the main complex.
The first area we visited was called the Plaza East and was comprised of a partially cleared temple (temples are ceremonial or burial buildings) and a large housing complex. The complex itself was five stories high – and was still standing almost 1,000 years after it was built!
We then headed off to the central building complex, again five stories, and were told that the rooms below (we were on level four) were still standing – but off limits. There was an additional story above as well. While in the plaza a monkey (a rare one – no idea of the name) was spotted up a tree. We were all quite impressed but Adrianna was disgusted and left to go off on her own.
Then we got to see the Grand Plaza flanked by two temples – one (the Great Jaguar) housed the remains of “Mr. Cocoa,” a leader in about 700 AD. The facing temple (Temple Two) was thought to house the remains of his wife, but they have not been found.
This is an amazing complex. Other sites – the great head of the Rain God, the walk up the wooden steps to look out from Temple Two, more building and temple complexes, a contemporary Maya alter, buildings that match the equinox, Grain storage facilities, climbing up Temple Three and ascending wooden steps (about 200) to the top of Temple Four for a panoramic view of the jungle. We saw numerous birds, several wild turkeys (who were quite tame – they prowled the grounds looking for scraps) and several other partly tame critters.
Back at the lodge we got our rooms. I headed over to the “craft” area next to a pond that warned against feeding the crocodile – never saw it though. Dinner at the lodge was OK but it is open and bugs kept landing on the table. We chatted about tomorrow. Bags outside at 5:45, to the lodge at 6:00. To Guatemala City by air by about 10:00, and to Antigua by 11:00.
Now to pack and see what a night without power is like.
I found out. I Skyped Minna for a bit then back to the room. After bout ten minutes the lights went out – an hour early! I packed my bag in the dark, took a shower in moonlight through the skylight (gibbous moon), shaved with a flashlight and then went to sleep. What a way to end the day. It was VERY quiet though…