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Tikal, triumph of the Mayas

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Sunday 22nd September 1985

Glorious rainforest, flocks of toucans in dipping flight, spider monkeys thrash about in the canopy 150 feet up in the jungle canopy, magnificent ceiba trees sacred to the Maya.

The main plaza has temples I & II in the east and west, a complicated mess of temples to the north and an acropolis in the south. Stelae carved with kings and beautiful glyphs. Recognise 9 Batun, which is the 400 year period during which most of the currently visible ruins were constructed. Underneath the present ruins are about 4 buried structures. The Maya of Tikal traded with Teotihucan. It has taken 30 years to reclaim the currently visible ruins from the jungle. Tikal may extend over 25 sq miles. Their cities were not densely populated but well spread out and semi rural.

Mayan temple looming up through the Peten jungle.

Mayan temple looming up through the Peten jungle.

The finest views of all are from the top of temple IV. You can climb the steep stairs to the base of the roof comb, across the tree tops three other temples can be seen poking up through the jungle canopy which extends like a green sea as far as you can see all around. At sunset they are picked out in orange light. Magic. Find Gary up here and watch night descend in silence from the top of the temple. We walk back by moonlight. It was a treacherous climb down in the dark from root to root down the tree clad pyramid. It is 212 feet to the top of the roof comb. The highest surviving structure from prehispanic times in the New World.

Get stopped by armed guards in the main plaza. I don't have a permit to be here after dark. Gary keeps them entertained with his paperwork which eventually satisfies them. Experiencing the ruins by moonlight is mystical. You can climb temple I, the icon of Tikal, at about 5.30pm after the day guards have gone and before the two armed night guards arrive. Climbing the temples is forbidden by the guards since a tourist slipped in a tragic reproduction of its original purpose and died of his injuries. From the temple on the top of the pyramid you can converse in normal tones with people far below in the plaza. Meet Harry again (Oxaca), left Charles somewhere, they were the literature scholars form Kent.

The lady at the smallest smokiest comedor cooking us a vegetable soup for .75c, a novel experience for her to cook vege and she is eager for the results to be satisfactory. Usually it is pollo pollo or pollo. Except at breakfast when it is eggs.


Posted by 1985 trip 01:18 Archived in Guatemala

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