Tuesday, October 30, 2012

December 21, 2012...Tikal

This past Sunday, I had the amazing opportunity to visit an original Mayan village located in the northern city of Tikal.  For a lot of people this trip was exhilarating  exciting, and incredible, but for me, it was like a giant heart attack that lasted all day!  During my stay in Guatemala, I have learned what the actual meaning of the dreaded date 12/21/2012 actually means.  To the Mayans, every calendar year they created signified the transition from one era to the next.  So literally, Decemember 21, 2012 will be a transition time, not the end of the world.  It takes on a whole new meaning.   
On Sunday, I woke up at 3:30am to start the long journey to Tikal.  I was picked up from my house at 4:00am and rode in a bus for an hour to Guatemala City to catch the plane ride.  I am not a big fan of planes to start with, but knowing that I was getting into a small, 30 passenger plane really freaked me out!  I was shaking before getting onto the plane so I told the people around me they had to distract me enough to forget I was flying.  Luckily the plane ride only lasted 45 minutes and was a lot smoother than I expected.  When we landed, we had to catch another bus for the hour and a half ride to the jungles of Tikal where our tour would begin.

As we were driving into the Tikal national park, we kept passing yellow animal crossing signs with outlines of the animals that could be found in the jungle.  Some pictures weren't too bad like the coati, monkeys, turkeys, and deer, but then one sign stood out from them all...a jaguar.  Yes, there are jaguars in the jungle that I walked through for 4 hours!!  As if that didn't freak me out enough, we started our tour by getting up close and personal with a tarantula and being told that there are 13 venomous snakes in the jungle with one in particular that can kill you in 3 seconds.  Let's just say that I was ALWAYS on the lookout!  I didn't want to come into contact with anything!  We were lucky for most of the tour though and saw very few animals.  I did get pictures of a silver fox, a family of coati, and two spider monkeys.  We also had the thrill of running over a colony of ants to avoid getting bit.

Walking through the ruins of Tikal and the temples that are still intact was a blast into the past.  It was amazing to see and climb the temples that were build hundreds of years ago and are still standing to this day.  The architecture is amazing and I can't believe that so many of the buildings are still standing.  I think it goes to show how intelligent and sophisticated the Mayan civilization was.  While on our 4 hour, 6 mile tour, I had the opportunity to climb 3 temples and enter the main trading plaza and the house where the nobles lived.  The park is very well kept and the buildings are all preserved.

For our final temple, we climbed the highest one at 70 meters and the view at the top was breathtaking!  The actual climb was tiring (I think I counted 150 stairs more or less) but it was well worth it at the top.  I could see the expanse of Tikal with the jungle and the temples in the distance from this view.  I loved it up there, although I again was terrified because of the height and lack of protective railings.

To end our time in Tikal, we ate lunch at one of the hotels and then started our long trek back with the bus ride, plane ride, and another bus ride to end in Antigua at 10:00 pm.  It was a long day, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.  

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