Friday, July 3, 2015

Go to Guatemala? Don't Mayan if I do!

Ok, Last Central American pun for awhile.

Today was spent exploring the Mayan Ruins at the site of Tikal. My morning started at 7:15 when my tour guide picked me up at my hotel. We made a couple other stops picking up a few other people who were joining us for the trip to Guatemala and Tikal. We were only about 30 minutes from the border so we quickly filled out our immigration paperwork and enjoyed the short drive.

Once we got to the border, we had to walk through immigration and meet our Guatemalan driver on the other side of the border. A law passed many years ago forbids Belizean tour guides from driving Belizean tour groups through Guatemala. Our driver was very nice and very knowledgeable. As soon as everyone made it through customs, we were on the road. It was about an hour and a half to entrance of the park and then another 20 minutes to the closest point where a car could get to the ruins. We jumped out of the van and started hiking. About 20 minutes in, we came across our first pyramid. From this point on, I am just going to show mainly photos with little explanation. This is a fantastic site and is something you should try and see if the Mayan culture interests you and you are in the area.
The first pyramid we came across. Thought to have been built around 770AD. The stones in front are altars that were used for sacrifices.

Top of the first pyramid, Looking down the steps.
After spending some time talking about this pyramid complex, we hiked a little bit deeper into the jungle. After a few minutes we came across the Great Plaza. This is the core of Tikal. It contains two very large pyramids on the east and west sides, and a royal acropolis on both the north and south sides.
Our tour guide, Jugo, speaking about the first pyramid complex
The North Acropolis. Construction started around 350 BC. This where the rulers of Tikal were buried when they died.
Temple of the Jaguar Priest. 180 feet tall and built around 810 AD. Thought to have been the funerary temple of the King, Dark Sun
From the top of the Temple of Masks which is 125 feet tall and significantly older than the pyramid shown above.
After spending some time in the Great Plaza, we moved on to a few of the other temples in the city of Tikal.
The Top of Temple 4 seen from a distance. This is one of the more famous temples in the city.
After a short hike that introduced us to spider monkeys, howler monkeys, and a few other jungle creatures, we came to the base of Temple 4. It is the tallest structure in the city measuring at around 212 feet. It was built around 740 AD and used around 6.7 million cubic feet of limestone to construct.
The view from the top of pyramid 4. If you remember the first 'Star Wars' (episode 4, the original), this should look familiar as the entrance to Yavin 4 where the Millennium Falcon comes in to land. Nerd History aside, it is an amazing view and well worth the climb.
After coming down from Temple 4, we hiked a little bit more to see a few more of the temples. There was some really neat history that showed how we know the Mayans were in contact with other groups in Central America. After a few more really awesome spots, we hiked out and met our driver who took us out of the park and in to a local town to enjoy fajitas for lunch. They were well deserved and were a good end to the day. After lunch, we jumped in the van, headed back to the border and drove back to San Ignacio in Belize.

After getting back to the hotel, I did some packing, checked in for my flight and am now relaxing as a gentle jungle rain storm comes through the area. Today was a great cap to end an amazing trip. I have made some memories that will not soon leave me.

Back to the States tomorrow (The 4th of July!) and on to Michigan where I will hang out with family and friends for a little bit before heading back to the city.

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