Friday, June 24, 2011

The Mystery of Tikal

A thousand years ago, a community of Mayans lived in the jungles around the city of Tikal.  It thrived for a period of time as a center of commerce, art, culture, and religious significance.  Then mysteriously, the Mayans disappeared. The jungle grew back and hid the ancient city of Tikal until its' eventual discovery by Spanish explorers.

Notice how moisture evaporates off the forest floor in the morning?
Entering the park is a treat all of its' own. The thing I love about Guatemala is that they don't tell you how you're going to feel before the experience or how tall you need to be to get on a ride or that there aren't any fences around water areas full of's real. And because it's real, this country attracts a kind of traveler with common sense.  There are times when you may say, "Holy S%$t!" but you know that it will be worth the experience.  We entered the park which is an immense jungle area full of mosquitos.  You'll pass the Giant Ceiba trees, trees covered with tillandsias(the air plants), and a tropical assortment of wonderful plant life.  If you go early enough, you'll see plenty of fauna.  Remember to be quiet when walking the dark trails to the pyramids. If you go earlier in the morning, you'll find the experience cooler and less humid......and also free of the busloads of tourists that come in the afternoon.

One of the many ancient sites at Tikal
Most of the time, we were by ourselves on the trails and several times, we got lost.  NEVER wander from the trails.  The jungle is immense in this part of the world and it's very dangerous.  Bring lots of water with you as people dehydrate quickly from sweating in the tropical climate.

After an adventure on a rickety old staircase, my sister and I, made it the top for some spectacular views.....and a nice breeze:)
This was one of those experiences on my bucket list.  It was one of the most magical experiences of my life and it was worth the journey there.  Some people fly while others take busses......we took the bus because there were some places along the way we had to visit.  Guatemala is a treasure and one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The pyramids are stunning as are the trails that lead to them. 

Still used today as a religious center, Mayans use these alters in front of the pyramid at Tikal
So what happened to the Mayans?  This is my theory after years of thinking about the matter.  Some would have you believe that aliens took them......and that would be rather cool, but I don't think that was the situation.  Our world today is faced with overpopulation and I believe the Mayans, who massed in the thousands at somewhere around 120,000, couldn't maintain their food or water supplies which resulted in the city of Tikal being abandoned. At the time, a city of that population was rare and unique in a rain forest region.  Most tribes lived in smaller communities because there were limitations on the forest resources.  Smaller communities were easier to maintain.   They had used up all their resources around the area and had nothing left.  My theory is that many of them went to other communities or back into the rain forest.  A plague had destroyed their crops and with overpopulation and agrarian failure, the Mayan reign that lasted for a thousand years, collapsed.  Isn't there a message here?  Somewhere?

I didn't have a great camera back then....but here are some bird nests and that bird in the tree.  It has a yellow tail and made some really cool noises.
The older I get, the more fascinating history becomes to me.  I never liked it in high school.  Reading books was like having your heart ripped out of your chest on the steps of Tikal.  Well maybe not that bad.....but speaking of bodily harm.  Watch your steps in this park.  There are large reptiles hiding in pools of water with no fences around them:) There are tiny signs in Spanish, but if you don't speak the language, you could be food for the native animals:)  Just kidding.....but do be careful.  Guatemala is a very different country than Costa Rica or Las Vegas.:)  More adventures on the way......
More altars used for worship.  Copal is burned on them.

Don't wander far off the path or you may get lost in this!!! Most people depart to Tikal from the beautiful and colonial island city of Flores. It's about a 45 minute ride to the park.  A bloody, yet accurate depiction of Mayan life can be seen in the film Apocalypto by Mel Gipson. I know I know...the name may bring random thoughts, but he did an amazing job on this film.

Bring water and mosquito repellent!!

1 comment:

  1. Ditto! The older i get the more i tend to appreciate history! Thx for sharing the pic n the interesting story :) So much of greenery ard. wow!


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