June 26 - 27, 2014…Parque Nacional Tikal, Flores Peten, Guatemala

Guatemala feels somewhat like being back in Mexico…well, sort of!  Oddly enough I actually feel better to be back in a spanish speaking country, after the mixture of dialects in Belize!  Our first stop will be the World Heritage UNESCO site Parque Nacional Tikal.  With a small amount of Quetzal in hand Kev pays the $150 Quetzal per person foreign visitor entrance fee into Tikal National Park.  The well maintained, slightly potholed road winds 33 km's into the jungle.  Bright reflective signage sporadically warns us of the wildlife present in the area.  We arrive at the Hotel Tikal Inn within the park by 10:00 am and check in.  The Hotel is set beautifully within a clearing, against the active jungle.  This eco friendly hotel runs electricity from 6 - 8am and then again from 6 - 10pm.  You really do not realize how much noise can be produced by everyday operations…and to have this eliminated during portions of the day or night is a welcomed blessing.  We stayed in a bungalow and it simulated a very comfortable camping situation.  Laying still on a bed in the heat, distracted by the night jungle banter was amazing.  I peacefully dozed off, but was woken at 1am by a very eery communicative song, sung by the Howler monkeys.  I could hear the movement of this small pod in the trees as they traveled through the grounds.  It was a song I had never heard before, but if I could compare it to another animal it would have to be the cries of a coyote.  Spine tingling and captivating.  

Tikal is to the right Cat!

Tikal is to the right Cat!

Stopping before the park entrance.  There is always a curious kid that wants to hop on!

Stopping before the park entrance.  There is always a curious kid that wants to hop on!

Kev walking back to his bike after paying the entrance fee.

Kev walking back to his bike after paying the entrance fee.

Fun with road signs as we enter the park….Jaguar

Fun with road signs as we enter the park….Jaguar

White tailed deer

White tailed deer

serpents

serpents

And cheeky coatimundi!

And cheeky coatimundi!

We were able to tuck our bikes right up front of the hotel.

We were able to tuck our bikes right up front of the hotel.

Purchasing a snack from the locals

Purchasing a snack from the locals

Our room

Our room

Gorgeous nights.

Gorgeous nights.

Locals offer tasty eats outside the park grounds

Locals offer tasty eats outside the park grounds

A passionate guide is a treasured experience…Elias was just that.  Kev and I joined the Sunset and Sunrise tours led by him, and were immediately captivated by his passion, knowledge and wonder.  I truly love it when gaps are filled, questions are answered and discussions are informative and interesting!  We saw a surprising number of mammals and insects that included…Mono Aullador, Howler Monkeys; Mono Arana, Spyder Monkeys; Cotuza, Paca; Zorra Gris, Gray Fox; and Tarantula.  The birdlife was amazing….we saw the three varieties of Tucan of the area, Tucan Pico de Quilla, Keel Billed Toucan; Tucan Acollarado, Collared Toucan; and the Tucan Esmeralda, Emerald Toucanet.  Other varieties included, The Laughing Falcon, Red Lored Parrot, Lineated Woodpecker, Occellated Turkey, Black Vulture, Great Kiskadee, and the ever so chatty Montezuna.

Keel Billed Toucan

Keel Billed Toucan

Mother Spyder monkey and baby.

Mother Spyder monkey and baby.

Occellated Turkey

Occellated Turkey

Montezuna

Montezuna

Lineated Woodpecker.

Lineated Woodpecker.

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey

Elias doing his thing!

Elias doing his thing!

The Grand Plaza, the core of the city.  Surrounded by the north acropolis,  central acropolis, a ball game court and temples 1 & 2,  This heart of Tikal  was continuously  abuzz with religious events, celebrations,  sports, educational events, stela raising and community life.

The Grand Plaza, the core of the city.  Surrounded by the north acropolis,  central acropolis, a ball game court and temples 1 & 2,  This heart of Tikal  was continuously  abuzz with religious events, celebrations,  sports, educational events, stela raising and community life.

Just taking it all in!

Just taking it all in!

A clear shot of the crown of of Temple 5.  Here you can see the remains of the huge carving that adorned it.

A clear shot of the crown of of Temple 5.  Here you can see the remains of the huge carving that adorned it.

A shot from the Central Acropolis over looking the Grand Plaza.  The temple on the right is the Great Jaguar Temple.  This temple built around 700 A.D is Guatemala's landmark to the world.

A shot from the Central Acropolis over looking the Grand Plaza.  The temple on the right is the Great Jaguar Temple.  This temple built around 700 A.D is Guatemala's landmark to the world.

A shot from the North Acropolis looking at the Great Jaguar Temple then over to the Central Acropolis, the largest residential, and administrative area in Tikal.

A shot from the North Acropolis looking at the Great Jaguar Temple then over to the Central Acropolis, the largest residential, and administrative area in Tikal.

The Great Jaguar Temple rises 156 feet high

The Great Jaguar Temple rises 156 feet high

Temple of Masks/Faces, built around 700 A.D. in honor of the wife of the ruler Ah Cacao

Temple of Masks/Faces, built around 700 A.D. in honor of the wife of the ruler Ah Cacao

Here you can easily see the seven levels of the Temple (5), representing the 7 days of the week.  This temple was the first constructed at Tikal around 600 A.D

Here you can easily see the seven levels of the Temple (5), representing the 7 days of the week.  This temple was the first constructed at Tikal around 600 A.D

Tikal was discovered in 1847 by a gum cutter named Ambrosio Tut.  Ambrosio was working on top of a very tall tree when suddenly he could make out the crowns of the Temples rising out of the dense jungle canopy.  One hundred and eight years later 575.83 square kilometers of jungle was declared a National Park, and soon after the University of Pennsylvania began the excavation and restoration of Tikal.  This "Classic Period City" was unique from other Maya cities of the area.  Tikal is the only Maya City that built crowns on top of their Temples.  These decorative crowns were actually ingenious acoustic chambers that amplified and carried voice over a larger area.  Tikal's rulers, aristocrats, nobles and scholars, used these crowns to communicate and spread the word to their people!  The first microphone so to speak!  The University of Pennsylvania unfortunately actually destroyed several structures during excavation.  Their thinking was that the Maya structures were similar looking to the Egyptian structures, and must have chambers.  Their eagerness to find these non-existing chambers lead to the collapse of several structures.  Tikal amazingly ruled for 1800 years, housing approximately 5,000 - 10,000 people of importance within the inner area of the Temples, and 50,000 - 60,000 common people within the outer surrounding areas.  Although Tikal was a very powerful city, controlling the commerce routes of the area, the fall of Tikal came suddenly.  Archeological evidence suggests war, revolution, or natural disaster.  Temples were abandoned suddenly…possessions were left, food storage was abandoned, tables were left set, and dishes were found still containing food.

Waiting for the sunrise on the steep steps of the highest temple of Tikal (65 mts),    perched high in the cool mist marveling over the wonders of the Tikal canopy.  This temple was built in 745 A.D. and is known as the Temple of the Two Headed Snake.

Waiting for the sunrise on the steep steps of the highest temple of Tikal (65 mts),  perched high in the cool mist marveling over the wonders of the Tikal canopy.  This temple was built in 745 A.D. and is known as the Temple of the Two Headed Snake.