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.
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.
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.