Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tikal and the ancient Mayan Temples in the tropical forests in Tikal.

Thirteen of our DWC group arrived 4 days early and headed north touring through Coban and on to Tikal. One major highlight was arriving at our hotel in Tikal to find ourselves in the middle of a tropical rainforest! A huge surprise for all of us was the arrival of the president of Guatemala and his entourage as there was about to be an official groundbreaking of a new research center.

After our arrival and a late lunch we embarked on a guided tour through part of the rainforest to see the massive ancient Mayan temples. As we approached the first one we were blown away with its enormity, rising to a height of over 150 feet. They had been constructed between 200 and 1000 A.D. with some 150 temples and a population of 200,000 Mayan aboriginal people. Their culture was filled with hierarchy, tradition and superstition. The society broke down at the end of 1000 A.D. and the forest took over the structures over the following centuries. They were rediscovered in 1957 and a number of the temples have been uncovered and at least partially restored.

We enjoyed a wonderful hike and learned a great deal from our guide about the life and beliefs of the Mayan people. The tour culminated in watching the sun set from the top of one of the temples. Our guide, being a skilled salesmen, convinced some of us to participate in a 4:15 a.m. tour the following morning to experience the wakening of the tropical forest, sunrise from a temple and further explore more Mayan temples. An unexpected bonus for us was the opportunity to witness a Mayan religious ceremony that was in progress as we approached the temple steps.

Our visit came to a relaxing finale as we had time to return to the hotel for lunch and lounge around the pool in the beautiful warm sunshine. While relaxing by the pool we continued to be serenaded with the sounds of howling monkeys, parrots and numerous other exotic birds and animals. This is not an excursion I will soon forget.

Jack Alexander
DWC Participant

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