Friday, March 9, 2012

Trip to Tikal

As mentioned in my previous entry, I was going to write a little more about our trip to Tikal. The Westeringh's generously invited us (Lia and I and Rick and Dianne Postma) to visit Tikal with them which was nice since it is one of the must places to see in Guatemala.  After more than 11 years of living in Guatemala we never had the opportunity to visit this beautiful, historic place.  Tikal is situated in the department of the Peten which is the biggest department of Guatemala although one of the least inhabited because large parts of it are jungle.  (Guatemala is divided up into departments which are like provinces or states.) The trip by vehicle is some 10-13 hours from Guatemala city and the road, although good, is not the safest.  The Peten is known for being full of people with shady pasts. If people commit a crime they often flee to the Peten out of the reaches of the law.  
Huge Ceiba tree- Mayans believed it holds up the sky.
We traveled by plane instead which was around a 1 hour flight from Guatemala City.  From the airport we had to drive an 1.5 hours to get to the park.  Once in the park we spent the next 5 hours touring with a guide who shared with us the history of Tikal.  People started settling in Tikal and building there around 400 BC and this continued on until 900 AD.  It was for many years a flourishing center of the Mayan empire.  The site measures some 16 sq/km and has over 3,000 structures many of which are still covered.  There are 6 large temples the tallest of which is 70 meters high (230 feet). 
We were able to climb two of these temples.  Temple 2 was an interesting climb because the stairs we very steep.  Temple 4 which is the highest one was a much easier and gradual climb.  It was very neat to be at the top of temple 4 and be able to look out over the jungle vegetation.  From there you could make out just the tops of the other temples.  Apparently when the Spanish entered Guatemala they passed close to Tikal but did not see it because it was hidden by the jungle.  You definitely would not want to get lost out there.  
In the later afternoon we returned to Guatemala City again while the Westeringh`s stayed behind and spent a night at a hotel in the park. It was truly a great privilege to be in Tikal and experience its grandeur.  It is amazing how a civilization like the Mayas where able to construct such buildings and a society equal to other ancient civilizations like the Incas and the Egyptians. 

On top of Temple IV
Very steep climb up and down.
For more information on Tikal look it up on the internet.  The history of the place is fascinating.

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