Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ancient Mayan Ruins of Tikal

My last stop in Guatemala was the ancient Mayan Ruins of Tikal. These were built in 200 to 900AD during which time the site dominated the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily. They went largely undiscovered until the 1840's and some of the most magnificent ruins have been excavated as recently as 7 years ago. The bus picked us up the next day at 4:30am so we could arrive at 6am when the Tikal National Park opens. We then had a guide walk us around the ruins for 5 hours explaining the history and pointing out animals along the way. I'm so glad I paid for the tour because I probably wouldn't have seen most of these animals without him:

The shot of the Howler Monkey (the one that's howling) was one in a series where he was going absolutely bananas protecting his territory and letting his presence be known in response to Luis's call. The shot of the monkey running on the ground was a rare sight according to our guide. He said he's only seen monkeys run on the ground like that 3 times in the last 5 years. He thinks there must have been an eagle flying above which made them run into more dense forest.

The Ruins at Tikal sit in the middle of an enormous lowland rainforest. When we climbed to the top of some of the ruins you could see nothing but forest in every direction. And yes you can actually climb these amazing ruins, this is Guatemala. Actually there were a couple temples we couldn't climb b/c people had died from falling down them. Yet they let you climb the others that are equally steep and dangerous!

One girl in my group reached the top of Temple V (pictured below) and then clung face first to the wall b/c she was terrified once she looked down. Poor thing. The second pic is the view from the top. One other fun fact about Tikal is that it appears in the first Star Wars movie as the 'rebel base on Tattoine'.

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