Tikal: May(an) the Force be with You
Tikal is part of the reason why I came to this beautiful country. In September 2017, I was at a Pyramid Exhibition at Las Piramides de Guimar in Tenerife with my mum. My mum and I always do fun things together when I go to visit her. I think I inherited her sense of fun, travel and adventure amongst other things (thanks mama!) Gazing at the gap between two mountains, I was amazed that the astronomers of the past had built these structures to follow the moon and the sun, and that at midsummer, from the top of this relatively small pyramid in Tenerife, the sun would appear to set twice between the mountains. I love the night sky- stars, planets, the moon of course, and the universe beyond; so for me pyramids are pretty special things. What I also found amazing was that the shared knowledge of two different cultures, divided by the Atlantic, had built similar structures for the exact same purpose. Which also made us ask the question- had man sailed across the Atlantic before Columbus’ discovery of the New World? Had previous civilizations shared their architectural knowledge? Or is simply that humans like to build and it’s in our nature to do so? Twin cultures, separated by the Atlantic- beyond the fact that both civilizations built pyramids, the shared a multitude of similarities ( have a look here if you’re interested more! (https://www.richardcassaro.com/suppressed-by-scholars-the-mystery-of-twin-cultures-egyptians-incas-on-opposite-sides-of-the-globe/)
So many questions! Looking at a map of the world’s pyramids I spotted a country almost directly across from Tenerife: Guatemala. I decided I was going to visit Tikal- one day and somehow.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m booking a trip with a local Guatemalan travel agency, Viajeros GT for a three day trip to Petén, visiting Tikal, Flores, Yaxhá and Rio Dulce- I’m so stoked because I get to visit the Mayan wonders, all organised with a tour guide, all in Spanish and travelling with Guatemalans rather than English speaking folk. I really want to submerge myself in all aspects of Guatemala, so it makes sense for me to go with a local company.
We arrive after a night bus trip from the city, and I didn’t sleep at all on the journey so my energy levels are low- but the excitement of visiting Tikal keeping me going. The other people I’m travelling with seem really cool and I’m paired up with another girl who’s booked the trip on her own- Ceci from Panamá (she’s really fun). Tikal is massive, the park really needs to be explored over a few days, but our guide takes us to all the important spots. It’s so beautiful, and incredible to walk through rainforest and to the various sites of pyramids, temples and structures. I love the combination of grey stone and lush greenery, its so stunning. I always thought of grey stone as a modern material, but it’s classic and ancient. There are little animals all around. Sadly, the week before, there had been really bad forest fires destroying a lot of the natural habitat for the animals and destroying a UNESCO protected zone. This happened the same week as Notre Dame. Do with that information what you wish. So all of the animals had fled closer to the ciudad of Tikal where all is tourists are. I saw tiny monkeys swingling through the trees, and Coatis running around everywhere- they have no fear either!
Tikal and the pre-Columbian history is amazing, there are few too many people here, but I suppose that’s to be expected of such a famous site. I’d love to visit again at night and stargaze in silence. Or early in the morning for sunrise, with a few less people. Climbing Temple Four is mental and the views are incredible overlooking the top of the forest. This is where a scene from Star Wars is filmed (also- don’t tell anyone but I’ve never really watched Star Wars. My brother and his mates are obsessed though, all they used to do as kids was surf and quote Star Wars) Anyway- Ancient Mayans- thank you and may the force be with you.
We go to the main temple, Jaguar Temple- its so iconic to me, ingrained in my brain, and I see it with my own eyes. The temple was built in funerary traditions for the body of Ah Cacao- a royal Mayan ruler and built, like all the other sites in Tikal, over a long period of time, and structured to withstand earthquakes. The knowledge and power of the Ancient Mayans is amazing. Jaguar temple is twinned with Temple II which we can’t climb as an almost extinct species of bird have laid eggs and the little ones have hatched, so they have claimed them temple as their own for now. Pretty extravagant nest!
I'm super tired from no sleep, mixed with excitement- looking back through photos I look like I've won a prize. We leave Tikal to get back on our coach just before as the rain starts, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed rain so much in my life.