Today was “Tikal day”. The previous night I had arranged to join a group, an organized tour, for a day-long trip to Tikal in Guatemala. A number of reasons lead me to decide to leave Julio, the car, behind:
- I found out that for almost half the distance the road was pretty bad;
- there were entry/exit fees to pay at the border;
- there were usually long lines at the border.
The guys at “Eva’s” (I am not connected on the net to find the link) organized and took care of everything. I think that it might have been cheaper to do it on my own but when I saw the road conditions I was glad I didn’t.
After we crossed the borders into Guatemala on foot, we got into the two minivans that were to take us to Tikal. I was asked to sit in front by the driver. Loco was absolutely hilarious. A very nice, short Guatemalan guy who had a great laugh :-) He knew absolutely everyone on the road (all the track drivers, the other minivan drivers, the policemen)… everyone! He was very proud of his 1-year old minivan, a 2,500cc, 4 cylinder, diesel, turbo minivan with great suspension :-) He believed that he’d pay the bank in 5 years before owning it completely. I must admit, the minivan was mostly smooth even with his crazy driving on the dirt roads.
Loco told me many great things along the way. A great one was related to our discussion about his family. He has 8 children, the youngest being 8 years old. He told me about his house, how it’s raised above the ground to avoid flooding, and then he told me that until very recently they didn’t have electricity and, as a result, no TV. So, they didn’t have anything else to do with his wife :-)))))
That’s Loco in front of his minivan. The other two photographs below are just random but I like them.
Close to the site, we picked up Luis (if I remember his name correctly), our Tikal guide, local expert and of Maya origin. He turned out to be quite the character.
Tikal is located in a national reserve. The jungle is absolutely gorgeous and, apparently, it’s the only reserve in Central America that was never logged. We made our way through the park slowly (there is a speed limit because of all the wild life). The tree in the last photograph here is the national tree of Guatemala.
Luis started the tour. The site is huge, by far the largest I’ve visited and, as I found out, the largest Maya site in the entire region. There is no single estimation about the Maya population of Tikal. Some archeologists say 150,000 while the locals estimate around 220,000. Impressive.
We didn’t take the usual paths around the site. Luis knew his way around well. He took us through the jungle so we could also see wild life on the way. As he said at the beginning, “this is not an archeological tour, it’s a nature tour.”
And, out of nowhere, we started seeing the amazing structures, while Luis kept saying stories along the way.
At some point we started climbing on some of the pyramids. You just never know what you are going to see from up there, or up there… A Japanese gentleman decided he wanted to have his photograph taken while wearing a wrestling mask :-) A girl from our group decided to join him :-)
Luis was saying really cool things… about religion, the influence it has had in politics, policy making, the problems it has caused, wars, etc. But at the same time, he was promoting his “Maya-inspired beliefs” around astrology. He was using the fact that Maya had advanced in mathematics and astronomy to justify his astrology-related beliefs.
The Maya civilization indeed achieved some amazing things. However, when I pointed to him that other civilizations were also great (e.g. Persians, Greeks, Egyptians), he made the suggestion that the Egyptians were in contact with the Maya and, in fact, it was they who were influenced by this great civilizations and, as a result, the Greeks and the rest :-) Well, I know that there are strong indications about the links between the civilizations in the Americas and the Egyptians, which are still being explored, but that was taking it too far :-)
We talked a lot about the philosophy of “living well, honor, love” with Luis. He liked the fact that I wear a stone around my neck with a smilie face and a tattoo to match it :-) In discussions with friends who are going through difficult times, I usually tell them that it’s a natural part of life and without the “down” times we couldn’t really appreciate, value, and enjoy the happy moments, when eventual those arrive. Life is like the ocean, with its ups and downs; the lower a wave goes, the higher it’ll bring us. An ocean that stands still is boring, at least to me. He effectively said the same thing but more eloquently, I think… “If you don’t experience the night, how do you know you like the day?”. Perhaps it’s not even his, who knows! I liked it.
This is for Jim :-) (For those who don’t know, this was a scene in StarWars IV)
And then we did some more climbing :-)
Before stopping for lunch after 4 hours of walking into the jungle, climbing to Maya ruins, and listening to Luis’ wonderful stories and philosophies. BTW… If you want to know about his belief system, here’s a source of web sites that he shared with us. The book he was carrying (astrology-related) will be published, apparently, next year. So he was sharing a secret with us. Disclaimer: I haven’t checked any of the web sites yet :-)
Back to Trek Stop. Dinner. A quick beer at San Ignacio. Decided where I am going tomorrow and I might even have company… two American students who are heading the same way and would like a lift.
A beautiful beautiful day!
Lesson of the day 1: Kill the TV in order to make babies :-)
Lesson of the day 2: You have to experience the night before you decide that you like the day.