Friday 13 October 2023

1987 Travel Journal: Tikal, Thirsty Work

Temple One and Two are the main fully restored attractions at Tikal, but the huge site featured a  lot of other pyramids still semi-hidden in the huge surrounding jungle.  I enjoyed climbing Temple Four, because it made me feel like an early archeologist (something I had dreamed about as a child).  I had to hold onto roots and stones to get to the top, because the pyramid hadn’t yet been fully reconstructed.  Once on top of the main platform, I was able to squeeze myself around the corner and climb up to be right under the “roof comb” (the decorated structure atop the pyramid).  

While I was up there I could overlook the vast expanse of the jungle that surrounded the pyramid, spotting several other pyramids that jutted out above the jungle trees, and I began hearing ferocious roaring emanating from various spots below me.  My first thought was that the roaring came from panthers or jaguars, but I later realized it was from Howler Monkeys.  It was hard to imagine that such terrifying and fierce roars could come from monkeys.

The torturous heat and terrible humidity made exploring Tikal, sweaty, exhausting, and very dehydrating.  It was tiring just walking from ruin to ruin, not to mention climbing the various pyramids.  In Mexico and Guatemala, water and ice cubes could lead to a case of tourista, so I relied heavily on bottled drinks (this was before bottled water became common), I had had a Coke as part of my breakfast before taking the bus to Tikal and  second one after visiting the Great Plaza.

After climbing up Temple Four, I had yet another.  This one was particularly memorable because it was hot, not warm, hot.  Then a bit later I had an Orange Crush at Tikal’s Jaguar Inn, a Mineral Water at the Jungle Lodge, a Pepsi, when I got back to my hotel room at Flores, a Coke with my ham sandwich supper, and then, after which, to quote my journal:  

I’m going to get another mineral water right now.  Wrong, they were out, I got a Cream Soda.

I felt like I had seen most of what there was to see at Tikal.  There were a lot of piles of rubble of overgrown and unrestored structures in the jungle, but those weren’t too interesting, and by the end of the afternoon, I was pretty burned out.

After my exhausting day at Tikal admiring the immense and intricate pyramids built by the Mayans, I was even more impressed.  The jungle heat and humidity was stifling and energy sapping.  I couldn’t imagine how any physical work could be done in those conditions, let alone building the huge rock structures.  The Mayans had no beasts of burden or even wheels to lessen the work.  It made me realize that the building of Tikal was a really amazing achievement.

I didn’t want to spend another day at Tikal, so I was just as happy to get back to the Hotel San Juan in Flores.  (I was lucky to get the same room for the night.)   I took a cold shower, (Boy, did it feel good, almost as good as a swim.)  

I bought a long, handmade sash at the souvenir shop, because I didn’t want to be stuck with Guatemalan money, as I headed out the next day for Belize. 

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