We’re on the road again! We’ve left our Paradise on Lake Atitlan and we are beginning to make our way across Guatemala towards Belize. Yesterday we landed in a small village called El Remate outside of Flores after an overnight bus ride from Guatemala City. We tend to choose the smaller, more tranquil places to stay, over bustling towns with noisy activity and touristy allure.
We’re in the heart of the jungle, on Lake Peten Itza. There are no mountains here, no volcanoes. Just flat narrow roads that span around the lake, speckled with small cabins and simple homes and accommodations for travellers. Our cabin in the woods has a private bathroom and a shower, but no hot water. We can’t have everything!
We woke early this morning (5:00!!) to get the first bus to Tikal. There is something special about entering this ancient Mayan area at sunrise. The earth in Tikal exudes a different energy. The birds are wildly singing without any sense of inhibition. Many birds…. blue jays, green jays and brown jays, oscillated turkeys, parakeets and falcons, all express themselves independently and sometimes respond to each others’ call. The cries from the howler monkeys are obvious and present from inside the depths of the jungle, and the buzz of the various insects is deafening. Not many humans choose to be around there so early, and we walked far into the jungle before meeting up with other (crazy) people.
Tikal is different from the other Mayan ruins we’ve explored. It’s enormous, with over 10 kilometres of space featuring remnants of temples and palaces and residences of an ancient Mayan civilization. We stop periodically as we walk just to experience the energy and feel the presence of the ghosts that survive. How did they create this over 2500 years ago? How did they carry the enormous concrete bricks into the depths of the jungle? How could they ascend these hills and create such enormous pyramids and structures? Where did they learn the geometric precision to construct such solid and permanent buildings?
Paul and I stop for a brief nap on the steps of one of the 7 templos. As I drift I am aware of the density of the jungle around me and of the life that once existed here. It is so quiet, and yet, I hear the silent vigour of life. It feels good to sleep and to awaken to the sun and cool breeze that passes through this part of what once was a lively civilization.
The world of Tikal is all in black and white and grey. The greens from the land and the blue in the sky accentuate the brightness of the buildings. Steven Spielberg’s movies come to my mind as I notice the vibrancy of the simple colours of peoples’ clothing. In this world of antiquated beauty, simple primary colours become more conspicuous. Tikal seems like a dream, a fantasy world of antiquity and make-believe. Sometimes I just need to pinch myself to remember it’s all real.
The thing that strikes me the most, in all of this, is the utter authenticity of the Mayan reality. It is vibrant and rich and, oh so unique. I have learned so much about this people. I have grown to appreciate and value their traditions, and I have found common perspective in the ways that we see the world around us. In many respects we are the same…same…just different! Good-bye Guatemala, for now!