It took a while to get to the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, but fortunately for our backsides, our group unanimously decided to spend an extra Q70 per person (a bit less than $10) to charter a van rather than riding the 'chicken bus' as we have gotten used to doing. We arrived in the afternoon and found we had the city to ourselves, our guide Miguel said that it was because most tours only run in the morning and he makes an exception for GAP(our tour group).
Tikal was inhabited for about 1000 years and abandoned long before Coumbus made it to the Americas, it was rediscovered in the late 19th century and about one third of it has been excavated. The place is just gigantic, and unlike the ruins we encountered in Italy we were allowed to climb the temples etc. Tikal is full of huge pyramid style temples, palaces, acropoli, and ancient ball courts. Giant carved faces of the Rain God twice as tall as Thom adorn the walls and most of the structures are still complete. The site is not only surrounded by jungle but inhabited by it, the roar of howler monkeys is nonstop and tucans and yellowtails are perched all over the place. On one of the trails that leads through the jungle between temples we ran into a colony of spider monkeys and those little guys can be pretty territorial. You may have heard that spider monkeys will throw poop at people, what you probably haven't heard is that they also hurl palm nuts and large branches; so we spent our time on this trail alternately admiring and fleeing these monkeys, who followed us overhead virtually the whole time...
The temples are hundreds of feet tall and we climbed right to the top of several of them. Meg claims that she is never afraid of heights while on holiday, so this was easily accomplished; the views were unbelievable! The view from the top of temple IV might seem familiar - it was used to as the setting for a scene from Star Wars IV A New Hope (we think, might have been Jedi). Josh and Lauren, Nicole and Tyler, we were thinking of you guys!!! We paused for a nerd moment, then resumed our explorations :)
Besides the monkeys in the ruins we ran into a coatimundi (like Kiara who sat on Thom's shoulder in San Pedro), toucan, a couple of huge wild turkeys at the base of a temple with a particularly long staircase up the front (I wish we had brought a slinky!)a grey fox on the roof of a palace and a variety of different lizards. Tikal was a city of more than 100 000 people, so needless to say, it is massive. We walked a bit more than 10 kilometers and covered about half of the excavated site (but all of the most monumental archetecture). By the time we made it back to the van it was getting dark and all the birds and monkeys were congregating loudly in a few giant sabre trees, allegedly getting ready to sleep.
That's it for now!
Tons of love from Thom and Meg