Saturday, January 07, 2012

Mayan Ruins

It seemed like such a good idea until the alarm went off at 3:30 am. A time, I am generally awake, I was sound asleep this morning. We are scheduled for a 4:15 am sunrise tour of the Mayan Tikal ruins. We will be perched on top of a Mayan Temple as the sun does its own push up over the horizon in the east. Before any of that happens, we have to find our clothes that Ron had the foresight to suggest we put out last night. It is pitch black in our room and outside.

By 4:05, we are at the lobby of the hotel, waiting. The lobby is locked, so we stand outside until 4: 20 when the reception greets us with a flashlight. Our guide arrived shortly after. There are only four of us going this tour.  We start out in the blackness of morning, when the only  woman in our little group says to us, “I do a lot of meditation and I am hoping we can keep quiet most of the time, so I can meditate in peace.” My first reaction was to tell her to skip the tour and go meditate elsewhere, but I refrained by saying we paid for this tour and intend to get all we can from it. It turned out that her husband was the illustrator for a book on Mayan ruins. I immediately forgot his name.

Walking through the forest in the dark was an adventure. Ron had a small flashlight, but that was all there was for the five of us. Our guide Rony has excellent night vision and could lead without light, but the rest of us needed to see the numerous rocks, holes, puddles, and labyrinth of tree roots that covered massive areas of the paths. It was an extreme sport in darkness. He explained what to do in case we ran into a jaguar. Stay close, create a united front, don’t look it in the eyes. Comforting! In his four years as a guide, he has not come face to face with one yet. Rony received the name, because his grandfather was enamored with Ronald Reagan and wanted his grandson to carry on the tradition. His mother had enough sense to compromise and called him Rony with one n.

When we closed in on the temple where we would view the sun rise, I about jumped ship when Rony said there were 191 steps. When we arrived at the base, I knew I would do this, even if it took me longer than the others. It was surprising to see about two dozen others already at the top. It never occurred to me that you could enter the park on your own or that you would want to at that hour without getting lost. 

The other couple left us once we reached the temple. Who would have imagined we would be sitting on ancient Mayan temple steps, waiting for the sun to rise? The jungle started to come to life as the sun appeared over the horizon. The Howler monkeys started their screams, the birds were fluttering too fast to catch on camera, but there was life where thirty minutes earlier, any life forms would have been debatable. The scene was breathtaking and awe inspiring. Our guide estimated there were 7 tribes of Howler monkeys based on the sounds in different parts of the jungle. They howl to warn other males that their territory is spoken for. Howler is a misnomer, because what you hear is a roar not unlike a lion or tiger. One would swear there were swarms of jaguars roaming around.

Rony continued to tour us around the grounds. The tour was supposed to end about 8:30, but he was still talking and leading us at 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and finally got us back to the hotel by 10:30. We appreciated the extra time, but sensory overload had kicked in about an hour earlier. He was just so pleasant to be around, we could not cut it short and his knowledge was encyclopedic.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the gift center and bought a bag of Yucca cactus chips. When we returned to the room, Ron headed to the swimming pool and I was going to hang out and read. I had only had about fifteen minutes rest when I was joined by two very curious and hungry coatis.  As cute as they are, they were infringing on my rest and relaxation, not to mention my snack. They started to climb into my lap, so this prompted me to share. I tossed a chip and they fetched, returning for more. My standing and walking didn’t have much effect as long as I had the bag in my hand. Eventually, we had to compromise. I dumped my bag on the grass and they left me alone.

Later in the afternoon, we were napping, recouping the missed sleep from 3:45 am until 8 am, but we were awakened by the most horrendous roaring.  Just yards from our bungalow where the jungle starts again, there were Howler monkeys whooping it up. We were able to get some photos of their antics.

Without WiFi, without electricity, no Internet, no e-mail, no reading in bed, the evening was long and fairly uneventful. I did have some movies on the computer, so we watched one with the battery was charged on the computer. I plugged the computer in so that it would start to recharge before we woke up in the morning. The games that have to be played.

Tomorrow, we leave here for San Ignacio, Belize. Again, we had to hire a private driver. There is no public transport from here to there.
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