I don’t know what time we went to bed after The Chicken Drop but I do know that had to pack at 5am, still drunk. Still drunk when we had to cross the border to Guatemala at 6am and slightly hungover for the drive to Tikal.
Tikal was beyond worth it.
Tikal is a temple complex found in the massive Tikal National Park. The National Park is 576km squared and someone once got lost in there for two weeks. Two weeks! They sent the army looking for him and everything and it still took that long to find him. It’s the largest area of tropical rainforest in Guatemala and the Tikal complex consists of over 3000 buildings that date from 600 BC to 900 AD.
I ran around for hours like an overexcited child. I wanted to climb everything. Once again, I’m amazed and also slightly confused that they allow people to climb on such old structures that they work so hard to preserve, but I’m not complaining. I’m not one to turn down a view like this.
It was hot and sticky even though it hadn’t yet turned midday. The steps up the temples were hard going and we often reached the top puffed out and dripping in sweat. Some of the buildings are no longer open for climbing after a few too many accidents, and you can see why. The steps are narrow, steep and uneven, dangerous in dry weather let alone tropical rain. I appreciated this. Whilst it’s so much fun to race to the top and imagine yourself as a Mayan queen, it’s even more impressive to gaze upon the buildings and picture them in the heyday of the Mayan empire. It’s hard to do that when they’re crawling with modern day tourists.
I even got to ask a question that has been bugging me from my first day on the Inca Trail, three years ago. If the Mayans/Incans/Aztecs were all such small people, why did they make such bloody big steps? “They’re not really steps,” came the answer, “They were mainly used for viewing platforms and seats.” Maybe for the temples, but I’m not sure if it solves the mystery for all the other steps. Anyone got any ideas?
Some of my favourite buildings in the complex were the ones that haven’t yet been properly excavated. With over 3000 buildings, there are plenty that are still underneath earth mounds. I liked the ones that had been partially uncovered, trees still spreading their roots through the crumbling stone and mossy green plants taking over doorways. Stairs still wobbly and unshaped. The ones that looked like they were still clinging on to their secrets.
No wonder they filmed part of Star Wars here. You really could be on another planet.