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Guatemala Day 11: Tikal and Mixed Feelings

God NO! I I overslept! The bus was supposed to pick me at 4 am and I ended up waking up until 5 am! Luckily, there were enough seats available on the next 6 am bus to Tiakl ,not the best I’ve ever seen (folding seats) but it could have been much worse! An hour later we were at the last checkpoint before entering the Tikal site. There were soldiers everywhere, and I noticed there was a military camp behind the checkpoint. For the people who didn’t pay for their ticket, they paid at the cash desk. The tourism agency guy told me that I had to go “El Banco Rural” or “The Rural Bank” (irony for you) which I did, but it was a crazy long queue and I had to pay extra for the Tikal sunrise for which I ended up not even taking part in. Had I known, I would have bought my ticket at the check-point instead. After 35 min, all the people got back into the bus and we got in. Our group split into 4 because there were so many tourists, as usual I joined the Spanish group as there were less people in that group. The guide was a very old guy, who spoke 7 languages: Spanish, French, German, English, Japanese, Israeli, Italian… R-E-S-P-E-C-T! He was also surprisingly very knowledgeable about medicinal plants and their properties.

Tikal is not only famous for its Maya temples but also for it’s botanical gardens and medicinal plants that attract many biologists and scientists from all over the world! He introduced us to a plant which is commonly used to clean and disinfect your stomach once its in hot water and you drink it. He also introduced us to other plants that apparently cure vaginal and digestive illnesses.

It was all very interesting but, we still hadn’t learn much about the Maya culture. We reached the first building, which was a Mayan Hospital for used exclusively by the wealthy Elite. Our guide pointed out that the entry corridor was built in the shape of a penis, and I must say, it really resemble one. Apparently the mayans built symbolic structures that looked like people’s genitalia in order to honour the union between men, women and birth. We walked around a monument and then we carried on further deep into the jungle. Through a “fer-de-lance” snake territory, the guide spotted a deadly snake that was starting to approach us and immediately told us to make 3 steps in order to avoid getting bitten or anything like that.

We finally arrived to the Temple of sacrifice, a 60 meters high monument. It was forbidden to walk up to the top, the guide explained to us that it was where they used to do human sacrifices in order to praise the Gods. Surprisingly, he didn’t tell us much about the building or the Maya civilisation. All I remember about the guide’s “lesson” if we can call it that,  was his invigorating talks about botanical medicine used to  cure your penis or vaginal problems and wildlife in the jungle. I didn’t pick the right guy I guess. We walked further towards the main building site, where all the major monuments were. Our guide just let us walking around and enjoy the very impressive sights. The view from the top of each building was great, but the guide didn’t say much more about the site History. He took us to another site where we walked up to the top. We had a fantastic view over an ocean of jungle, I had the impression I could surf on top of the trees, I felt very close to nature at that moment and I forgot how crowed Tikal was. Then, our guide took us back by mini-van to the start point, where all the buses were waiting to get us back! I had the sad impression to have been thrown back from where I came from with my group and Tikal was just a huge mall with all these massive groups of tourists and anyways, the site is too big to visit it all in one single day. To be honest, it’s a beautiful site, there’re lots to see, but I felt like I was with the wrong guide and I had this feeling to be processed, like a manufactured product. Still, I booked my ticket to Yaxha for 100 quetzals and we shall see if it is any better.

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