Guatemala, Day 12: Enchanting Yaxha

I was so delighted that France beat Uruguay in a Football match, so I started off the day extremely very well! The bus arrived late as always, it was some kind of very uncomfortable van, but never mind! We drove about one and a half hour before reaching Yaxha. (In my group everybody was pretty much boring, so I didn’t speak to anyone, especially when these kind of people start talking to you, you feel that you have to listen and you have to talk to them, which is very annoying). We bought the tickets at the checkpoint, heavily guarded by military people and we drove a little further in the jungle before we reached the trail. Our guide, this time, was much more interesting to listen  that the one from Tikal and was way more knowledgable about the Maya culture! He explained that the Mayans used a vigesimal number system based on base 20 (and, to some extent, base 5), probably originally developed from counting on fingers and toes. The numerals consisted of only three symbols: zero, represented as a shell shape; one, a dot; and five, a bar.Their sacred numbers are: 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 20, 50, 100. These figures correspond to Maya astrology, as they were advanced in this sphere and their mythology.
He also taught us about the Mayans ‘worlds: Earth, the Underworld, Heavens, the Cosmos,  and The World of dead.

It was much more interesting than I imagined and really caught my attention. The guide also told us about the way they built the pyramids. Apparently, The Mayan culture was very advanced and they built many cities and temples in Northern Guatemala. Evidence shows that the whole territory was covered with cities until the 3rd century when their whole civilisation collapsed. It is hard to believe when you see this ocean of jungle surrounding us. But on the other hand, the jungle is full with ruins, so I guess the guy is right.

On our way to further into the ruins, the guide found a hole in the ground. He mentioned it was the perfect habitat for tarantulas. He grabbed a long stick and agitated it inside the hole and pulled it out just on time. We heard a snap, it was indeed the spider’s mandibles. He repeated the same thing twice and managed to grab the tarantula. God! It was so big, almost the size of my hand. However, you should not be fooled by its scary appearance, they are harmless. But still, it is quite hairy and disgusting. It lives inside a hole, it digs, stays inside and wait for any insect to pass, grab it and eat it alive.

We carried on further and learned about an ancient Mayan game called: “Tlachtli”. Long story short, when there was a conflict between 2 Mayan kings, and instead of starting a war and make kill thousands of people, they would play: “Tlachtli”. This sport was only for the Mayan nobles. There would be two teams composed of noble athletes standing for each king and they would play with a ball, trying to pass it inside a suspended metal ring on a wall using their shoulders and hips only. The rules dictated that he who dropped the ball on the ground would be sacrificed. The game was terribly exhausting and could last for hours. In the end the loosing team and consequently the loosing king would be sacrificed and their heads and hearts would be offered to the winning king. I wouldn’t like living in those days.
We went up and down temples or sacrifices and we saw on the way many “spider-monkeys”, giant crickets and parrots. I remember, standing a tall temple of sacrifices, having the impression to ride an ocean of jungle with tropical birds flying over the trees and hearing the animal screams. I could even see Tikal, at far distance. I was amazed to see so many ancient building still standing, after millenniums… I felt really tiny…
The last was for the best: we sat on top of the biggest temple of all, with this monumental view over the Yaxha lake, the Mayan site and the sunset over a splendid sunset! If I could stop time, I probably would and I would be part of it…
After 45 minutes, it was time to come back to reality and to the minivan waiting for us. I was very pleased with what I learned and saw today, it was much more enjoyable that Tikal and I really felt

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