Friday, May 27, 2011

Tikal adventure day 2

So I made it up at 3:30 am to take my sunrise tour.  Of course I have to mention that at 3:30 am  its pitch black and you are walking around in the middle of a jungle. Its not like the paths are paved or lighted or anything. So of course I promptly tripped on something and fell on my ass. Lucky for me Greg my next door neighbor was on the tour as well and he offered to hold my had as we climbed up all the dark and broken parts so I felt much safer. Typical me being Klutzy right? What’s even better is that sometime after this I totally fell off one of the ruins and skinned my knees, basically I was standing there and suddenly I just fell. Even he couldn’t help but crack up. Sometimes I have no clue what is wrong with me.  But back to the point. The cool thing about being in the jungle this early is that you can’t see anything but so many of the animals are already awake and out foraging. You hear so many cries from the howler monkeys and rustling in bushes of things unknown.  After a long walk in silence we made this horrible climb to the very top of the tallest ruin, climbed to the very tallest point in the  whole park and sat watched as the mist in the jungle spread throughout and the animals all woke up and sang various songs. It was so peaceful and so amazing.   Just sitting there watching the world wake up. The howler monkeys were making all there crazy noises and at one point a coatimundi just walked out right in front of us completely oblivious of the tour watching it.  After about a half an hour you started to see a little bit of sun break out over the mist. It took about another 45 minutes until you could just start to see the peaks of the rest of the temples out of the mist.

the first break of sunrise

a little bit later

the first outline of a temple breaks through

A little bit more sun

a few more temples can be seen now

I have to say that I am not much of a religious person but being where so much of our world started and seeing things from the eyes that the Mayans must have every day, was as close as I bet I have ever been to having a religious experience.  We were lucky that morning because it remained kind of misty most of the morning so the wildlife was out in spade. A huge family of spider monkeys passed over us with babies in tow. They sat for quite some time in a tree directly above us enjoying some sort of berry or another. A little bit later we ran across a coatimundi having a little tussle over one tree with another male and it was pretty cool to watch.

one of the two who got in a scuffle

the other male on the look out

spider monkey just about to make a jump

huge tarantula

cool bird.. also very noisy

but it was just protecting its babies turns out.

wild boar just cooling off in the mud.

 We ended up having that same guide this morning as we had last night and that was nice because he had a lot of cool shit to say about the ruins. One of the parts I found the most fascinating was that this city so far has 3000 building or rooms that have been uncovered. But according to satellite pictures taken by NASA in the last few years really shows that there are about 10000 total that means that there are still 7000 different parts of the city that are yet to be discovered. It’s so crazy to think about these people taking all this time to build this city in a time when they had nothing to help with it. I mean it was mostly between 100 and 400 AD. Imagine all that work they did. All the things that they had to have perfectly in place and aligned. It’s so unreal looking back on.  The tour continued until about 8 am or so and over the next few hours we were able to make the climb to the top of a few more ruins if you desired. At this pint I was getting tired and hungry having not eaten or brought my water so I opted to leave the tour and just kind of wander back to the hotel on my own. I’ll admit that I had a few scary moments where I thought I would end up lost in the jungle because the path would suddenly end or just disappear into nothing. But I managed to find my way out and get back in time to breakfast.

One of the temples during sunrise

even all worn down its still pretty impressive

another ruin

 This is the one we climbed to the very top of to watch the sunrise

its so pretty here

part  of the plaza square

look at the tiny little people.. that's how tall these are

another of the larger temples I forget the number

The rest of the day I just walked around the jungle alone seeing the various ruins, reading about these amazing people and seeing tons of super cool animals that I know I would never see again outside of a zoo or something.   I took a crazy walk to this other ruin way across the other side of the park. On my way back I ran into some of the people I had met the night before and I joined them for lunch before waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the airport. I wish that I had another day to spend in Tikal but I had to leave that evening and return to Antigua as my tour had come to an end. I boarded the shuttle back to the airport and returned exhausted, broken cause of course I feel off one of these said ruins and hurt my knee pretty badly, sun burnt because of the up to 104 temps in the jungle,  but so fulfilled about taking the trip out. I had to suffer through a very annoying flight back that was running a little late and took longer the expected. When my flight landed I was worried my shuttle driver wouldn’t be waiting but much to my surprise he was and was holding the best name sign I have ever seen in my life. It said MRTA RYMRE TO ANTIGUA um how is that my name?  It ended up being quite a long shuttle ride from Guatemala City to Antigua partly due to the fact that I guess my driver wanted to run a few personal errands and make a stop to a friend’s house. Eventually he parked at the bus station and picked up a bunch of other people before finally getting on the road to Antigua.  Of course he had to drop me off very last. The funny thing was that right before he dropped off the last family at the hotel they were staying at he totally ran into a parked car. He didn’t seem to care much because he promptly just drove off and never looked back. I guess that’s what happens in Guatemala. It seemed to take forever until I got back to the apartment but in the end it was totally worth it and something that I doubt I will ever forget.  Even today I look back at the pictures and wish that I were still in Tikal.  It was probable the very best part of the trip and the part that made me feel the most like me. I got to be that world traveling social woman for those few days. It was nice.

during my final walk in the jungle

I wish I could have stayed longer

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tikal adventure day 1

The last few days I have been at a place in Guatemala called Tikal. It’s a part of the Peten region up in the North West part of the country. Its one of the flattest parts of Guatemala in the lower elevations and also in the middle of the jungles. It’s also where the richest Mayan history is and these ruins are the draw to make the trip up to visit.  Now making this visit is kind of an adventure to say the least I was booked as part of a huge package where I had my airline, hotel for one night and a tour of the Tikal Mayan ruins/park one of the two days.   I was picked up at my aunts house at this ungodly early time of 3:45 am and taken to the airport by a shuttle service what they didn’t inform me was that my tiny little plane left from a totally different airport then the Guatemala city one and so I frantically wandered around the wrong place hopelessly looking for someone who spoke enough English to tell me where I needed to go. I had to take a taxi for 100 Q (um a ton when you don’t have much like I did) to the right airport and ended up being able to make my flight even though I was a bit late because luckily other people seemed to be in the same boat and showed up after me.  This flight was insane. I mean it was one of those tiny planes you see in movies where like ten people fit and makes a ton of noise. Like a tiny gust of wind makes the whole thing shift about 20 feet in the air. Lucky for me I am not fearful of flying at all so I had no worry about these crazy events.

my tiny little  plane

look at the view out the window
So after the crazy flight I was in a city called Flores. It was so freaking hot here. I have never been at a place where the sun was so intense. We jumped on a shuttle to the hotel and I got to meet some of the other people also staying in the hotel and taking the tours. At the hotel I was given the option of trading in my daytime tour of thee ruins for two different ones. One was a sunset tour and the other a sunrise tour where you get out at 3 am and watch the jungle wake up. I eagerly opted to make that trade. One I didn’t want to head out in blazing daytime hours and two I figured that if I get two for the price of one that’s such a bargain.  I took a few hours just kind of wandering around the parts of the park I could get into without paying the fee.   I found this random road that seemed to go on forever and started down it. I saw some super incredible birds and even this crazy fox that was tiny like the size of a cat although had these super scary huge fangs hanging out of its mouth. It gave me a super scary death scare as I walked passed it, I was way too afraid to even try to get the camera out of my pocket to take a picture in fear of it attacking me.   It was nice to be out in this pace alone. I have always loved to hike and walk because it makes me the most reflective about myself. Being here where all these wonderful animals and plants were just made me feel so content with everything about myself. It was peaceful and relaxing exactly what I was looking to get out of this trip.
the view from my rooms balcony who I shared with Greg

the hike around the jungle I took by my self

the one picture I could get of the creepy fox thing.

When I met back at the hotel for my tour I was able to meet some other people who were along for it with me as well.  I deiced that I would take this time to try to work on my social skills and strike up some conversations. Again I figured here is this chance where I have no pressure on me. I mean none of these people will ever see me again and I will be so insignificant that I don’t need to worry about making an impression.    It helped that may were also travelers and around my age.  I loved being out in the Ruins. Mayan history is very complex and to think that there were people out there making these incredible temples brick by brick long before the time of machines. They had this ability to figure out stuff that I sometimes feel even modern civilizations couldn’t even with all our tools and gadgets.  It was so amazing and I can’t even begin to describe how it must have been almost spiritual to be in such a place where so many really amazing events and creations occurred.   We had the chance to really explore all around the ruins and even climb all the way to the top of some of the taller buildings to catch a truly amazing birds eye view. It was tough on the body but totally worth it.

a model of the whole park

one of the ruin groups

temple 5 that we all climbed to the top of.

going up was intense

once at the top it was completely worth all the effort. Look at this view!!

OK you know how I have mentioned that I love seeing animals in nature right. Well I will say that seeing animals in the natural jungle was so much better. We saw monkeys galore, both spider monkeys swinging around in the trees looking for food and howler monkeys crying out for each other high up in the tree tops. There was coatimundi all around the place acting like the modern day raccoons would in my home town. We had so many amazing birds like parrots, turkeys, and so many more flying around. The small lakes had crocodiles and turtles and even a pair of wart hogs enjoying the mud for a bath.  I even got to see a jaguar lounging in the mid day sun enjoying a  very bloody carcass for dinner but it was so far away you could only catch a glimpse through the binoculars in the distance.   I want to pack up my bags and move into the center of it spending my life studying the amazing jungle animals. Maybe someday this will be what I end up doing who knows. But I can say that I felt so much more complete as I sat looking at this incredible wildlife that I knew my life is forever changed now.

spider monkey

some sort of cool huge bird.

Watching the sun set over these temples was a once in a life time experience. Seeing how these people had built this city among the properties of moon and sun cycles blows me away but being there you can totally see how it was done.   These people are so amazing.  They were able to create so much from so little they should be an inspiration for us all.  They still carry this sense and history to all the generations still alive.  It makes me long even for some of that same sense of heritage about the African American side of myself I am so out of touch to. Maybe that should be my next step. Try to figure out about the stories and struggles my fathers side had to endure.

another of the large temples in the plaza

from the top of that one in the above photo

another view from the top of the plaza temple

sun setting over the ruins

we were so lucky to have a shaman performing a ritual during our tour so we got to watch him  set up and tell us all about it.

The night was spent hanging out with some of the other travelers I met drinking beer and talking about where we had all come from and gone to and just about who we are.  It was perfect and for once I felt like I was just another member of the cool crowd. Maybe it was being in this foreign country with so many in the same place as I am that made this conversation so easy.  One of those guys was named Greg and he was traveling alone like me and also from the states.  He happened to be my next door neighbor and we shared a balcony. He was also taking both the sunset and sunrise tours. After the tour was over he came over asking if I drank beer. I said of course I do. He told me about this awesome deal the hotel had where you could get 10 beers for like 100 Q and asked if I wanted to share it with him. I totally jumped on that deal so together we sat at a table next to the pool and just talked drank beer and a few other people from the tour and hotel joined us. It really was awesome.  I felt better then I ever had before on this trip and I tried to just enjoy it and feel how easy it was to be this person.   After all that beer and conversation we all eventually headed to bed,  a few people saying that they weren’t sure if they could make it up at 3 am to take the sunrise tour. I knew that I was going to so I made sure to set my phone alarm. Then drifted off into a very contented sleep.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guatemala day 4

OK I have now officially had a few days in this country and I have one pretty serious thing I must talk about. What is the deal with the food here? Ok now I know that I am a vegetarian…ok well honestly I eat fish and seafood but no other meats. Although I do eat a small amount of cheeses and yogurt but rarely other dairy products.  OK so yeah I’m a vegetarian and I know that sometimes having weird diet habits in foreign countries is super difficult. But I figure heck it’s like Mexican-ish and that’s super easy to eat things from and with the seafood it should be fine. Yeah I was a little wrong. Ok so yes some of the places have some veggie things to choose from but many don’t.  It’s been ok so far but I am a little disappointed.

But what is disappointing me a tons more is the fact that so far most everything I have eaten has turned out to be super bland.  Here I am in this wonderful colorful country with a million different colors and full of bright bold flavors but all the food I have eaten is super bland. I mean what’s up with that? Where is the spice? I was expecting lots of bold pungent flavors but so far my expectations have fallen flat.  I must say that maybe it is just me because the three other women I have been with the last few days seem to be totally ok with the food and sometimes even enjoying it remarkably a lot.  I’m puzzled because very bite to me seems to be lacking in some serious spice and heck I’ll even say it flavor. I feel like I could have walked to my local taco time and eaten more authentic Latin American food and that even with the weird ranch dressing taco time uses instead of sour cream. That’s so not a good comparison.   I now that you were expecting some huge detailed description about my latest day in Guatemala but I am so perplexed by this whole food thing that I cant seem to move on and write about anything else.  Shrug?

 These last few days have been spent at the lake. It has been very enjoyable to spend time with my aunt and her friends. Donna is from California and also works for the same program that my Aunt does. It’s an origination that helps to get low income rural area people into higher education by providing scholarships and such. One of the ways that they do fundraising is by buying up all this local hand made crafts and such and selling it in the states. It’s amazing how much junk there is to buy. Now I am not a huge shopper so it’s hard for me to spend a whole day doing it. But it’s fascinating to watch someone like Donna who obviously loves it and knows what she is doing. These towns are full of local markets and merchants that want to do nothing else but bargain and get you to buy all their junk.  It’s like a whole different world walking into these little stands full of beaded jewelry and purses. Next door is woven bags of every imaginable size and shape. You have hanging rugs and table linens, tiles, wall hanging, paper products, and seriously so much more that I couldn’t even begin to name it all.  The part about the shopping that I found the most fascinating is that the local villages all have their own style of dress and head pieces and clothing. Each village differs a ton from the other and being with Donna she was able to know so many from just the look of it. I was able to learn a lot of what each different place represents and their individual style.  Let me tell you watching all this shopping and seeing all this bartering sure made me tired.

Isn't it pretty?

a view from afar

the town next to the one we stayed in

its such a different world.

shopping like crazy

enjoying drinks after a long day
I was able to have a little time to myself to walk down to the pretty lake side park and see some of the sights along the water.  I enjoyed it a lot and just sitting watching the locals fish and work the boats was very relaxing and just what I needed after such a busy day.

the very pretty water front park

this place was so nice

all the boats and ferrys

I just sat and watched.. just relaxing and listening to the waves