Location: Tikal, Petén, Guatemala
This morning was the revolt of the machines. My primary camera refused to acknowledge that it had a battery, and my phone (useless here as a phone, but handy as a camera) refused to be charged. I was left with my infrared camera, which can take excellent infrared pictures, but even with the special filter, the colors and contrast are a bit goofy. Nonetheless I venture to explore my second day at Tikal.
We head up this morning by truck and are grateful to not have to trudge twenty minutes to get to the site. It is an open air vehicle with no canopy and the driver jauntily speeds along the twisty, bumpy jungle trail. It is quite the adventure. Some of us sing the Indiana Jones theme song as we make our way up to the site.
We start the day at Temple IV. This is an extremely steep pyramid, that would have been difficult for the ancient Maya to have climbed, but again, it has been made more accessible to us moderns by the construction of wooden steps. It is well worth the climb, you can see the tops of Temples I, II, III, & V as they poke their tops above the trees.
Then after a meandering walk, we explore the Pyramid of the Astronomers. This is an unusual Maya pyramid as it has no temple on top. It is presumed to have been an observation platform for the astronomers to chart the positions of the sun and the planets.
There are pyramid groups here where one pyramid overlooks three others and you can plot the sunrise at fixed days of the year, such as the equinoxes and the solstices. I am not sure which I admire the most, the ancient astronomer-architects who built the structures or the modern astronomer-archaeologists who rediscovered their function. The group of structures in this area is called El Mundo Perdido (The Lost World.)
This sounds terribly romantic, but it lives up to its name. Here we were invaded by a pack of 60 or so coatis, who remarkably seemed to be neither attracted to humans or afraid of us. We seemed to just be living in different worlds.
Again, the pyramids, temples, palaces, and ancient government office buildings in Tikal are vast and awe inspiring. There are groups of structures here that would serve as major focal points for sites, but in Tikal they are just a side trip.
I like exploring with the IMS group, but I basically like being able to explore on my own… listening to the stones and the forest and taking things at my own pace. Many of the pathways at Tikal are well marked, but unpopulated, perfect for solitary contemplation.