Guatemala: Tikal – A Photo Essay
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When I visited the famous Mayan city, located deep within the Peten region of northern Guatemala, getting there was an arduous task. First, I had to make my way overland from Belize into Guatemala, to the island city of Flores. The second stage involved traveling by public bus over an atrocious dusty road for 70 kms. The journey took at least three hours.
Upon arrival, visitors were given two choices for lodging. The first, a “luxury” hotel, had prices far above my budget range and looked like a bad deal. The second option was a rough campground, hewn from the jungle more than a kilometer from the archeological site. We could stay there as long as we liked, as long as we didn’t mind getting too familiar with the various jungle critters that abounded in the forest.
I chose the campground and stayed there for a week. Every morning my friend and I would walk the long jungle track to the park entrance. At that time, during the 1970s, visitors could roam the ruins and temples at will with no restrictions. One could climb any pyramid, risk life and limb on top of the huge structures, and basically there were no watchmen to ensure that tourists behaved themselves. To the best of my recollection, everyone’s conduct was exemplary.
1) The main attraction: central plaza and the Temple of the Jaguar. Climbing the pyramid was a test of one’s tolerance to vertigo
2) Star Wars fans will recognize this view as representing the rebel stronghold at the end of “A New Hope”
4) Palace complex near the main plaza
4) The scenery from Temple IV; a friend of mine fell from the rickety metal ladder that provided access to the summit and broke her back. She had a miserable experience returning to Flores in a rear of a pick-up truck before being airlifted to Guatemala City. I doubt they allow tourists to climb here now
5) Another pyramid-top view
6) An unexcavated ruin in the forest. Tikal at the height of its power covered an area of more than 16 square kms. A photo very similar to this one in a grade-school history book launched my life-long passion with archeology