El Remate and Tikal

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  , Izabal,
Monday, February 21, 2011

t feels like it has been days since I worked on my diary and I suppose that it has been.  Our days have been really full since we arrived in El Remate.  We chose this as our base camp for going to see Tikal; but happily found it to be more than worthwhile on it's own.   Our lodging was an the Mon Ami which consists of an open air dining area and several really nice bungalows behind it.  Ours was huge with a ceiling of thatch that must have been 15-18 feet tall in the center.   Outside our windows the vegetation was typical jungle with the huge green leaves overlapping one another and palms protruding up through.  We had a hammock on our porch and while settled in it to read one afternoon we were treated to sightings of both Brown Jays and Collared Acaris,( the smaller billed version of toucan) and a trio of Plain Chacalacas.  What a lazy way to bird!  But we deserved a little break because we had been up and birding the local preserve, Cerro Cahui since daybreak and there we met Tom Allin.  Tom is an Arizonan birding his way through Mexico and Central America.  He drives his Jeep and plans to donate it when he reaches Panama.  What a trip he is having.  He took us birding on what passes for a back road(I would have said that it would be a short turn off to a dead end) and we saw Anis, Yellow Faced Grassquits, and a beautiful sunset to boot.  The next day we joined him on the trip to Tikal and we were the first visitors in the park at 6:00 am.   It began as a mist shrouded trek through the woods and after 15-20 mins. We spotted the first of the Mayan towers.  Each is pyramidal and a gray-black color with steps up the sides.  These steps were invariably 18" tall or more which had to be exceedingly difficult for people who were not much more than 5 feet tall.  Each tower is aligned with a specific cardinal direction and at certain times of the year, their doorways or arches perfectly noted the changing of the seasons.  For us it was a great opportunity to see spider and howler monkeys as well as Keel Billed Toucans, Crested Guan,  and the very rare Orange Breasted Falcon.  Far and away the most impressive were the Howler monkeys.  It is nothing like a howl....it is as deep and reverberating a roar as you have ever heard in any movie of a Bengal Tiger or even Jurrasic Park.  I suspect that old Cortez sent scouts ahead to look for these guys before venturing forward himself.  To see them is almost a disappointment; because they just are not really very big or fearsome looking.  I saw the small dark guys and kept looking for the big ones who were making the noise!  Next most fascinating were the leaf cutter ants.  Hundreds of them bringing bits of leaves 5 times their size and dropping them into their hole before going back for more. 
       Our last evening on Guatemala we spent having a nice dinner with Tom at a nearby hotel and then retired thinking that the excitement of our day was over.   NOT SO!  Sharon went into the bathroom and moments later I heard the scream...usually indicative of a cockroach racing across the floor or her feet; but this time it was a scorpion.  Only about 3-4 inches long and all black; but impressive nonetheless.  I finally gathered him up in a towel and deposited him outside away from the cabana and tried to make him feel as unwelcome as possible without killing him so that he wouldn't feel so eager to return...at least while we were there.
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