Cultural Day!!!

Trip Start Jun 11, 2004
Trip End Jun 20, 2004

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What I did
Great Plaza Tikal National Park
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Complex N
Bat Palace
Group G
Plaza of the Seven Temples
North Acropolis
Central Acropolis
Plaza of the Lost World
Temple IV Tikal National Park
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Temple II Tikal National Park
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Temple I Tikal National Park
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Temple V

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Well, today was amazing! I will get a good sleep tonight, because we have been on the go all day! I wouldn't trade it for a minute, though!

We got up fairly early and after a wonderful breakfast headed to Tikal National Park (or as Greg called it "Tickle" National Park). On our way there, Rick explained to us that the park is a legally protected area so the same "no-kill-unless-in-mortal-peril" rule was strictly in force. We soon realized how important it was to follow that rule when our driver slammed on his brakes to avoid running over a very long thin snake in the middle of the road. From what the driver said, the snake was extremely poisonous, but because it was posing no threat, he didn't want trouble for running over it! After waiting for the snake to cross, we stopped at the Tikal museum. There, we hired a guide to tour the Mayan ruins.

The first thing the guide pointed out was the Ceiba tree, Guatemala's national tree. The Ceiba tree is a towering tree that blocked out most of the sunlight, keeping the shade an extremely refreshing temperature. The trees branches are covered with thick conical thorns giving it a "fuzzy" appearance from the ground view up, thus earning it the nick name "spider tree" in Guatemala.

Soon after pointing that out we began to notice some of the active wildlife. High in the trees monkeys hollered at us and chased each other through the treetops. At one point, a pair of monkeys even ran across the path in front of us, but I think they were as startled as we were and they ran off crashing through the brush. The guide also showed us several types of birds flying by. Of course we heard several calls from random animals too! Overall they didn't seem disturbed by all of us walking around!

Our first stop was at the sacrificial area for the ancient village. There were four altars there that represent the four directions/elements. Mayans were big believers in symmetry and balance. They worshiped air, fire, earth and water. Each element was represented one of the four directions north, south, east and west. All the buildings and monuments reflect that balance and symmetry. Even though the 4 altars were no longer actively used (human sacrifices were outlawed a while ago!) an altar had been set up in front of those four so that those who follow the old ways can still use it for animal sacrifices during certain times of the year.

Our next stop was the Great Plaza which includes Temple I and Temple II. These two temples face each other and are mirror-image symmetrical. It was amazing to see that such a primitive culture was capable of the great feats. After explaining a few facts and taking our group picture, the guide gave us some time to wander around these areas as well as the Central Acropolis and North Acropolis. My favorite area on this leg of the tour was the Queen's Palace in the Central Acropolis. It was a whole once-lavish building specifically for the use of whoever the queen was at the time!

From there, we walked to Temple IV, where some of us climbed the rickety stairs to the top. I showed my nerd-iness then because I wanted to see where George Lucas had filmed several scenes for Star Wars both at the top of this tower and looking out from it!

Finally, we returned to the entrance/museum area of the park and bought souvenirs! By then we were getting hungry so we left the park and went on to see the location for Rick's upcoming wedding where we had lunch and had the opportunity to meet his fiancee! A Guatemalan native, she was delightful and perfectly complemented him! We then returned to El Rancho having had our cultural filling for the trip! What an awesome day!
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