July 24 & 26,2001

Tikal – “Towering pyramids rise above the jungle canopy to catch the sun. Howler monkeys swing noisily through the branches of ancient trees as brightly colored parrots and toucans dart, squawking, from perch to perch. When the complex warbling song of some mysterious bird tapers off, the buzz of tree frogs provides background noise.” The steep sided temples of the stone pyramids rise majestically above the rainforest canopy. It is 700BC. There is flint, valuable stone for arrows and spearheads the Mayan have come for or perhaps for this place on a hill for relief from a low-lying swampy ground. AD250 Tikal has developed into an important religious, cultural and commercial city with a large population and stone ceremonial structures. Mid-4th century under the rule of King Great Jaguar Paw, Tikal has adopted a new and brutal method of warfare, encircling their enemy and killing by throwing spears. Mid-6th century Tikal has grown to a population of perhaps 100,000 and the central area of the city held more than 4,000 structures. What happened to them? Where did they go? Today, archaeologists have uncovered about 100 different structures around the Great Plaza and rows of stelae, their purpose: to record the great deeds of the kings of Tikal, to sanctify their memory and to add ‘power’ to the temples and plazas that surround them. Although much more is known about Tikal’s history, it is still a mystical magic place.

Steves favorite were the zillions of army ants moving across the trails in swarms of black scampering ahead of the wave to save their lives. Years ago in Tikal I had slept outside under a ramada in a hammock and remember the horror story that happened to a girl the night before. In the middle of the night she went running and screaming through the jungle covered in ants as the black moving ground rose up and over her hammock and every thing in their path. We climbed the new stairway to the top of Temple #4 which was easier than the climb in the past through vines and crumbling rock. That time there was an eerie experience when at the top rose a metal pole with a space age looking being on a platform glaring down. It turned out to be the filming of the first Star Wars movie. My favorite were the toucan birds and howler monkeys but I was disappointed to have missed the Jaguar that had been spotted late at night near by. The last day Steve made a daring attempt and a triumphed return before we left to the Temple of the Lost World the oldest Mayan structure at Tikal.          

                       Doann and Wayne  s/v Bali Ha'i                         Tikal Guatemala