December 26, 2013

the grandaddy of all mayan ruins

it seems like we hardly even slept before our tour guide Roxy was knocking on our door at 4:30am.  it was starting to rain so we pulled on the rain gear and hiked about an hour to the far side of the ruins. it was really a hassle to get a hotel inside the park, but the closest accommodations are about an hour away which means don't even bother going to sleep if you are going to do the sunrise tour.  Roxy was a great guide and kept us awake until we got to Temple IV which we climbed to watch the sunrise. most people were respectful and quiet which allowed for an introspective moment as i contemplated about the uses of the temple that Roxy had explained to us.

the tour continues through the amazingly well excavated and reconstructed temples, pyramids, homes and markets that once held the Maya civilization.  it's impossible to cover the site in 5 hours or touch more than briefly on Maya history even for Roxy who is a fast talker and keeps us moving.  Mid morning as the tour ends she suggests we take a break at the hotel since the tour buses will be pouring in and come back later to explore more and catch the sunset.  and that's what we decide to do.  we see toucans and spider monkeys around the temples and the 'dew' falling from the trees as we hiked in earlier was from the monkeys in the trees above us as they were waking up.  just saying, glad i had an umbrella.

we stayed at the Jungle Lodge and if you don't need a shower or electricity and don't mind walls covered with mold this place will do.  i hate arriving after dark because it's so much harder to assess the accommodations but with the shorter days and distances we were covering it was difficult.  once i've opened my bag i'm reluctant to hunt up a new room or hotel.  i woke up one night and got up using my flashlight and there was a huge spider on the wall.  it must have been six inches across but it wasn't hairy so i thought probably not dangerous.  

after nap and lunch, we talk a server in giving us a bottle of wine and two wine glasses and plan to hike back in for a few hours of exploring before sunset.  then both of us hit a wall and can barely even move our feet.  we drag ourselves over to the espresso bar and hope that will do the trick.  slowly, slowly we make our way back to the Gran Plaza which is the center of the excavated ruins.

it's misting and a light rain but that just helps clear our the tourists faster.  we are adventure girls and we improvise an umbrella/sarong tent on top of the goddess temple across from the Jaguar temple and have some snacks white we wait for the sun to set.  we hike out in complete darkness.

before i left i tried to read up a bit about the maya civilizations but found all the books available were quite academic and didn't really bring the culture to life for me.  the Maya were a sophisticated, intellectual people and i'm sorry i wasn't able to do a deeper dive into the history of these amazing people.

i have to give a shout out to Lauren, an intrepid traveler, who provided tons of first hand advice on exploring the jungle and ruins.

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