Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Exploring Mayan Ruins, Tikal, Guatemala

So after the completely unplanned and unexpected zip line activity, we headed to our real destination - Tikal National Park - one of the largest archaeological sites of the Maya civilization. Whenever I think of ancient civilizations, history lessons from Harappa, Mohenjodaro and the Indus Valley civilizations loom large in my mind. Surprising how some of those history lessons have stuck. And then you think of mind-boggling Egypt (not alluding to its current political climate).Well the Mayans are a much more recent set and really by the time the other ancient civilizations had already developed languages, started writing and drawing and doing complex math, the Mayans were just about starting to make some pots. But none of this takes away from the adventure of exploring a site that was excavated out of the jungles.
Our trip started with a lunch stop right after we hired an English speaking guide who drove me nuts with his philosophical ramblings. The only restaurant on the premises had rude service on top of being super slow. We jetted out as soon as we could to start our tour. The guide arranged a special vehicle for us so we wouldn't have to trek to the farthest temple like most people do. Looking at the kids, I guess he decided a vehicle was best for us or wait - was it the adults that looked like a super lazy lot?We should have laid any lazy thoughts to rest right there because right after the luxury ride came countless steep steps. If you want to climb the tallest temple which once served as the oratory stage of the Mayan kings, then you have to flex your knees. Talinn chose to nap at this opportune moment, so poor Nana had to haul up a sleeping kid in addition to himself.The view from the top was super spectacular. It's always worth the climb isn't it?! Stretching out in front of us were the expansive jungles of Tikal, with a comprehensive view of all the temples to be enjoyed with the background music - err ear-shattering howls - of the Howler Monkeys.We read a story about this Harvard student whose internship excavation trip to Tikal turned out to be the one where they discovered the most magnificent of the temples yet. What are the chances of that happening? And how lucky to be writing such a magnificent thesis. Well we were lucky just to be visiting.The Tikal complex is vast vast vast. It is dotted with many archaeological sites and temples in various states of wholeness. The lush jungles that once hid these gems make for a lovely backdrop. The excavations are still ongoing and there still remains much to be discovered. I'd love to be an archaeologist for a few years, patiently brushing dust off each stone with a feather. Really. Anyway, if Talinn visits Tikal again after a decade, then just like the Sagrada Familia, there will be progress and a lot more to see. Evolving sites like these are so exciting.After the climb down, we strolled through the National park until we arrived at the main temple complex. It's no Machu Pichu but it's an exciting part of history and we enjoyed climbing and exploring the monuments. Talinn was awake by this time and did some steep climbing of his own. Totally independent. Totally fearless.We spent an extended period of time exploring the area. This is real life Disneyland for the kids, the real deal, no props required. After an hour or so and many long-winded history lessons from our tour guide, we were ready to call it a trip.Back at the hotel, it was time to celebrate Swati aunty's birthday. We started with cocktails by the pool followed by dinner and cake. Then on to the bar/entertainment hall where we all danced our hearts to music from the 80s - remember BoneyM and Modern Talking? Talinn performed all his favorite songs over a mike. Reminds me of Kerala when he was singing nursery rhymes at the entertainment hall in Kumarakom. Nathan anna tried a game of billiards with the older boys. Later, Talinn was happy making up games with Tanvi and the Krishnan family. We ended the night a few hours later with Talinn wishing Swati aunty a happy happy birthday.

No comments: