Friday, January 15, 2010

Guatemala : Petén Itzá and Tikal...

It is hard to believe that I was in Guatemala only a few short weeks ago, as I sit here struggling to update my blog from beautiful Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

So here goes...  Picking up where I left off at Christmas in El Remate on Lago Petén Itzá.

This place was so incredible it really isn't surprising to me that I posted up here for a total of six days.  At the time I was unsure why I was spending so much time idle, but the surroundings and proximity to Tikal made it an ideal place to hang out and gather my senses.

Hard to beat the daily sunsets at the lake.  And the swimming was superb.  Perfect temperature water, crystal clear and refreshing.  Good company hanging with Ben and the other travelers at Hotel Mon Ami.

Our home base was exquisite and the internet connection was fast and constant making communication solid.

And did I mention the sunsets?

So Ben and I got up on Saturday after Christmas at 5 am and rode in the dark to Tikal.  I was starting to get my fill of ruins.  The entrance fee was really steep at $20 US and I started to question whether it would be worth the visit.  But within the first half hour of hiking in the dawn mist we came upon Temple  One reaching for the clouds.  I was hooked.  So incredible.  Tikal takes the prize for sure.

The temples were huge and amazing. The light was tough but it added to the surreal nature of it all.

I was just stunned.  In complete awe of my surroundings.  In a completely sober state of mind, I still had a hard time grasping it all.  When we were sitting on Temple Two, an American anthropologist started telling us about how they had found psilocybin mushrooms in the stomachs of nearly all the mummified remains at Tikal.  This cleared up a lot for me.  Reflecting on my psychonautic journeys, my mind reveled in what must have been going on here.  One can only guess, however images from Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" rushed before me.  I imagined the thousands of people that would have been there.  Floods of people, trading, working, worshiping.  And a bulk of them tripping out like crazy on hallucinogenic mushrooms dreaming up and creating fantastical structures and intricate carvings.  Metal workers and gemsman crafting exquisite decorations for the rulers.  Colors and textures and feathers and leather.  Tattoos, piercings, garbled indigenous tongue.  Howling monkeys roaring in the treetops while technicolor birds zip by.  Crazy.

It was easy to sit in places for hours contemplating the immensity of the temples.  For that matter, the immensity of the entire complex of Tikal dwarfed by the overall civilization of the Maya.  It was a real treat to be able to compare these different places from my visits but also to understand the physical space between them.  The motorcycle is the ideal spaceship for this inquiry into the past.  Feeling the distance, and the climate sensing the space, all gave a better understanding of Mayan existence in this little shoebox of antiquity.

It was pretty cool to see "Vin" and "RJ" beat me to Tikal and scribed a little sign for me in the limestone.  (Okay total reach there, but I did laugh when I came upon this vandalism.  What are the chances that cousins Johnson/Vogelsang would show up in such random desecration?

Ben and I rode back to El Remate starving.  We'd wandered around the ruins for six hours with little water and no food.  I think this intensified our experience in some way, but when we pulled into little comedor 'Susana' we were ravenous.

Unfortunately it seemed like Senora Susana needed to go find some chickens first before she could fry them up.
We pondered the local ferris wheel that had been set up for the holidays while local boys pondered our bikes.

Our food was delicious.  I think I even ate a little bit of my hand while devouring it.
We finished off the afternoon in a terrible high stress meeting with the higher ups.

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