Mundo Maya marathon
26 January 2013 | Tikal and Yaxha (boat in Rio Dulce)
Beth / overcast - longsleeved shirts
We caught the Linea Dorada bus to Santa Elena on Wednesday, and it was an hour and a half late this time (only one hour in Nov). Because it starts its run in the city early in the morning, there is ample time for something to go wrong before it gets here – this time we heard it was a tire problem, but the almost painful grinding sound whenever the driver shifted gears made us wonder if there wasn’t a transmission thing happening.
Once again, we had booked a ride from the bus station to La Casa de Don David in El Remate, and this time we were happy to share it with 3 more folks. Jim had been talking with Barb (Tif Blue) on the phone, recommending our hotel, and when he hung up, the woman in front of us asked him to see if there was a triple room available that night. He called; there was; they came with us. (and Barb and Bob are going this week!) By the time we got to the hotel and our bags in the room it was 9:30 so we quickly downed our dinner and hit the beds for a few hours sleep before our 5:30 am departure for Tikal.
Because we had been there so recently, we decided to wander on our own for this visit, and we really enjoyed having the time and freedom to do that (although I still recommend a guide for the first time.) The misty views from atop Templo IV were beautiful, we lingered in the Grand Plaza gazing at Templos I and II, and contemplated the new Baktun that has started since our last visit – another cycle in the sophisticated numbering system developed by the Maya so long ago. Just as it was in November, the temperature was very pleasant and there were few visitors. (See my posting in Nov, 2012 for more Tikal info.)
We found a driver who would take us back to the hotel at 12:30 (the Casa de Don David collective leaves the hotel at 5:30 am and leaves the park again at 2) giving us 20 minutes to catch our breath before we hustled out the door again to meet Samuel, our guide to Yaxha. We all piled into Bruno’s van and rattled along a mix of dirt roads and paved ones for the hour and a half drive to this site. I had wondered if we would be so tired that we’d sleep on the trip there, but there was no chance of that happening! The conversation with Samuel was so interesting, and the trip so rattly that our eyes stayed open.
Yaxha is smaller and less developed/excavated than Tikal – only about .5% excavated – and somehow more intimate and open to the imagination. We were the ONLY visitors on the afternoon/evening of Jan 24, 2013. How can that be? But we wandered through the green park under grey skies all alone except for the security men we found here and there. Samuel explained the pyramids and temples that would have been home to the nobles, showed us how the structures were lined up to show the progression of the sun throughout the year, and told of how that observation of the sun was probably a tool at first – for the farmers to know when to plant and harvest their crops. Only later did it become a religious/power base of knowledge. There is a ball court readily visible here – a place where decisions were made as well as choices about who got to be sacrificed. Two disagreeing nobles might send their teams to the ball court to see whose side won – settling arguments that way.
We looked at a pyramid that has a channel cut into the rock to show how generation after generation of the Maya would adapt and change the structures. Here we saw three layers of steps. We discovered that the sagging steps on some of the pyramids were the result of the channels that had been cut out and then filled in again. So many of the excavations have been recorded and refilled in order to protect them. This country simply does not have the money to develop and maintain the sites and so bits and pieces of a few of them are left open. The view over the lake from the top of the main pyramid is beautiful. On a night when the sunset is visible, it must be absolutely spectacular, but even on the grey day we were there, it was lovely. I enjoyed the greenness all around, while Liam said he liked picturing it as it must have been in its heyday – all cleared and paved with each structure clearly visible.
I was disappointed that we didn’t see as much wildlife as I had hoped, but that happens. We heard the howlers and saw a colourful oropendola fly past, but that was pretty much it. As we sat atop the pyramid, eating morocas (hybrid of plantain and banana) Samuel shared a couple of recipes with me and gave a list of books to read. The Popol Vuh is number one for being able to understand the Maya history.
By the time we got home, we were well and truly saturated with Mundo Maya. Time for dinner and bed!
Because we had to pick up our bus tickets by 8am, we enjoyed an early walk around the garden with our coffees before being driven by Melver (usually working reception but also donning driver’s hat) to Santa Elena and then over to Cool Beans in Flores for breakfast. One tuktuk ride later we were back at the bus station and headed for home.
A short good news story ends this little trip. Jim left his satchel on the floor at his seat as we left the bus and didn’t discover it until half an hour later. Once he explained the loss (in Spanish) to the Linea Dorada agent here, she called the driver who said he would pass it to the driver coming in the other direction and he could pick it up when the bus arrived. Sure enough, only 20 minutes after it was due, the bus pulled in and the driver handed over his satchel with everything intact. Yessiree - there are good people and good actions in this world.