Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Toucans and Parrots and Monkeys, Oh My!

After another successful week in the schools, our group split into two to conquer different areas of Guatemala. Dana, Michelle, Karianne, Rebecca and Christina all headed for a relaxing weekend at the beach in Moneterrico where they tanned, swam in the pool and drank refreshing licuados (delicious fruit smoothies!) Lorena, Grace, Cam and I opted for an incredibly fun and exotic weekend in the jungle, visiting the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. 
The adventure started with an overnight shuttle ride at 5:30pm Thursday evening. We arrived at 8am the next morning to our bungalow in the jungle, complete with hammocks and wildlife surrounding us. We began our day with a tour of the magnificent ruins. We subir-ed (climbed) everything that was allowed to be touched...and perhaps some things that weren't. Luckily our tour guide was lenient about letting us scale the ruins and meander as we pleased. Along the tour we saw toucans, parrots, toads, and most exciting of all, howler and spider monkeys.

Tikal is a vast site with such an interesting history. The tour itself was about 4 miles long. Tikal was inhabited by about 100,000 Mayans around 400 AD. It was the largest of the Mayan cities and was very powerful at the time. Only 22% of the site has been excavated thus far with plans to dig up more in the near future. While visiting Tikal you can see temples, acropolises, bleachers, etc. After it was abandoned, shrubbery overtook the ruins. It is currently a World Heritage Site and definitely a must-see when traveling through Central America.
In the afternoon we enjoyed naps by the pool and a delicious dinner, complete with licuados. Then it was early to bed and early to rise for us. The next day, we awoke at 3:45am for a sunrise tour. After experiencing what our new tour guide referred to as a "lapse of calamity" after we locked our key along with our tour tickets in our bungalow, we started on our early morning tour. Our fellow companions, the howler monkeys, were wide awake at that hour, as well. We climbed to the top of the highest temple (Temple IV) to watch the sunrise. Well, the sun technically did rise, just not its true form of golden and orange rays. It was very cloudy but it was still an enjoyable experience being up high so early, hanging out on a Mayan ruin. That doesn't happen often!
After the tour, we packed up and headed back to Sololá via Sergio's very generous personal car service. We said our goodbyes to Cam in Guatemala City. We hope he had a safe trip back to the States yesterday and that Boston treats him well!
Everyone else is happy and doing very well here in Guatemala. I cannot believe it is our last week here! Time flies when you're having fun :)

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