Monday, November 30, 2009

Last Day in Guatemala - Flores

Saturday was our last day in Guatemala. We had a 4:00 PM flight from Flores to Guatemala City and then a connecting flight to Chicago. We slept in an hour - Breakfast at 7:30. Loaded up the luggage in the pick up truck, said goodbye the the hotel staff and headed to the airport. We checked in early and then headed to Flores for souvenir shopping - woo-who!

Flores is a pretty old city built on an island in the lake. It was the last place that the Mayan people held out against the Spanish. The Spanish finally conquered it in 1697. There is still a lot of architecture there from the colonial period. The island portion of the city is very small - you can walk every street in a couple of hours.

Anyway, while the shopping was going on I took some pictures.

Didn't ride in one but the tuk-tuks are everywhere.

I still don't see how they do this.

Be careful. Don't stick you fingers in this one.

Pretty quiet day in Flores.

Down at the lakefront.

Another street. Note the size of the tin roof pieces. They are small because when these buildings were built everything came in by mule from Belize.

One of the shops. Definitely a low overhead place. The owner of this place spoke very good English. He said he learned English hustling souvenirs at Tikal.

I don't want to hear any Americans complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. It might be worse in Guatemala.

Gallo is the local beer brewery.

This is the church at the town square opposite the beer ... I mean Christmas tree.

A view from the town square.

Larry was as interested in shopping as I.

Finally the shopping ended and we went to lunch. Interesting decor in this place. The owner seemed to be a bit of a hippie.

All sorts of decorations to distract you.

Another street scene. I was wrong - there was more shopping to do after lunch.

Here is a shot out the plane window as we were taking off. Jobompiche is more or less in the center of the picture on the far shore of the top lake. The hotel we stayed in is just out of the picture at the top right corner.

Took this picture from the airport boarding area just after we landed in Guatemala City. That is Agua volcano on the left. Antiqua is more or less on the far side.

And that wraps up the pictoral record of our trip to Guatemala.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mayan Ruins at Tikal, Guatemala

On Friday we took a tour of Tikal. Tikal is one of the largest archeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya Civilization. Some of the monuments date back to the 4th century B.C. However, it became the capital of Mayan cultural in the period 200 to 900 A.D. The cause of its collapse is a matter of great debate. One theory is that over a period of time warfare caused more refugees to concentrate around the city and the resulting deforestation, etc. lead to the collapse. See wikipedia for more details.
Tikal on Wikipedia

It is a huge park now with many unrestored monuments in addition to those you see during a tour. It is estimated that the population of Tikal was 10 to 90 thousand people.

As soon as we entered the park we saw a lot of wildlife. It is almost like going to the zoo except they are out in the wild. Here are few pictures to get started. This is a gray necked woodrail to the right and a tropical king bird below.

This is a crocodile - not an alligator.

This is an aguti and is a relative of the guinea pig.

These are coatimundi.

Below is a close up.

Lots of interesting plants, also. This is a cactus growing in a ceiba tree. All sorts of plants living symbiotically in the forest.

This is a strangler vine. I don't think you can call this one symbiotic. The vine will eventually kill the tree.

This is one of the temples. I think Margot was taking notes on what the guide was saying. I'll edit this later to but the temple number in. (She thinks this is Lost World Plaza - an astrological observatory)

Here you can get a sense of what the archeologists have to deal with. Over the centuries the tree roots have grown into the temples and displaced the stones and even broken some. This is an excavation site that has a water collection drain at the bottom.

Here the stones are labelled and their position recorded so that they can be returned to the same location.

Here is a worker preparing the same type of cement that the Mayan used to build the temples. By the way our guide was excellent. Luis grew up in Tikal and knows it like the back of his hand. He worked with this guy on another archeological site 20 years ago. He seemed to know everyone in the park. He studies the latest findings about the park to stay informed. His English skills (and personality I assume) earned him a job on the crew of Survivor - Guatemala a few years ago. He was even featured in one of the episodes when a few of the contestants were flown to a "typical" Guatemalan home. It wasn't really his home but he is the guy welcoming them.

You don't want to get too close to this tree.

This red plant is growing on the tree along with moss, etc.

Luis coached this tarantula out of his hole along the side of the trail.

Here is a more pleasant looking wild turkey. Although they didn't seem that wild in the park. They seem pretty accustomed to tourists.

The stairs are really steep going up this monument. Pretty narrow at the top, also. Below is the view.

Some more restoration work under way.

Another temple.

One of the construction workers found this little guy and shared him with us.

This is the sort of outcropping of the city structure that tipped the early explorers off to the fact that there were some man-made structures under the jungle.

We were told that these folks are from the Guatemalan highlands (based on the particular weaves in their dress). They were part of a group touring the site.

I'm thinking "how quaint". This must be what Mayan people looked liked so many years ago.

Grandpa with the cell phone camera and the tourist bus name tags sort of ruined the image for me, though.

Here we are on top of another temple. The stairs on this one were pretty reasonable. Not so steep.

I think this is the temple in the previous picture.

Here are a couple of pictures from the grand plaza.

This is a chicle tree. You can see the marks on the bark where the tree was cut to collect the sap for making chewing gum.

Wrigley Co. was the largest user of chicle and was the largest employer or abuser of chicleros- depending on your point of view.

We'll end with the prettiest and ugliest birds in the forest.