What must the first explorers to stumble upon this site have thought? These massive structures rise above the jungle canopy dominating the sky, and their presence stretches for miles in all directions. To my mind, the rulers must have resided in the many stone dwellings that are scattered throughout the city, but even though the number of buildings is large, there are not enough buildings to have housed the entire population. The stone dwellings are massive with very tall doors, some 12 feet or more, with vaulted stone or thatch ceilings climbing even higher. Mayans are short, their homes typically small even today, and as I allow my mind to wander I somehow wonder if they did not live in thatched buildings perhaps scattered here and there throughout the entire city. There is no doubt the rulers lived in the Acropolis, North or Central, the Windows Palace, or any one of the many other massive structures. I doubt the common man enjoyed such luxury.
I climbed into the Central Acropolis whose plan is pictured. 38 buildings with more than 148 different vaulted dwelling spaces gathered around pools, walkways, and plazas. My mind wandered, I dreamed, and went back to a simpler time when day to day life revolved around gathering enough food and water to make it to the next day or week, and when your entire existence was simple and ordered. You had to please the rulers, pay the taxes, and struggle through occasional difficult times, but if you got away from the congestion, life became simple and straightforward. The sky was a magnificent blue, both day and night; you sat and wondered about those stars and the sun and moon, and then awoke the next morning to plant more corn, or hunt, or make babies. Life went on, and once in awhile, someone had a dream, and life became a little better. This world amazes us even today.
In the next photo we are looking through the jungle at Temple IV, towering 70 meters above the undergrowth, nearly 220 feet tall. The temple is undergoing extensive restoration to bring it back to its true grandeur. Once again, I climbed to the tomb’s entrance and looked out over hundreds of miles of jungle. This temple, the highest Mayan structure in Central America, towered over the world at that time. As we approached we heard what sounded like dogs barking, then lions roaring, then hyenas screaming. I stopped as I became a little nervous. Joy laughed, then as two ladies passed us, I got to thinking – could those incredible roars be the sound of the howler monkeys? As we got closer, I realized that was exactly what we were hearing, tiny little monkeys who have developed the ability to protect themselves with their huge voices. They surely stopped me!
Here they are, two of them. I was lucky enough to join one of the Park guards as he escorted the two ladies I just mentioned and me out into the jungle to find these elusive creatures. We wandered into the jungle where the signs warned “Danger, No Admittance”, and snuck into their world. As we neared, the monkeys became totally quiet and tried to hide from us. The park guard found them hiding up in the tree tops, probably 30 meters above us. Not a sound now as they huddled in the canopy high above. When we moved, they moved; hide and seek, so it seemed. We whispered, and I caught them in this photo. When we finished taking photos, the two ladies and I looked around the jungle, then at each other; we shrugged our shoulders for without our guide, we would have been lost as it all looked the same. Nothing but jungle as far as you could see.
Mind boggling for both Joy and me. Look close and you will see Joy in this photo just beyond the statues at the base of the 47 meter Temple I . Joy could not climb these majestic structures, so she insisted that I go and take many, many photos, so she could enjoy them with me later. Can you take yourself back in time to a day when there was nothing but horses and mules, no cranes, no bulldozers? Then sit and wonder how they ever built these towering pyramids. Who were these people?
I took more than 500 photos in Tikal, more than I can ever show you on these pages. You need to go there yourself, pause, think about your life, and then go on living like you never have before. Life is short, and our days are numbered; enjoy them, each and every one.