The Odyssey
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Lost in the Lost World
El Mundo Perdido, Tikal, Guatemala
by Monica
 
Monica on stairs
So many stairs!
Oh, my aching knees. Stairs, stairs, stairs! I am climbing the pyramid in the midst of the Lost World. This area is a grouping of 38 structures and this pyramid, just south of the Grand Plaza at Tikal, a collection  of over a thousand buildings deep in the jungle of El Petén. Tikal  stands out in my mind compared to the other great Mayan sites because, unlike Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Copán, we must trek deep into the jungle to see the temples of Tikal.



Monkey Temple
Monica walking towards
Temple One
I am amazed as I ascend this face of the pyramid and imagine how the builders, who constructed it to map the skies and study the stars in 700 BC, must have felt. At the top I catch my breath and also catch a glimpse of Templo IV, in the distance, and the Talud-Tablero Temple, or the Temple of the Three Rooms. When Abeja was up here, she caught up with some other Americans: Matt, Kyle, and Rick. This is the oldest Mayan structure in Tikal, and one of the only ones constructed solely as an astronomical tool. There are no buildings or temples atop, only a flat plain that allows a clear view of the cloudy sky and the canopy of dense ceiba trees and vegetation below. I hear a persistent "ka-kak-kak," one of the calls of a parrot species, and below there are a few coatimundis nosing through people's packs.

Back of the pyramid
The jungle-covered
back of the pyramid at Tikal
As I descend the back way, I am careful to step around the stones and small gravelly pebbles. Each of the four different faces of the pyramid is built in a different style, but the back face is somewhat overgrown with vegetation. Can you imagine being one of original re-discoverers of Tikal in the 1800's? How would you have felt as one of the first expedition members in 1848, along with Modesto Mendez and Ambrosio Tut, as you stumbled upon this lost civilization which mysteriously collapsed around 900 AD? Or what if you were with the first scientific exploration with Alfred P. Maudslay in 1881? The pictures taken from a hundred years ago show all the temples literally covered with trees and plants--you can barely see the stones beneath.

View from pyramid
View of Tikal from the Pyramid
I walk over to Templo IV, the top of which can only be reached by climbing a series of ladders. Can one of you watch Star Wars for me, the final battle scene when the X-wing fighters take off from the jungle area? I think, but I'm not sure, that this was filmed right here in Tikal, at the top of Templo IV. When I climb down, the guard informs me that one of the coatis stole my "pan tostada," small toasted bread slices. So now I go to get my own lunch!

 
 
Monica - No Turning Back: The Journey to Guatemala
Abeja - Wondrous Tikal from Sunrise to Sunset
Monica - Searching for the Disappeared: An Introduction to G.A.M.
 
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