Guatamala: Tikal

Tikal was our next stop on our late 2017 Central America tour. A mysterious and massive reminder of ancient Mayan civilization, the ruins are buried deep in a Guatamalan jungle, holding tightly to centuries-old secrets. We moved quietly along dark jungle paths until they appeared, massive structures towering in the misty pre-dawn.

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Climbing high above the jungle canopy, one can see the vast distances encompassing the ancient settlements. Steep and crumbling in areas, to mount and look out from the top of these monoliths can be both daunting and awe-inspiring. So many unanswered questions to ponder from this vantage point — what was the life of the people who created these structures and lived in this jungle so long ago.

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Our awe was compounded by the haunting cries of howler monkeys which accompanied the territorial wars in the canopy above. Fierce and threatening, their calls are eerily reminiscent of that of a jaguar, a powerful creature with whom they share these jungles.

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Though rarely seen in jungles where humans travel and live, a jaguar sighting remains a dream of many an adventurer. The above artistic rendition of the jaguar (and other similar ones) hangs on the walls of the museum at the park headquarters.

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The ceiba or tree of life — we were told by a passing guide that its ridges were used by local people for directional guidance. It is the oft-photographed national tree of Guatamala. The flora and fauna of Guatamalan jungle are plentiful and varied, a seemingly endless visual feast of discovery.

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