Monday, November 21, 2005

No Time for Love, Doctor Jones

Well, it's been just over three months now, and we've officially exhuasted the tourist potential of Guatemala: We saw the crown jewel of Guatemalan tourism, Tikal.

The fun started at 0-dark-hundred on Saturday, when we headed off to the fabulous Aurora airport to jet to the jungle. The line to check in was painfully slow, as is standard here, as they apparently filled out our boarding passes by hand. The security procedures were not up to international standards -- they just open up each carry-on bag and look in. If you happened to put a gun right on the top of your bag, you'd be totally busted. The flight was well worth it though, as it lasted about 30 minutes, whereas driving would take at least 8 hours through jungle roads reportedly infested with highwaymen and brigands.

The Flores/Tikal "Mundo Maya International Airport" is basically a big corrugated tin warehouse, with a little kiosk for every hotel and tour guide in the area crammed in. We hopped a shuttle with a friendly guide named Noel (prone to jokes about how monkeys like to throw poo at blonde tourists) and headed out to the hotels near the park. The Jungle Lodge was originally the housing for the archaeologists digging the temples out of the overgrown jungle. It is now the premier lodging option in Tikal, which isn't saying too much, but it is right next to the ruins.

Tikal itself is surprisingly different from Copán, which you may recall from a post on this very journal a month ago. I was really surprised at how much the "Tikal is New York, Copán is Paris" analogy seemed to fit, as clunky as it is. Tikal has truly towering pyramids -- up to 200 feet tall, and quite a climb. But for some reason the rain and jungle have been less kind to the art there, and the limestone stela and altars are almost entirely worn away. The coolest thing about Tikal is the I'm-in-an-Indiana Jones-movie feeling you get with the jungle still covering the majority of the temples, with only their straight vertical tops peeking out of the greenery (or maybe the Yavin Base feeling you get, if you're a real dork); and the wildlife that comes with being basically in the middle of nowhere. The highlight for me was seeing a couple big green loros fly by at about twenty yards away when I was all alone on top of one of the pyramids. There are also spider and howler monkeys all over, "ocellated turkeys," and a bunch of weird rat-rabbit-hamster rodents. Hearing all the weird bird calls and hearing that KO's dad saw a couple toucans almost makes me understand the hobby of birdwatching. Almost.

Unfortunately, my lens-work is more apt to photography of mushrooms and other fungi, which move a bit slower than the loros do. I couldn't even take a focused picture of a caterpillar, and they only barely move at all.

We made a quick swing through Flores on the way back, which is a charming little town of gringo bars, travel agents, and tchotchke shops. And one weird bridal shop, I guess. Someone should do the regression analysis on whether towns in Guatemala that are charming attract tourism or if the presence of tourism in a town inspires efforts to increase the charmingness of a town.

1 comment:

Hulkster said...

It does not escape my notice that you, sir, are a big enough dork to know the proper name for the rebels' secret stronghold from Episode IV.

And there's nothing wrong with being a dork.