Greetings from The Jungle Lodge within Tikal National Park in Guatemala! I am writing this blog post before/after dinner at the end of a long and exciting day. The internet connectivity is much worse here than any place previous, so I am not sure how much I will be able to share today. If I cannot share much, I promise to update again when the connection is better.
Our day began in San Ignacio, Belize, with a nice breakfast buffet. Everyone really enjoyed our hotel (Cahal Pech Resort) and so we extended our time there by one hour, leaving at 9AM:
We met our driver LaSelle and drove about 30 minutes to the border with Guatemala. We made our way through customs and immigration on the Belize side, then immigration on the Guatemala side. We left our big bus in Belize and switched to two smaller vans (with two Spanish-only-speaking drivers) in Guatemala. We all then proceeded into Guatemala.
The drive was enlightening to all of us. Guatemala is significantly less developed than Belize. We saw people living in thatched-roof houses and washing clothes in the river. We passed colorful cemeteries and tin-roof shacks. We stopped at a gift shop for a bit of rest and a very nice locally prepared lunch:
We watched some local women preparing the tortillas over a wood-headed metal pan. The food seemed healthy and was very flavorful.
The students were happy to stimulate the local economy:
We drove onward for another hour until we entered Tikal National Park. We are staying The Jungle Lodge, which is a hotel within the park grounds:
We had about an hour to shower and get ready for our sunset hike into Tikal. We met our guide Luis and purchased our mandatory wristbands to prove that we had paid for admission into the park:
Luis led us through the jungle, pointing out the flora and fauna (howler monkeys, spider monkeys, coati, colorful turkeys) along the way:
We began to notice the ruins around us, and we soon reached a large courtyard flanked by two large temples:
Some structures were marked off limits, but others allowed us to climb up and/or over them:
We spent nearly an hour exploring this area and taking in the many amazing views:
Our guide Luis gave us many details about Mayan history, culture, construction methods, and how these structures were "discovered" and recovered by Western scientists. There are way too many details for me to go into here!
We continued to hike the grounds, stopping at several other tall temples to admire the ancient and quiet beauty:
The highlight of the day was walking to a tower that offered a good view of the sunset. We climbed up many stairs to a viewing platform, and then sat and watched for about 45 minutes as the sun set and the color changed:
We climbed down in twilight and hiked back in the dark (with flashlights). What a great time! We all felt a connection with this place and the deep time that it represents. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to learn about and interact with the site. Thank you Tikal!
We regrouped back at the lodge for a quick rest and a 7PM dinner (your choice: beef steak, chicken, or vegetarian pasta) along with soup and bread. We all need to go to bed early tonight as we must load the van and leave for a 4AM sunset Tikal hike. Whew!
I'm not sure when I'll next be able to log in and update the blog. We have a very crazy day tomorrow: 4AM hike, 6AM departure, boxed breakfast in the vans, cross the border into Belize, drive all the way across the country to Belize City airport hopefully arriving by 11AM, 1PM flight to Atlanta. I'll check in when I can!
Everyone is doing wonderfully. Every student handed in their lab reports on time and seemed to do a very good job. Everyone continues to live this experience to its fullest. We are all happy and healthy and enjoying it here but ready to come home.
Thanks for reading!
- Eric J. Simon, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biology & Health Science, New England College