3/23/10 - 4/12/10
Finally we have reached Mexico and are staying in Tulum. So far, everything in Mexico burns, the food just became significantly more spicy and I am head to toe burnt with strangely-shaped sunburns that hurt everytime I move. Therefore I have time to blog, as my fingers are one part still in tact.
Over the past month we have visited several Mayan sites including our trek to El Mirador, Nakbe, and El Tintal through the jungle and then the more touristy sites of Tikal and Palenque. I could spend about 10,000 words or more giving you the details of everything we learned on the way and especially from our amazing guide at Mirador, but I understand not everyone would be so enthralled in every detail. If you are interested, we have pictures and loads of time if you want to see them when we get back. Unfortunately, it was so humid on our trek to Mirador that my camera decided to give up and we lost about 75% of the pictures of the site on my camera. BUT, here is the coolest stuff we saw and still have pictures of:
Mirador is a pre-classic site that was boss in the region before the rise of superpowers Tikal and Calakmul. It's still in the process of excavation and a great place to let your imagination loose on what it possibly could have looked like.
This is La Danta, the largest pyramid complex in Mesoamerica. It's a multi-platformed structure, just the platform that makes its base measures 300m by 600m. From base to top it stands 72 meters. This is just the final pyramid on the very, very top after climbing three large platforms that were used for living space and religious purposes for the elite. You can't see in the picture, but this pyramid is over 30 meters tall and flanked by six smaller earlier constructed pyramids.
This is a mask at a temple that was later converted into living space once Mirador fell to Calakmul and later Tikal.
This is a stucco frieze that archaeologists recently found while they were doing research on the drainage system that helped keep the city supplied with water. It was on the side of one of the large limestone plastered roads that led from place to place and city to city. Our guide said that it's possible the image would have reflected off the water in the drainage canal.
Tikal is the iconic Classical Mayan site of Guatemala that you see on the postcards and guidebook covers. Apparently the people in charge amused themselves with competitions of who could build the tallest and most ridiculously steep temple. I think that whoever built this one (Temple V) won (in my opinion). It is one of the only ones you can climb, on a five or six-part wooden ladder of doom set up that really brought on my vertigo.
Here is us superimposed on a Guatemalan postcard of Temple I in the Great Plaza.
Palenque is a Classical Mayan site in Mexico unlike any of the other ones we saw. It is widely regarded as one of the sites with the best preserved art and stucco friezes. Also, its main palace area has endless passage ways that you can explore for hours on end. It is fun to go in one side and see where you end up.
This is me in the Mayan symbol called "Kimi," which means death appropriately enough.
Here is a picture of almost the whole shebang... a couple of the major temples in the foreground and the main palace complex in back with the big observation tower.
A stucco frieze from one of the pillars in the front of the palace.
This is the Temple of Inscriptions where they found the tomb of the ruler Pakal. We saw the sarcophagus in the museum, which was about the size of a compact car carved out of one pure piece of limestone engraved with elaborate scenes. He was found inside with a mountain of jade and other offerings.