By 5:30AM, we are out the door and waiting for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to Parque National Tikal, home of the most recognized and revered Mayan temple complexes in the world. Typically I am not a huge fan of visiting locations that are known as tourist traps, but I will definitely make an exception this time. Visiting Guatemala and not exploring the ruins of Tikal is like visiting India for the first time and not getting a glimpse of the Taj in Agra. It is just something you have to do.
As we approach the protected area, we cross through multiple checkpoints with armed personnel. It seems that rich neighborhoods and banks are not the only thing being protected by shotguns in Guatemala. As we get dropped off at the parking lot, we immediately hear the wild life in the distance. The 576 sq. km national park is home to a large number of wild animals including toucans, howler monkeys, crocodiles, jaguar and koatymundi.
Walking through the lush tropical jungles as the sun begins to rise, it is amazing to hear the world around us come to life. Throughout all of my travels around the globe, I don’t think I have ever heard such beautiful sounds emanating all around us. As we make our way through the park we spot small relics and ceremonial altars dotting the jungle floor. Then we see it. A massive stone temple rising out of the jungle floor as if it was trying to touch the sky. Rounding a corner, we realize that the temple we are walking past is just part of the giant central plaza. A very ominous feeling sets over us as we realize that we are currently standing in the middle of a ceremonial complex that was built thousands of years ago for an ancient civilization that rivaled the Geeks both in population and relative technology. The ancient Mayans were an incredibly intelligent society that lived and breathed through their understanding of the lunar calendar, arguably the most accurate calendar ever created by man.
As we walk through the rest of Tikal, it is hard not to think about how lucky we are with the lives we live. While we don’t always get to do freelance photography trips such as this, they are definitely the glue that holds our world together. Not only do we get to travel all over the globe, but we get to pick and choose the stories we write about and the subjects we photograph. Most of the photography work from this trip will be used to replace work up in galleries, used as stock photography or in publications that will accompany the stories that crossed our paths and touched our hearts. Until next time, hasta luego!