Sunday, May 04, 2014

Post Tikal - Youth Dancers (3-24)

 After our intensive day at the ruins of Tikal we met the first of the many vendors 
and traditional artisanal craftsman we came across on our trip.

And this little girl was probably one of the cutest we met.
I bought a weaving from her mom.
She immediately wanted to see the picture, and then to show it to her grandma.

 This is her grandma and sister.
Aren't they all beautiful?
The blouse she is wearing is the typical weaving style of Guatemala.

Here's another lady I bought a weaving from.
The birds on the bottom are the beautiful long tailed quetzal birds that are found in Guatemala.
Their money there is called quetzales - after the bird.

Once we got back to Pentechel we spent some time by the pool relaxing.

In this ENORMOUS chair :0) 
(Lily Tomlin anyone?) 

We did not do any swimming in the lake for obvious reasons.

After dinner we were entertained by a group of young people that are taught by a local teacher who is working to make sure that the traditional/local dances do not completely die out.
The first dance was a girl carrying incense that smoked like crazy.
 She was very serious and represented the ancient religious ceremonies.
There were several different age groups and types of dances.

Some that were just boys.

 Some just girls.
Some just young girls.

 Some mixed dances.
 They did a beautiful job and danced for well over an hour 
going from very old traditional dancing to more contemporary folk dance.
At the very end they all came and got people from the audience to dance with them.
I think Chuck and Bob rather enjoyed it.
... this was the sunset on an amazing day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tikal! (3-24)

 My goal was to keep it under 20 photos per entry...
Not going to happen on this one I'm afraid.
(You have been warned.)
Tikal was the heart of the Mayan world. 
The national park itself was created in 1955 and declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979. 
It was covered by massive amounts of soil, trees and undergrowth when the started to uncover it.
One of the types of trees is the Ceiba tree, which is the official national tree of Guatemala.

The Mayan people called it the "Holy Tree of Life" and considered it the "axle of the world"
They get up to 70 meters tall (70=229 feet- I just looked it up :0)

This is a model of the site with the temples and buildings that have been restored/uncovered thus far.
The city itself dates back over 2500 years. The park covers an area of  576sq kilometers
(576km² = 142332acres--that doesn't seem right- but I just looked that up too?)
Anyway, a LOT of ground!
The archeological site is 16sq kilometers (16km² = 3953ac) 
and had an estimated 3000+ buildings on it.

It was pretty exciting to set off through the jungle to see the site.
Here was the first view of Temple 1,
 or the Great Jaguar Temple, through the trees.

This is the backside. Note that from the base that not the entire temple has been unearthed.
 For size perspective, here I am scratching my cheek in wonder -
 How DID they get all those layers of stone up there with no machinery or large animals to help?

Here is a side view looking at temple 1 from the political acropolis on the south side.
Notice the branches of the Cieba tree on the upper right of the photo.
Those trees get pretty darn tall.

156ft, built around 700A.D.
I mean really. 
Look how many of those stones they had to quarry, transport, 
and then set into place and mortar.
 Mind boggling to me anyway.
Here's the view across the front of temple one to the North acropolis 
(which was the living and official areas for rulers and big wigs). 

Here's a view of that north acropolis from temple 2.
Front view of temple one from the upper level of temple 2
 - straight across the plaza from temple 1.
Note all the sacrificial altars casually strewn about the plaza...

It's not like they made a new altar for every sacrifice.
The sheer number of them suggests there was a LOT of it going on...for many years.
Because there were altars in front of almost every edifice.

I liked this area of the central acropolis.
 It reminds me of something you might see in Greece or Rome.
(Other than the tropical vegetation of course.)

Here is temple 2- aka Temple of the Masks, or Faces. 
Similar to temple one, but shorter at 125ft. built in hone of the wife of the ruler- Ah Cacao

This one we could climb up the backside on wooden stairs
 and get the full view of the plaza (and take all those previous photos).
Temple 2 view
Here's the view from the North acropolis to temple 2.
 I had to wait quite a while for a clear shot without people on the ledge
(where we were standing in the previous photo...dang tourists :0) 

Are you sick of the temples yet?
Here is one of the many as yet uncovered -
and most likely never to be  uncovered-
 buildings that are all over.
The cost of unearthing and maintaining the relics is pretty steep.
  Guatemala has gotten outside help for much of what has been uncovered to date.

For example, this temple, temple 5, which is actually the first temple built around 600AD.
Built by the ruler Animal Skull (descriptive name eh?)
It was being restored a couple years ago with funding from Greece,
until Greece began with their own financial difficulties
so it still has a lot of work to be done on it.

This is one of the twin pyramid complexes. 
They were built to celebrate the end of a Katun (a 20 year period). 
They are exact, radial flat top pyramids, and shrine and a palace. 
These were oriented to every cardinal point, and are a unique architectural style at Tikal.

Almost done with the temples. 
Here is the first view of temple 4, the Two Headed Snake,
which is the highest of all the temples.
 Built in 745AD it rises above the jungle canopy. 
It provides a stunning view of the tops of the other temples.
 We climbed up a steep series of steps to get to the viewpoint here.
It was the hottest part of the day and the heat reflected off the stones made it pretty steamy.

This is one of the few remaining Mayan priests who still practice Mayan rituals in the traditional manner.
We came across him waiting for another tour that was coming to see him perform a fire ritual.
I thought his facial features were lovely.
As we went by I greeted him in Spanish and he gave me a handshake and a sweet smile. 
He was really charming.

This was the only time that the intrepid Virgina did not accompany us the entire time. 
She stayed with the group who opted not to walk the entire way.
So we had Noe (Noah), pictured here trying to call some howler monkeys. 
It was too hot and late in the day so his calls went unanswered.

This day was probably the most intense, memorable of the trip with SO much to see and take in.
I would have liked to have had more time to see all the temples.
But for the time we had - we saw a LOT.
There was more at the end of the day back at the hotel.
And that will have to wait til the next post...
(yeah- I know you're waiting with bated breath).

Old Man Whittier!

I am now married to an old geezer.
Which seems appropriate - because I am one too.

Chuck got the deluxe old guy treatment for breakfast.
A Luna fiber bar, 100% fruit juice (no sugar added)
farm fresh organic eggs, and a new watch to keep track of time.

He was so excited to open his gifts.
 He was like a little kid tearing through them in record time.
Though unlike a little kid- he hadn't tried to sneak a peak 
at the ones that had been sitting there for a week.

He "got" to start the day by speaking in church and then went out home teaching.
He took it all in good stride though. 
I think the fact that by Thursday he will have turned in his keys and phone,
 and cleaned out his work desk to begin "official" retirement may have had an effect on it.

Anyway, I'm happy to share my life with such a thoughtful, energetic, and inventive guy.
He always has a plan and a new idea.
 He has introduced me to many new adventures 
and I look forward to many, many more in the future.
Love him!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Quirigua Stelae (3-23)

Meet Hector.
The most hardworking, efficient bus driver I have ever met.
He was right there to give the old ladies a helping hand off the bus, 
always had fresh cold water for you getting on or off the bus,
kept the windows spotless so you could take clear photos, 
and drove the bus through areas I wouldn't want to take a small car. 
All done cheerfully and competently.
Virginia, our guide, told us that people in Guatemala have a great work ethic.
She and Hector were shining examples of that in word and deed.

This is the beastly bus that Hector maintained for all 42 members of our tour.
Under a big ole mango tree.
Did I mention we got all sorts of delicious fresh fruit on this trip?

Our first stop was at Quirigua.
Which is a Mayan archeological courtyard or meeting place with huge "stelae".
Stelae are massive stone monoliths inscribed with ancient writings 
recording Mayan history, rulers achievements and rites.
Once again, I was impressed by the complicated, 
and beautiful intricacies of the artwork carved in stone.

There were 11 of them varying in height from about 9 feet to 35 feet.
It's amazing to me was that these stones were taken from a quarry over 3 miles away,
They had no large domesticated animals, so getting the stones there was all from human effort. 
This city was a port of call on the river (which is now quite far away because of earthquakes)
 between two different areas and was quite affluent and held a lot of power.
You can see here the size of stelae compared to regular folk 
that some were dang tall.
(that's Chuck in the blue and white striped shirt third male from left)
The little huts over them are to protect them from deterioration because they are made of sandstone.

 These are zoomorfos - which I think basically means they are stylized animals.
They had all sorts of stories incorporated in the body. 

There were two of them. One with a ruler coming out the backside (bum).

Not exactly sure how coming out the backside of a crocodile is powerful
 - but who knows exactly what that was all about.

  This was the shortest stelae - and for some reason didn't rate a little hut.
(Actually, I think they were working on it
- but it makes a better story saying it's prejudice because he's short.)

The whole Quirigua area is about 84 acres and this was the most open part.
It is kind of hard to take it all in size-wise.
So, check out the tree in the middle.

 Same tree with me at the base.
From Quirigua we got back on the bus and traveled to Pentechel
where we would go to see Tikal the next day.

I took a LOT of photos from the bus.
And some of them even turned out - kinda.

Part of the area we went thru is pretty much desert and they raise cattle there.
The only kind that can survive the heat are Burma- so we saw a lot of those.
Plus- there were also a lot of random people walking out in the middle of nowhere.

Lots of clothes hanging to dry. 
(Just like at my house :0)

And guards everywhere.
Virginia said that after all the political unrest there were a lot of people
 without jobs who were used to military lifestyle/training . 
So, many businesses put them to work guarding. 
And most successful businesses have them now.
By late afternoon we finally arrived at Pentechel and the nature preserve where we would spend the next two nights.

Looks like a good place for a swim 

-except for the crocodiles. 
(do you see him?). 

We had amazing food the entire time.
Lots of fresh fruit and veggies with rice, beans and seasoned meats
This place was no exception.

Pentechel is like something you would see on a movie set.
It was incredibly lush, lovely and relaxing.