Guatemala: Flores – Tikal and El Mirador
Part 1 – The Trek Starts
Walking off another overnight bus at 5:30am as I arrived in Flores, the taxi drivers swarmed the lobby adding to the chaos of the bus station as their heckles and hollars echoed off dusty walls. After a few offers for $6 caught me off guard, I started to wake up. The nightbus sleeps can be great or awful, it’s always a gamble… but after hopelessly negotiating with the shady cab drivers, I walked down the street away from the bustling station.
A handful of full tuktuks passed, then one pulled over… “$2?”, I asked – the man nodded. I tossed my gear into his tuktuk and arrived at Los Amigos hostel a few minutes later to arrange a 5-day trek into the jungle. The next day I left for El Mirador. the largest Myan city complex in the region… and arguably ever. The experts estimate about 100,000 to 1,000,000 Myans lived in the ‘Greater El Mirador area’. The tour started a 5am, and by 9am the group was enjoying breakfast and reached the start of the trail after a rough Jeep ride into the depths of the jungle. Then the trekking started, 100km roundtrip with broken Birkenstocks.
The sandals were my only shoes, the guide recommended I buy new shoes, but I decided to continue my adventure without creating more unnecessary waste after I learnt the topography was essentially flat. Walking… walking… walking… the group trekked onward, occasionally stopping at old ruins sites which resemble knolls more than ancient ruins.
Part 2 – The Thoughts Start
On the second day, the group stopped at a larger ruin. We climbed the ruins to gaze at the sunset, and the jungle that sprawled to the horizon. Scattered amongst the jungle, ‘hills’ popped off the jungle floor. These ‘hills’ were old Myan temple/ That’s when it dawned on me, Myans were living in a relatively developed manner, thousands of years before modern society exploded onto the globes coastlines and supply chain routes… their remains resonated through my body. The knolly hills of dirt kept my brain pondering, what on earth on we doing?
Obliterating native cultures leaving nothing, but a moment pondering what society would be without colonialism. This isn’t to say one is right and the other is wrong… it simply probes a thought, what is possible for our world?
Countries still seek to conquer land, exploit greed, loneliness and our fragile minds to propagate some message driving unconscious consumption forward. We’ve all fallen and will continue to fall into these faults, but with time may I suggest we pivot our behaviours, focus on enjoying the process of production and diminishing our attachment to consumption. We hold a mypoic view on cultures, because we’re rarely willing to experience new formats of living with an open heart for an extended period of time.
These are the thoughts that rattled off the walls of my skulls while an English know-it-all Jay continuously expressed his fixated opinions on an open group that questioned the very nature of knowledge during the trek. A German couple, a group of Dutch girls, and I contiously challenged his myopic perspective leaving him dumbfounded or frustrated for most of the trek… Honestly, it was difficult to socialize with Jay’s loud opinionated ego whilst focusing on the larger themes of the journey. As a group we dove into some deep conversations, that pivoted my perspectives, and exposed some large blind spots.
Part 3 – The Largest Pyramid
The trek continued, and my sandals began to breakdown. I was now walking on the ground, occasionally barefoot. We were in the middle of no where, yet the feeling of being somewhere filled my heart. No droning planes, no vehicles driving dirt roads, no manmade sounds… Just the thumps of my feet hitting the dry mud as the tucans, monkeys, birds and insects shared a magical melody through day and moonlight.
All you could see was jungle.. All you could hear was jungle… All you could feel was jungle.
We eventually reached El Danate, the worlds largest pyramid by volume. We walked 40 minutes from the camp across this old Myan city to ascend the pryamid. The pyramid rose 172 meters above the flat jungle floor where tucans, and monkeys frolicked below in the dense canopy of the jungle.
No archaeological sites were finished in El Mirador.
Part 4 – Tikal
After returning to Flores, I adventured out to Tikal… the smaller but completely finished Myan city, home to a Star Wars scene, and a fairly accurate representation of what Myan’s built. Majestic temples rose from the slopes of Tikal, lush scenery surrounded the protected area into the horizon while stone homes appeared livable.
Then thought appeared… “I would live here” where people were so connected to the land, the majestic scenery, beautiful stone homes, the rituals founded by the sunlight and lunar rotations… sure the Myan had brutal wars, many sacrifices, and several other unknown factors that shaped their culture, but is that much different than our current globalized culture?
We have brutal wars (Vietnam), many sacrifices (child labour, global destruction), and sseveral unknown factors that shape our culture (due to our current information consumption habits and knowledge).
This journey left me thinking… thinking… thinking… what on earth are we doing?
Keep it kaizen