Central America, Pt. 3: Our First Visit To Mayan Ruins
– “It’s very small.”
– “What do you mean ‘small’? Physically ‘small’? Spiritually? Emotionally?”
– “No, I’m talking about the van.
– A guy and his dirty hippie girlfriend discussing the spacial limitations we may encounter with our ride to Maya Biosphere Reserve.
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, it’s snowing lightly for the first time since we arrived in New York and Anna is in the midst of an Empire marathon, leaving me free to write this post. A TV marathon is almost the exact opposite of an actual marathon, when you think about; As opposed to covering a large distance in a short period of time, she will not move away from the couch for hours.
Because writing is now my full-time occupation, I don’t have as much time to update this blog as I used to, but I will when the oppourtunity comes up, such as now.
In my last installment we had climbed an active volcano, drank in what was at one point an illegal mezcal bar and eaten endlessly, but we weren’t done yet, not by a long shot.
Monday, December 28th, 2015
We were flying out from Antigua to Flores that evening, but still had most of the afternoon to kill so we spent it doing what we did whenever we had spare time. We ate.
We ended up back at La Cuevita de los Urquizu, the place with all of the great stews. This time I ordered a really good spicy tripe stew and then we moved on to a coffee shop where we sat with a British couple who were also animators. We had a great time chatting, but soon we had to be on our way to drop off all of the medical equipment at a storage space and make our way to the airport. On our way it occurred to us that we hadn’t paid for our drinks. We stopped off in the café again and I went in and tried to explain the situation, but the woman working spoke very little English so she got her boss. When I told him what had happened he just laughed and couldn’t understand why I had bothered coming back down. Eventually, after a little convincing he took my money and we headed to the airport.
Our flight to Flores was a small propeller plane with Avianca Airlines and, despite our flight being less than an hour, we were impressed at the way we were treated, having free entertainment and an in-flight meal, something United Airlines couldn’t do for us on a flight that was about six times as long.
When we arrived in Flores, the other thing that struck us was the weather. Although it was about a 45-minute flight from Antigua, Flores had a humid, tropical climate, completely different to what we had just left.
According to Wikipedia:
Flores Costa Cuca is a municipality in the Quetzaltenango department of Guatemala. It covers an area of 63 km² [24.3 mi²], is at an average altitude of 540 m [1,771.6′] and has a population of 14,000 people.
Okay, not an abundance of information, but it was a beautiful, lazy coastal town populated with backpackers who were there for the same reason we were; To visit ancient Mayan ruins and I’m certain I can give you some more info on the Mayans:
The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, noted for the Maya hieroglyphic script, the only known fully developed writing system of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.
Maya cities tended to expand haphazardly, and the city centre would be occupied by commercial and administrative complexes, surrounded by an irregular sprawl of residential districts. Different parts of a city would often be linked by causeways. The principal architecture of the city consisted of palaces, pyramid-temples, ceremonial ballcourts, and structures aligned for astronomical observation. The Maya elite were literate, and developed a complex system of hieroglyphic writing that was the most advanced in the pre-Columbian Americas. The Maya recorded their history and ritual knowledge in screenfold books, of which only three uncontested examples remain, the rest having been destroyed by the Spanish. There are also a great many examples of Maya text found on stelae and ceramics. The Maya developed a highly complex series of interlocking ritual calendars, and employed mathematics that included one of the earliest instances of the explicit zero in the world. As a part of their religion, the Maya practised human sacrifice.
Sounds like something we’d love to check out so we would need to get tickets, but first we’d check out our neighbourhood and grab a bite to eat.
After dinner we had to go to a backpacker’s hostel/awesome bar called Youth Hostel Los Amigos to book the tickets for the tours and it turned out to be a place we would visit for a libation every night for the rest of our stay. After picking up the tickets we went into the main bar where Anna was fixated on a guy who looked a lot like Ian Ziering, who, depending on your age group, played Steve Sanders in Beverly Hills, 90210 and Fin Shepard in the Sharknado films. Oh, and remember, his name is pronounced “Iron”.
This bar was a fun place and we had a great night each time we went.
Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
Although our legs were still a bit rubbery from climbing the volcano two days prior, we were still intent on traveling to the Maya Biosphere Reserve to check out some Mayan ruins and some local wildlife, as it turns out there are some cool animals to see there, too:
The Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya) is a nature reserve in Guatemala managed by Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP). The Maya Biosphere Reserve covers a total area of 21,602 km² [8,340.5 mi²], which is considerably larger than Yellowstone National Park.
The park is home to a large number of species of fauna including the jaguar, the puma, the ocelot, the margay, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tapirs, crocodiles, the red brocket and the white-tail deers, the harpy eagle, several hawk species, the scarlet macaw, fresh water turtles, etc. It is also rich in flora including mahogany, Ceiba, cedar, etc. The area ranges from wetlands, to low mountain ranges, and has several bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, streams and cenotes.
I mentioned last time that there is always someone in every tour group that pisses me off and this trip was no different. There was a group of stereotypical hippies, complete with their shitlocks and hackysacks, joining us on this trip and we had seen most of them in Los Amigos the previous night, wearing the exact same clothes. In fact, despite the fact that they knew they’d be doing a lot of walking and climbing ancient, stone monuments, one of the girls wasn’t even wearing shoes! There was also an exceptionally annoying, middle-aged man from Spain who had to be first for everything, took over the tour and talked over the guide despite the fact that he was vacationing, too, and kept clapping his hands loudly each time we came came close to animals, making them go away.
On the subject of animals, howler monkeys are cool, but damn, they are loud! According to Guinness Book of World Records, their vocalizations can be heard clearly for 3 mi (4.8 km) making them the loudest land animal and also, the volume of male howler monkeys is negatively correlated with the dimensions of their testes. Anyway, I managed to record one that was quite far away, but you can hear it here, complete with our Spanish friend clapping:
The audio doesn’t really do it justice, but that monkey must’ve had pretty small nuts.
When we arrived at the site it turned out that the smelly hippies weren’t on the tour, they either wanted to do things holistically or just plain couldn’t afford it. It was going to be us and a bunch of mainly older tourists and our unfunny and uncharismatic tour guide and his constant references to how the jungle sounded like Jurassic Park. Being among the youngest was a blessing in disguise, we struggled a bit considering our still-wobbly legs, but still managed to stay with the pack. We definitely weren’t last, anyway and it was a great day out:
After our trek through the ruins our legs were killing us and the next day was going to be tougher so we grabbed some dinner and then planted our asses in Los Amigos for another night.
Unfortunately, this took a lot longer to write than first anticipated as the internet is so slow, maybe a result of everyone sitting inside, trying to avoid the snow, but I’ll be back soon with the rest of our adventure in Guatemala and Honduras.
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