“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”
– David Attenborough
Following Flores we travelled down to ‘Lago Izabel’ in the South East of Guatemala. Our base camp was a fantastic hotel on a tiny Island in the ‘Rio Dulce’ called hotel Catamaran. The Island was so small that I decided to swim around it in the evening! We took a trip down the river to Livingston, a town on the miniature Caribbean sea coast of Guatemala.
The number of Cormorants and white herons on the boat trip down the river was outstanding. I have never seen so many Cormorants in my life! One particularly strange phenomenon was the aptly named ‘Bird Island’ where hundreds of the black and white feathered creatures gathered together to nest.
As we drew closer to the coast the Pelicans began to gradually increase in number until they too become ridiculously abundant!
At one point there was a large number of them sitting on a pier facing towards us creating the hilarious appearance of some sort of military assembly.
However we only stayed for one night in this peaceful location, moving swiftly onto lively Antigua, the previous capital city. It’s a beautiful old classicaly colonial town filled with local cafés, artisan markets and first class coffee (So I’m told, not being a coffee drinker myself!)
The city is currently swarming with an influx of tourists, locally from Guatemala and further afield, gathering for the ‘Semana Santa’ celebrations in the build up to Easter. This evening was a (slightly premature perhaps, Good Friday being a week away) procession of the stages of Christ’s crucifixion. The small floats were held by children dressed in their Lent-time purple cloaks.
Leaving Belize at the crack of dawn, we made our way into Guatamala and headed straight for the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. Yet another fascinating anthropological and historical site.
There seems to be no end to the incredible information. Our guide was explaining to us how they can tell the social ranking of a Mayan’s remains through their skeleton: The most obvious sign would be the shape of the skull. Artificial cranial deformation was used frequently. The parents would bind their child’s head between two pieces of wood where it would stay for around six months. The process would usually begin when the infant was around one month old and would result in an elongated skull, not affecting the growth of the brain itself. Similarly, they would hang a bead of wax or gum in-between the child’s eyes in order to generate a permanent ‘cross-eyed’ appearance which was deemed attractive. Noses were also broken to create a more ‘hooked’ shape and teeth were implanted with Jade and other precious stones. Particularly amongst the royals.
The site of Tikal constituted a large number of temples and grand structures that would have formed the centre of the city. A random bit of trivia: The area was also apparently used In the filming of ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’! The climb up to the top of one of the tallest temples was, however, by no means an easy feat!! It seemed significantly hotter as if we had reached such height that the sun was closer to us! You can understand why they felt ‘closer to the gods’.
The ruins are hidden amidst the dense rainforest, in which Howler and Spider monkeys are screeching as they swing around the tree tops, greatly adding to the atmosphere! We also were not too far behind a local jaguar as we found it’s faeces and an area it had clearly been sleeping in, along with the fresh smell of the beast marking it’s territory! Very exciting but also rather tantalising as we are unlikely to get a glimpse of the great cat itself.
Here’s a frustratingly unfocused shot of one of the spider monkeys.
We’re now staying on a little Island on a Lake in the town of Flores. Although we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing lake and the many opportunities that the piers into the lake present, we don’t have too long to loiter as we’re off again tomorrow to Southern Guatemala and the Rio Dulce!