Carretera Al Salvador
El Mirador Reviews
Trek To Ancient El Mirador Mar 21, 2009
In the northern Peten region of Guatemala, one of the largest Mayan cities was discovered in the late 1960s. It is larger than Tikal but sees a fraction of the tourists. The biggest obstacle to the tourist track is the fact that to get there one must either take a helicopter or walk through sub tropical jungle for two days. I chose the latter (and cheaper) option. The site is also still under excavation. Don't expect to see another Tikal, much of the ruins are still covered in trees. However seeing archeologists at work and being able to talk to them about the excavation is a good trade off.
The trek starts out in the little town of Carmelita. I had made my arrangements in Flores and found an excellent guide. (If you'd like his number please pm me). Umberto and his family fed our group breakfast then loaded the mule train. The mules would carry everything except what we needed on the hike. The first day's hike took us (in my estimation) close to ten miles into the jungle to the first Mayan city. The archeologist's site boasted a picnic table and a cooking hearth. Pottery excavated from the site were displayed on wooden shelves and tarps hung around to shed the evening rain. We climbed to the top of the city temple to push trough the canopy of trees and stood above a vast ocean of undulating greenery. Far off in the distance we saw tiny triangles that were our destination: El Mirador.
The next day's hike was close to 17 miles. The terrain is fairly level but during the rainy season the mud can be intense. We made decent time but were tired when we came to the large complex in the early evening. Dinner tasted especially good and we were in for a treat. Our guide "arranged" for us to see inside one of the temples. This would only happen after nightfall as long as we didn't make any noise or shine our lights; this was strictly black ops. We crawled around in the archeologists' tunnels and found ourselves face to face with an ancient Mayan statue still boasting some of it's original paint. Breathtaking.
We opted to do the six day loop, so after a day of exploring El Mirador, instead of retracing our steps we made an arc and intercepted the small site of Nakbe. I liked the atmosphere of this site, smaller than El Mirador with more structures exposed. It's not currently being excavated so it has a more mysterious and more abandoned air to it.
The next day hike was our longest. If it wasn't over 20 miles it certainly came close. We came to the tidy camp of the Florido site and collapsed in the hammocks. After dinner we quickly made our way to our tents and slept soundly.
Our last day brought us through an easy 6 or 7 miles back to Carmelita where we caught a shuttle back to Flores.
**Things I was glad I had: Good hiking shoes, good bug spray, long pants (lightwieght), long sleaves, small backpack, hydration pack, bandanna, duct tape. I wish I'd have brought some additional trail food and especially sugary powder drinks for the water when you need a little boost.
**It would have been good to rent an extra mule. Not only would it have been fun to ride once and a while, but over half our group hobbled out with injuries (blisters and sprains).
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