Next stop Flores, Guatemala and the ruins of Tikal!!!
Flores Travel Blog› entry 45 of 80 › view all entries
Flores is small village (population 2000) in the northern jungle region of Guatemala called El Peten. Flores itself is on an island in the middle of Lake Peten Itza It is connected to the mainland by a small 500 meter causeway. Santa Elena is the larger village (population 25,000) on the other side of the causeway, on the mainland. Flores is partly residential and partly touristic. There are several hotels and restuarants, many on the water or with lake views. It's a pretty little village, and small enough that you can walk every street within an hour. Santa Elena is more of the locals village, much larger and more commercial.
Flores is nice, though everything is geared toward the tourist industry. Lots of travel agencies, hotels, and non-typico restaurants and perhaps for the first time on this trip, the cost is actually lower than what our guide book lists. The ruins are called Tikal and were roughly 70km away from Flores. This is a massive ruin, in total the size of the city at its hayday was 16 sq km and was supposed to have roughly 100,000 people living there. The park was gigantic and it would take 15 to 20 min to walk from one temple to another. I found this tour guide and hired him for Q300, which worked out to Q75 each because another few joined us later. He did a great job really enjoyed what he did and gave us a 5hr tour of the site.
They had architecture, a form of religion, farming, mathematics and also engineering. Nearly all (if not all) of the Mayan buildings are perfectly aligned with the 4 cardinal points of the compass (obviously accomplished without a compass as well!). More than that, they aligned buildings to track the course of the sun over the year marking the sun's location at each equinox and using these positions to predict the rainy season etc and make appropriate provisions - These builings served as their calenders. We were standing in between 2 temples and the tour guide clapped his hands, we heard the clap and then this sort of chirping/laser sound. He also clapped in other locations but, the echo and the chirp would only happen if you stood at certain points, all acoustically engineered, pretty neat.
The Mayans at around 900 AD abondened all there buildings and city-states, no one was left and also no skeltal remains, so what happened. Our tour guide mentioned that since Tikal was basically the capital Mayan city it was a stone metropolis, no trees at all (they were used for fuel and the city was all paved). At this same point in earths history, Europe was going throgh a mini ice age. The area around Tikal got hotter to balance the earth's system with the ice age, but the increase in heat and the lack of trees to help with the water cycle meant that the city and area entered a drought.
The other reason for the Mayans abandoning their cities was that they had all these huge temples, that served no real purpose except for ceremonial purposes that only happened every 20 or so years (1 Mayan cycle), not a lot of houses at the site. Another thing we learned was that the Mayan had no beasts of burden (horses, oxen, cows) to pull all the limestone from the quarries, they also did not invent the wheel/axel for moving the blocks. It was all done by hand, pretty nuts if you ask me, I wouldn't want to break my hump for some ceremonial temple I only use every 20 years. Tikal was one of the first cities to fall then the other ones followed suit shortly after.