This past weekend was our free weekend. We had the whole weekend instead of just Sunday off. 7 of the group decided to go to the Keys for the weekend. I figure I can go to the beach anytime so I, along with 5 others, opted to go to Guatemala and to visit Tikal. Tikal is the largest Maya site in Central America. It's only about 4 hours from where we are staying.
We saddle up bright and early Saturday morning and set off. Crossing the border was uneventful. Some people in the group were overly excited about getting their passport stamped. I was more interested in the soldiers with the guns the size of my leg. Different priorities I guess.
Tikal is HUGE. It covers over 200 square miles of temples, plazas, and alters. It was a hell of a hike - glad I was one of the smart ones and wore sneakers. We were able to climb three of the temples, the others were too steep. One of the ones we climbed we litterally climb a set of stairs so steep it might as well have been a ladder 150 feet up. The view was worth it. Completely and totally. I was fine going up, no sweat - hell, I could have run up the ladder. Going down was a different story. I went down face first - I was a little shakey when I got to the bottom to say the least. When we got over to the main plaza we were lucky enough to get to watch two Maya Shaman performing a blessing ritual for a man. It's a little like paying the church for a blessing - the idea is in the same vein.
It started to rain, the tourists bolted. My crew climbed a small temple and waited out the storm in one of the Mayan vaults - that was kind of cool. The rain abated so we made a run for it. Bad choice. It started to pour. Thankfully, the tree canopy is so thick we only got a little wet.
We left Tikal and headed out to our hotel on an island called Isla de Flores. It's a tiny Spanish island in the center of a huge lake. At the desk we're told our rooms have AC. We scoff - AC means a small ratty fan. We know the drill.....By God, it's a real AC unit. I cranked the AC down as low as it would go (60F), turned the fan on as high as it would go and slept under a quilt. I have never been so happy to be chilly. The next morning we were going to go shopping in the market!
I have never been more alarmed and amused by the open air market that we went to. I had fresh skinned chickens shoved in my face. I had a lady offer me a dead fish to hold so I could test the weight. I watched a man kill a chicken for a customer. Mind. Blown. The open air market was a little too much of a culture shock for a couple of the people in our group so we wound up going back to Isla de Flores and shopping at the tiny market there. I guess dying chickens can be a little traumatizing.....pansies.
My final tidbit for today. I'm chilling in a bar the other night and this guy comes up to me and wraps an arm around my shoulder and leans in close- no need for alarm, a couple of the guys from our group were near by. He asks me if I know about the 4 men that every woman needs. I shake my head and ask him what they are. He replies - and I quote: "Every woman needs four men in her life. A white man, a Spanish man, a Chinese man, and a black man. The Spanish man to build the house, the white man to pay the bills, the Chinese man to cook and the black man to 'lay the pipe'." - Well I have never laughed so hard in my entire life. I ask him what the Belizean men are for and he winks and says "we're the special treat you get for being a good girl". I love this country.