On September 17th 1975, I was at Tikal, the Mayan site in northern Guatemala.
I took a minibus from the overnight stop in Flores, picturesquely set on a lake, through clearings and open hills at first, and then through the thick jungle of the Peten. Tikal was an obvious tourist spot and rightly so and the trick was to get away by myself while still getting to see the main sights. I wrote in my notebook while I was there:
This is the first time of walking in the real jungle, where the vegetation is green and dense. It reminds me only of Mudumalai (in Southern India) in general aspect, but the vegetation I've only seen closely in the tropical house at Kew, and with more distance on the run from Bachajon to Agua Azul. Sitting now by myself at the Temple of the Inscriptions - everything more atmospheric without outsiders. Stood at the top among the bees looking over the jungle, saw a toucan with a huge yellow bill, then Phil called and we looked at some tombs on a side path. Now there's just the midday silence and a little breeze, some big clouds around and only insects to see. Earliest was best as we saw the first little temples, the very decayed Complejo P and the stupendous Temple IV, where you could see for miles, the highest Pre-Columbian structure. Good animals, spider monkeys in the trees, the screams of the howler monkeys, a black squirrel, a little thing like a tapir (coatimundi), and a cat or giant weasel on the road before. Some grey black "trogon" birds with red pouchy throats and wide tails, a fine eagle, a pair of dark woodpeckers with red head and yellow stripes on back.
On the way back there was a strange incident. I had to change minibuses at a crossroads and was waiting with my friend Phil and a number of foreigners for our connecting bus. An American girl screamed that she had been bitten by a snake and was lying in shock and agony on the ground by the road. Phil was a doctor and put his lips to the wound, calmed her down and dressed her leg. She travelled back in the bus still in considerable distress. Later Phil told me that although he had sucked the wound and there was a small incision, he could see no sign that she had been bitten by a snake. He was from Texas and knew about snakebite and he was 100% sure.
|View from from Temple IV, Picture by Jorge CC|