When we reached
We joined a group touring the ruins. Tikal is layer upon layer of temple pyramids. The Mayans just kept building on top of former temples. I had a strange feeling as we viewed nine stellae dedicated to the nine underground gods. As we followed our guide we saw that Tikal was once a huge metropolis with broad causeways and squares designed for pageantry on a grand scale.
The square with its great temples on each side is filled with sounds of flocks of parrots, monkeys, toucans and the voices of the Montezuma oro pendula birds. Their woven nests are like an oriole's and their bell like voices echo off the temple walls. The big beautiful birds, lemon yellow and rust, nest in groups around the ruins each year. The temples face north, east and west but never south. Strutting around the temples are wild turkeys that make a deep drumming noise to show off.
As we walked through Tikal, we saw temples that had been excavated and others that were still overgrown with jungle trees, vines and soil. The jungle is filled with trees cultivated by the Maya; kapok, balsa, cork, rubber trees, nut trees, allspice tree used for embalming. Chocolate was considered sacred. Spider monkeys and howler monkeys drop debris down at us from the tree tops.
We wondered at the limestone pyramids carved with masks, the ball courts where life and death games were played, aqueducts, market place, and coliseum. We visited the museum that contains a burial, a tall skeleton surrounded with shells, food jars, jade balls, jade anklets, necklaces. It is the burial found in a pyramid.
Tikal means the voice of the spirits. In the main square, the acoustics are astounding. What spirits are here? We saw carved bones in the museum, a jaguar with a human face, a serpent with a face emerging from a dragonish serpent's mouth. By day we walked carefully through jungle paths following our guide. Poisonous snakes, the fer de lance and coral snakes are found here. We were careful not to step on army ants marching in formation on the jungle floor. We had no guide at night but we decided to walk through the jungle to see the temples in the light of a full moon. The fragrance of night blooming flowers filled the air and a musky smell-was it a jaguar or a fox? Something was near. Maybe the mythical jaguar man. Then through an opening in the jungle, we saw the glorious sight of Tikal's temples splashed with the clear light of a huge moon--the place of spirit voices. We heard them all around us.
by Barbara Spring
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