Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our Trip to Tikal

One of the high points of our vacation to Belize was a day trip across the border into Guatemala to visit Tikal National Park, site of the largest excavated ancient city in the Americas.  Tikal was a Mayan city, and as we spend more time in Belize, we are coming to appreciate just how large and sophisticated the Maya culture was at its peak.  Tikal was a large city, supported by a network of man made reservoirs and complex agriculture and water management.  In fact, the fall of Tikal coincides with a sustained drought.  Tikal and another Maya city at Caracol in Belize both likely had populations over 100K around 500AD.  

To get to Tikal, we had to cross from Belize into Guatemala.  Belize is a very small country with a population of about 280K.  Guatemala is much larger, with a population of about 14M.  This is one of the major border crossings between the two countries, and in fact an industrial free trade zone is being constructed on the Belize side of the border.   With a professional driver who makes this crossing daily, no luggage and as obvious tourists, this crossing took an hour.  There was a line of at least 20 semi-trailers on the Guatemala side waiting to get into Belize, and our driver said it can take them a day to cross.  We all now have Guatemala stamps in our passports, and also know that the VIN number for the type of Toyota van we were driving is located under the passenger seat (our driver and the Guatemalan authorities spent about 10 minutes searching for it).   I also got a chance to try and explain to the kids the concept of an anti-personnel shot gun, which some of the Guatemalan guards carried.

No comments: