In our last episode, Sassmaster had just had lunch and a swim. We lounged around the dock for a while in the sun, and Chantal told me about settling in El Remate after backpacking around for a while in her youth. She was powerfully attracted to the pace of life in Guatemala and told me that even when she was quite young, she thought life in Holland was too complicated. She remembers thinking, "Just show me how to grow my own food." Such amazing self-knowledge! In El Remate, she worked on a sort-of economic development project -- a hotel and restaurant where the buildings were being made with a traditional limestone stucco spread over a wood and stone frame. The project also served as a training ground, teaching people the building method to be used elsewhere.
After our swim, Mario joined us, and Lou drove us to Tikal National Park. Lou is powerfully diverted by birds, and so it can be a little disconcerting driving with him. Case in point, he pulled up sharply so we could see some Montezuma Oropendola:
They estimate that there are 14,000 structures belonging to the site. Makes you want to bust out a shovel. But some go unexcavated, not because they lack the resources (though that is an issue) but because they don't think new digs would add significantly to their scholarship; there are a lot of similarities between the way the different areas are built and laid out. Also, they figure the jungle has preserved the ruins quite well so far, so they may be best off where they are. I climbed a couple of them:
For all you May Day fans, this tree is called a ceiba. It was sacred to the Mayans. See if this story sounds familiar: One creation myth has it that the tree was carried on the back of a turtle across water -- the tree of life. It is a "world tree"-- the axis of earth and sky. The roots lie in the underworld and the top reaches to the heavens. (For the non-May Day initiated, this story is at the heart of the ceremony that Heart of the Beast theater puts on in Powderhorn Park in May.)
Next: All this, and we haven't even started canoeing!