It was just before 5.30pm., the jungle floor is alive with activity. Ants are ferrying sticks and leaves across the path. I’m jogging through the Tikal jungle, desperately trying to catch the sunset from atop of one of the temples, yet trying even harder to avoid crushing the ants.
The light was fading; the thick dark jungle seemed to be closing in. We ran without knowing the way, sweat soon stung my eyes. The temperature was a hot and humid 30°C, even at dusk. In the distance thunder rumbled, May in Tikal is prime thunderstorm weather.
The capital of the Mayan Civilisation is much changed from the 4th Century BC. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1979, Tikal justifiably earns it’s reputation as one of the best preserved Mayan sites. But Tikal is also renowned for its biodiversity. Because the Mayan site was designated as an archaeological site in the 1950s, it has been able to protect the flora and fauna longer than any other site in Guatemala.
Jogging through the ruins of a world heritage site you begin to the see Tikal and the jungle differently. Guards and tour guides point instinctively the direction we need to go, they know we are after the sunset. What is it about a sunrise or a sunset which makes people jog through a jungle in plus 30°C temperatures?
There is a magical realism about the place, almost as if Gabriel Garcia Marquez himself was responsible for the way the temples rise mystically out of the jungle.
The jungle canopy is thick, trapping in the darkness, only a few rays of sunlight manage to pierce the Tikal ceiling. That is until you reach one of the squares, the jungle gives way to open space and towering temples.
Jogging into the square, we stop. Hands on my knees, breathing hard, sweat dripping off my forehead. To my right is Temple I, also known as the Temple of the Giant Jaguar, to my left, Temple II. Straight ahead is the North Acropolis – a huge complex of steps, walkways and hidden temples.
We found the stairway, a crude wooden structure attached to the side of Temple II. Climbing, slowly, one foot gingerly placed in front of the other, the effects of the jog now taking hold.
The wooden stairs give way to a platform which leads out onto the top of Temple II. The sun is setting behind us, it’s rays lighting up Temple I.
Have you been to Tikal and seen an epic sunset or sunrise? Let me know in the comments below. Also be sure to check out my Tikal Sunrise piece.
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