- A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
From Star Wars, Episode IV: "A New Hope"
This was Tikal, Guatemala.
A minibus picked us up on schedule (surprise!) at the hotel for the ride to the local airport to meet the rest of the day's tour group. Several had flown from Guat City just for the visit to Tikal. All told there were about a dozen of us plus our guide. She was a cute Guatemalan woman with pretty good english skills, although she referred to the skeletal remains as "skeletors." "Skeletor was here?" I asked Mick. SKELETOR was a character he loved when he was a little boy. From Masters of the Universe.
Tikal is set among lush, surrounding jungle. The tops of several temples protrude above the canopy to provide a remarkable setting. The brief Star Wars shot seen above was of the planet "Yavin IV", from which the attack on the first Death Star was launched.
(See how much you learn on this blog?)
We did the usual tourist things, clambering among the ruins, taking as many photos as possible and cracking wise.
Tikal was mysteriously abindoned long before the Spanish arrived, around AD 950. One of our fellow tourists asked me, in all seriousness, if I had heard the "theory" that UFOs had come to take the Mayans away. Haven't heard that one, but then I don't do all that much crack anymore.
Finally we climbed atop Temple IV, the famous Star Wars money shot. It was a stunner.
Even more stunning was the rain we could see approaching from beyond the temple peaks. Several folks climbed back down the steep ladder-like steps to the base. About a dozen, Mick and me among them, remained up top.
As the rain cloud came ever nearer Temple IV we realized it was going to be a soaker, our second in as many days. But, the photo opportunity was too good to resist. So we stood our ground and snapped photos like papparazzi.
There was a small recessed area on top surrounded by scaffolding used for reconstruction. Everyone crowded into the recess, hoping to avoid getting drenched. It didn't work. But, the temperature was warm, the group was in good spirits and the view was unmatched. At one point, one of our group, Eedrick (sic), a British chap working for the United Nations (He had been in Guatemala for two weeks working on a joint UN-US-Central American nations peace-keeping exercise. Venezuela wasn't invited, which helps explain why Hugo Chavez thinks the US is going to invade. Again, I digress...) pulled an umbrella from his backpack to protect his only set of dry clothes. It was a futile gesture, but I said "What a perfectly British thing to do. All you need is a bowler and you'd be complete!" He got a kick out of it and it got Mick to laughing. So it was a win for me.
God Save the Queen!
The rain poured heavily. At one point we couldn't even see the temples. There was a clap of thunder and we suddenly realized we were standing at the highest point in the area, in puddles of water up to our ankles, holding onto steel scaffolding for support. They say God watches over mad dogs and Englishmen. So Eedrick and the rest of us morons were OK.
Eventually the rain slackened. Soon one of our number who had climbed down before the storm hit reappeared to announce the group was waiting for us. Turns out they had spent the entire time miserably huddled in mud under a tree. Too bad. They missed quite a show.
After a late lunch (Pollo of course. To be fair they offered beef too, but most took the chicken.) we buzzed back to Flores. The afternoon was spent trying to dry out our stuff (AGAIN!)and exploring the village. We booked two tickets for the next morning on Maria Elena bus lines to Chiquimula, near the Honduran border ($20 a pop). The ticket seller, whom the San Juan Tour office person called in off the street, said a Tuk-tuk would pick us up at our hotel at 5:40AM for the 6 AM bus. It seemed too easy, but later the desk clerk at the hotel told me that was how it worked. I tell ya, travel in developing countries is WAY more interesting than in the First World.