Earth's Yavin IV

Nov 09, 2014

Waking up to be on a cramped mini bus at 4:30am is not something I like doing. By that I mean it sucks to be ushered onto a glorified short bus while still bleary eyed from only having been awake for 15 minutes. Handed a sack lunch consisting of a turkey sandwich (you’d get better food in prison) and a bottle of water, thrown into an undersized seat next to an old Guatemalan woman for an hour-long trip into the jungle.


Having already experienced Mayan ruins in Tulum, my interest, especially as I was essentially still asleep, was not at an all time high. The Tulum ruins were an ok way to spend an afternoon, but they were nothing special. Please allow me to say it now: Tikal is not Tulum. Tikal makes the burden of being up before the sun, having a mystery meat sandwich for breakfast, being cranky from lack of sleep and having sore knees from the minibus ‘leg room’ all most definitely worth it.


Once on our tour and in the park, we went up a small (for Tikal) temple to get the lay of the land and listen to the howler monkeys in the distance. From the top of that temple you can see some stone structures poking out of the tree line: two of the five numbered temples as part of the Mayan city. Working your way towards that main square you pass other small buildings and lots of jungle covered mounds. Mounds that remind me of the glacially formed hills of home (Mendon Ponds Park specifically). But they are not from glacial movement. They are other Mayan buildings that have yet to be uncovered. Ones that may never be uncovered. Buildings the jungle reclaimed completely.


Each of the buildings had a function. Many were all built with specific calendar dates in mind. For example some may be positioned in such a way the sun of the Spring solstice would rise directly above the pyramid signifying a growing season beginning. Another positioned so the sunset on the third week of October would disappear perfectly behind it letting the population know of the coming rainy season.


As interesting as these buildings were, they were nothing compared to the main temples. The temples everyone visits Tikal for. The numbered temples, two of which dominate the main square. 

Tikal was noted as the New York City of the Mayan empire because of its massive skyscraper-style temples. Temples I and II in the main square make the comparison to Manhattan very obvious. The temples are on opposite sides of a courtyard and are each 50 meters high and easily the most impressive ruins I have ever seen in person. They are awe-inspiring.


Even cooler than the temples themselves is the fact you can stand at the top of one, speak in a normal voice (what I would call your ‘indoor’ voice) and people in the middle of the courtyard below can hear you as clear as day. The acoustics used by the Mayans to achieve that effect is incredible.


The tallest building in Tikal is Temple IV. Temple IV is still mostly covered in jungle growth. Only the top third of it is clear of growth. You can and should climb the stairs to the top and enjoy the view. Being 70 meters high, looking across the Guatemalan jungle, seeing legit stone high-rises jutting out of the green landscape is a fairly unreal experience.


Above the grandeur and splendor of the UNESCO World Heritage site itself, Tikal was used as the inspiration of the Rebel base on Yavvin IV, and having been there in person made my well known Star Wars self geek out pretty hardcore.


So even though Tikal is not in a galaxy far far away, it is from a long time ago and is without a doubt the crowning jewel of the excellent Flores area.


Category: Places

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