I want to go! I’ve been to Chichen Itza and it was beautiful and powerful, but Tikal is twice as big and far less overrun with tourists. Sigh – I’ll have to add it to my growing list along with Dominica and Cuba.
IN Tikal, the ancient Mayan city in northern Guatemala, dawn is not seen — it is heard. First, a roar. Then a responding roar, then another and another — not from jaguars, but from howler monkeys, proclaiming their territory. A squeaking counterpoint begins: the raccoonlike coatimundi greeting one another as they forage for food. Finally the birds join in, toucans clicking their long bills and parrots shrieking, the prima donna first violins bringing the symphony to a climax.
I am listening from a narrow stone ledge, sitting with a clutch of windbreaker-clad tourists. We rode to this spot in the jungle by pickup truck, standing in the bed as it bumped along in the darkness, and then shuffled out and climbed seemingly endless flights of rickety wooden steps to the top of an ancient stone structure, Temple IV.
Now, in the dim light of early morning, a green sea of leaves stretches out before us, fog banks float about like dinghies, and only the resident leviathans, Temples I and III, dare to lift their stony heads above the horizon. Slowly, the city below the canopy begins to take shape, the hidden concert hall of moss-covered stone that has echoed this same jungle symphony every morning for more than a thousand years.