As you know, I love to see archeological sites and especially anything connected with pyramids!  I have seen Kufu's Pyramid in Egypt, pyramids in the Yucatan (Chichen Itza), pyramids outside of Mexico City (Pyramid of the Sun and Moon), ruins near Cusco in Peru (Machu Picchu) and so on.   I have always wanted to see Tikal, the highest pyramids of the Mayan in the Western Hemisphere, so on the spur of the moment, I went to my travel agent on Monday, August 25, 2003, and said, I want to take a quick 12 day trip to see the volcanoes in Guatemala and the ruins at Tikal!   This is the same travel agent that made up a great trip for me in 1999 when I went on the ship from Chile to Argentina through the Magellan straits and then on to Easter Island.  So here I am, ready for another adventure in travels!  See the map for an overview of Guatemala and its surroundings and click on statistics for a history of the country.

You can read about my adventures and check out each link in the following dissertation or ..............

Space.

You can click on this link ~ Guatemala Photos ~ and view the photos taken on my travels in Guatemala! Space.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003: I checked in at American Airlines in the new San Francisco International Terminal, ready to fly to Dallas/Fort Worth  and then transfer to an other American Airlines flight to Guatemala City.  After arriving in Guatemala City, I was transferred to Antigua and the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel.   The hotel is suppose to be one of the best five star hotels in the country.  This is a picture of one of the fountains by the lobby and a picture of my bedroom, complete with a sitting area and French doors to a private patio.

Thursday, September 04, 2003: This morning was an early transfer (seven AM), to Chichicastenango over mountains 10,000 feet tall to meet with a group to visit the market in Chichi.  It took three hours and I arrived about ten AM.  I was told Clark Tours had all ready left and would be back at 11:30.  What to do, I went across the road to a garden and saw two people and a guide talking. I told them I missed a tour group, they laughed and introduced themselves as being with my tour group!   Kaye and Bob had decided to hire a private guide and go around the market by themselves and very nicely asked me to go along!  So a nice way to meet some of the tour members.  Here is a shot of the group and where they are from!  We spent the rest of the morning checking out the market in Chichi before boarding our bus to continue on to Quetzaltenango!  This was one of the many churches we saw along the way and then we stopped to eat at a restaurant called Pocholos!  We finally arrived at the Hotel Pension Bonifaz where we found a nice dining room.  Kaye and I decided to go to the bar and have a few glasses of wine and we saw Ricardo and his family hustling off to see the sights.  We found out that Mr. Lanuza and Elsa were born in Guatemala and were married there.  They went to California for their honeymoon and decided to stay in California.  He first worked in this building at a newspaper over 45 years ago before moving to Fremont!  The building is still here and so is the house he was born in!  He worked for 17 years at the Oakland Tribune and now is thinking about retiring from the San Francisco Chronicle after 23 years where he is working in the engraving department!  Now an interesting story about our guide Carlos and some of the fun we had along the way!

Friday, September 05, 2003: Today we visited the market in Tondos Santos Cuchumanatan, the hot springs at Turicentro, "Los Georginas" and then continued on to Lake Atitlan, and the Hotel Atitlan.  The Zunil market is a vegetable market and not only feeds Guatemala but ships produce to Honduras, Mexico, and other countries.  They produce fantastic cabbages, carrots, and also some types of flowers which the natives carry on their heads!  Along the way we saw farming on the steep hillsides with families cultivating the bountiful corn and vegetables.  Of course we had the obligatory church again in a small village we visited before we began the climb to the top of a mountain to soak in the hot springs of Los Georginas!  The waters are contained in a pool by a grotto filled with ferns and plants.   The steep cliffs along the way were covered with greenery and a heavy mist promoting exceptional growth!  After a refreshing soak in the sulfur waters of Los Georginas, we continued our trip to Lake Attilan, viewing the fantastic views of the many volcanoes from the tour bus.

Saturday , September 06, 2003: I have to admit this was one of my favorite places in Guatemala.  Hildegard and Bernard and I stayed here at the Hotel Atitlan and we all agreed it was fantastic!  We arrived here Friday evening and I had to walk all over the grounds as there are acres of flowers and plants cascading from the veranda of the hotel down to Lake Atitlan and the fantastic volcanoes surrounding the lake.  There were many birds, Macaws, parrots, and so on.  We had drinks in the bar and talked until after 11 PM and then to bed for our early morning breakfast and a trip across the lake.  Here I am on the terrace just before boarding our boat!  Once we got to the village of Santiago Atitlan which was on the other side of the lake, we saw native boats carved from a single piece of a log!  We of course saw all the numerous items for sale all over but..... our guide took us to a side street where we saw a mixture of Catholic and Maya religious affectations in this small room.  The men were celebrating tobacco and liquor and they had bowls of branches burning and smoking up the place!  One could hardly breath!  In the center was a wooden idol and it had a cigarette in it's mouth!  One man would put an ash tray under the cigarette and knock off the ash so it wouldn't hit the floor!  Bizarre! I just saw a television show on the Maya on History Viewpoint and this idol is still used by the Guatemalans when they celebrate Christ's death.  This idol and the tree of life is still in use after almost 2,000 years!  So after a hard day of climbing rocky roads, viewing a pagan ritual, and shopping, it was good to get on the boat again (Hildegard and Carmen were having fun!), to cross the lake and then onto the bus to go to Antigua and the Hotel Antigua where I would stay for an extra day to rest up before going to Tikal!  Note: Carmen announced that she thought my laugh sounded like Humphrey Bogart!  (This is a panoramic view of Lake Atitlan and one of the huge volcanoes.  There is another volcano on the other side of the lake, making for a fantastic view!)

Sunday , September 07, 2003:  We left early again to visit the 'Water' and the 'Fire' volcanoes and the villages around them.  The one volcano is called water due to the time the crater filled with rain water and the side slipped causing horrible flooding.  We stopped at a church which was built in 1537!  This is only a little over 40 years since Columbus landed in the Bahamas!  We then went to a market where the women weave the fantastic fabrics on a hand loom!  One mother's little girl of about four was holding her younger sister on her back.  No wonder they have a short life span.  We saw an ice cream wagon outside the church and then drove back to Antigua and the main square where we saw men in costumes dancing and young girls doing skits of religious themes.  We saw a young man selling cotton candy and by then we were ready to go to lunch at the Hotel Antigua where I was staying!  It was sad as I was staying here for another night and would have a free day before going to Tikal on Tuesday, Kaye was going to Tikal on Monday, Bob and his parents off to El Salvador and Hildegard, Bernard and Carmen off to Honduras to see Copan!  So our group was splitting up but we all exchanged addresses, I gave everyone my web site address so we shall see if anyone contacts me!

Monday , September 08, 2003: Well after the last few days I needed to relax before flying to Flores and Tikal.  So I walked around the grounds with the pool and the volcanoes in the background, ate fantastic meals along with a good wine, and then a nap, a swim in the pool, more eats and time for bed!  One thing I had to laugh about, obviously someone has a lot of time on their hands as can be seen by the toilet paper and this design was also used on the box of tissues! 

Tuesday , September 09, 2003: A 4:30 AM transfer to the airport and a flight on Tikal International Airlines to Flores and then a transfer to Tikal and a tour of the site along with lunch. Then to the Jungle Lodge next to the site for a two night stay at Tikal.  My guide picked me up at the airport and there was one other person on the tour, a woman lawyer from Montana!  So off we went to the Jungle Lodge, my bungalow and into the Mayan Biosphere Reserve for a day of trekking through the jungle and climbing temples!

The Tikal National Park lies in the northern lowland of El Peten and its tropical rainforest, one of the lungs of our planet.  There are several protected areas in Peten, one of them is the Mayan Biosphere Reserve with over one million hectares of subtropical rainforest.  Today, natives still call it "El Mundo Maya" the world of the Maya.  The development of Mayan culture covers three periods, Pre-classic, Classic and Post-classic


The National Park: The park covers 222 square miles among the thick tropical jungle of El Peten.  It was created in 1958, UNESCO declared the park a "Monument of the World".  It is regarded as one of the most important cultural and natural reserves in the world.  The most important plazas and temples in Tikal National Park are: 


* The Great Plaza:  The most spectacular structure in Tikal is the plaza surrounded by stele and sculpted altars, ceremonial buildings, residential palaces, and a ball court.


*  Temple of the Great Jaguar  (Temple
I):  This temple is located on the eastern side of the great plaza, it is more than 150 feet in height.  The temple was erected in 700  CE.   Note: This is a panoramic view of the Temple of the Great Jaguar and the grounds - fantastic greens from the trees, moss, and other growths!

*  Temple II:   This temple stands in the western end of the great plaza and rises to a height of 120 feet.  It was constructed in 700 CE.   


* Temple of Double Headed Serpent  (Temple IV):    This temple, at 121 feet, is the highest standing structure in Tikal.  It was built around 470 CE by Yaxkin Caan Chac.   Note:  This is a picture of me on the top of the temple at noon!  (This is a panoramic view of the rain forest and the ruins during a sunrise from Temple IV at 7:00 AM!)


* Temple V
:   This temple was constructed around 750 CE and is located south of the Great Plaza.  This temple is close to 190 feet high.

Wednesday , September 10, 2003: Today is a free day in Tikal and another over night at the Jungle Lodge!  I did the early morning hike at 5:30 AM and walked to Temple IV to watch the sun rise in the mist.  This picture taken from the top of Temple IV at around seven AM as we watched the sun come up over the misty rain forest!  Howler monkeys yelled out their territorial threats which echoed across the rain forest.  Toucans flew overhead and Black Vultures!  Many animals were up and about, Ocellated Turkeys, a rodent animal called an aguti, gray foxes, spider monkeys and coatimundi, a raccoon like animal.   

Thursday , September 11, 2003: Another morning at the Jungle Lodge and time to go for one last look at the ruins of Tikal.  Then a 2:30 PM transfer to the airport for a flight to Guatemala City, arriving at 4:30 and a transfer with the hotel shuttle to the hotel Viva Clarion Suites, close to the airport.  This allows me a chance to catch up on some well deserved rest before boarding my next days flight to San Francisco!

Friday, September 12, 2003: Today I boarded a shuttle to the airport and my American Airlines flight to Miami and on to San Francisco!  All in all a fantastic vacation.  I have taken over 350 photos but only put some of the most interesting ones on this site.  My travel agent is Americas Travel at 348 Hayes Street, San Francisco CA 94102 - Toni Moore can be reached at toni@americastravel.net or www.americastravel.net.  The agent in Guatemala City is Gerlinde and can be reached at guatours@quatours.com



Return to the World Travels of Charles Walter Buntjer


  Charles Walter Buntjer


San Francisco California
Created on: 2003.09.24   


Updated on: 2015.03.25