Discovering hidden Mayan temples in Guatemala
We had spent the previous day exploring the wonders of Tikal with our guide. Without us noticing, he cleverly steered us away from other visitors so that we could view this ancient Mayan city from different standpoints and hear the history behind its incredible ruins.
The vastness is breathtaking, as were the heights we climbed to. However, a particular highlight of our trip was experienced the following day, when we went to some much smaller and lesser-known temples buried deep in the rainforest and only partly excavated for people to see. We drove through a small village and got out of the car on the edge of a lane, where our guide led us into the undergrowth. There was no one else around, just us, on what felt like a real adventure. We trampled over leaves and found our way through the trees.
After only a few minutes, we saw that we had company, as we spotted three little boys from the local village springing alongside us, keen to join in.
As we walked and talked, and our guide pointed out birds in the trees and plants underfoot, the boys would dash off in separate directions, then return with treasures from the woods. Each, in turn, would hand what they had foraged to our guide, their small faces looking up at us, waiting for him to explain what they had brought to show us. It was charming, lots of fun but most of all very interesting.
We only had to walk a short while deeper into the forest, before we were wowed by huge Mayan temples jutting out like boulders between the trees. While some were partly excavated, others were still covered by grass. We truly felt as if we were some of the first to see these remnants of a bygone age. They towered high above the treetops.
The boys continued to play in the forest around us, swinging from branches and often charging ahead, clambering two by two up the uneven and broken steps to reach the top.
We followed carefully but their energy was rubbing off and we felt we had to keep up. Our guide was never far behind us, continually putting the temples into context and explaining what we were standing on. The morning continued in this vein until we said goodbye to our three woodland friends.
Coming back into the village, we visited a local lady’s home. She housed the most extraordinary collection of Mayan pots.
In Guatemala, those who find artefacts are able to keep them. This lady had been collecting pottery found in the woods nearby for years.
Since the age of five, she had been picking up broken pieces, along with large pots, and taken them home. Her display was impressive, and we spent some time admiring her findings and hearing about their origins.
Samantha, my travelling companion, had mentioned in passing to our guide that she enjoyed riding. As we enjoyed a fresh papaya juice on the terrace, we suddenly spotted that the three boys were back again. This time, they were accompanied by a horse, tacked up and ready to go. “This is for you!” he said. We looked puzzled. “This is for you to ride.”
Still surprised, giddy and giggling, she mounted the horse, and off she went, trotting into the distance, while the children danced around her and we followed behind chatting as the sun set. It was such a special afternoon, one we will not forget.
We place great importance on our hand-picked guides and matching them to our clients, as there is no doubt that this makes or breaks the trip. This is a huge part of what a cazenove+loyd holiday is all about – spending time with experts who take initiative, don’t stick to the script but show you their country and its people in the best way possible.
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