Temple 1 at Tikal in the Petén Region of Guatemala
I had always wanted to visit Tikal. In the 1980s, when I visited Yucatán several times, I wanted to swing south through Belize to the ruinsat Tikal. Unfortunately, a murderous religious madman named Efraín Ríos Montt was in charge at the time; and the State Department was recommending that American tourists stay well away from the massacres and disappearances that were plaguing Guatemala at the time.
Tikal is huge, 575 square kilometers (222 square miles) in area. It almost defined the Classic Period of Mayan archeology, from approximately 200 AD to 800 AD at its height. The area in which it is located is a monkey jungle, pure and simple. With my hared of mosquitoes, I am thinking of spending three nights in nearby El Remate, where the hotels have electricity 24 hours a day, and not just sometimes. If there is air conditioning, or at the very least a functioning ceiling fan, one can escape being bitten to death and coming home with Zika or Malaria or Dengue, to name just a few baddies.
The Shores of Lago de Petén at El Remate
Although Guatemala is not a large country by North American standards, the road from Guatemala City to El Remate takes twelve hours or more on good roads. One has to go all the way to the Atlantic Coast before cutting north. There is a little matter of some high mountains preventing a direct route. If I took the mountain route, it would take at least twenty hours and several buses. I am actually thinking of flying from Guatemala City to Flores, which is within a few miles of El Remate. (I could stay in Flores, for that matter, but if I wanted to spend two days at the ruins, I want to be a bit closer to Tikal.)
There are sunrise and sunset tours at Tikal, but I don’t want to lose sleep just so I can gamble on a perfect sunrise or sunset. I’m willing to take pot luck.
Caribbean Cruise Ship
Since I am something of what Spiro T. Agnew called a “nattering nabob of negativity,” I thought of concentrating on travel activities that I would avoid like the plague:
- Speaking of the plague, going on a large cruise ship ranks right up there. I don’t know which is worse, catching Legionnaires’ Disease or equivalent rot when cooped up with several thousand upscale vacationers, or pretending to be friends with said vacationers when I have zilch in common with them.
- Ziplining or bicycling, not recommended for someone with an artificial hip or panhypopituitarism.
- Staying at a luxury hotel or resort and spending hundreds of dollars a night for a bed and a lot of snooty attitude.
- Skiing because of its demogaphic profile, high costs, and high potential rate of injury. (Okay, so I’m a wuss. Is that OK?)
- Traveling in the jungle, as I am mosquito-phobic. I’ve got to this age without contracting any tropical diseases, and I want to keep it that way.
- I don’t make friends with other American tourists: I travel to interact with the natives of the country I am visiting. If you see me on my travels, don’t talk to me in English, because I will answer you in Hungarian. The only exception: I belong to The English Group of Buenos Aires (TEGOBA) and enjoy attending their Friday meetings.
- Visiting wineries, as I am diabetic, and alcohol turns to sugar in the body. Besides, I don’t even like wine.
Within these boundaries, I manage to have a great time when I travel. My next travel post will emphasize the things I love about travel.
Having a Beer in Puerto Iguazu
When I went to Iguazu Falls last month, it was the first time I had ever been in what I call a “monkey jungle.” There isn’t much jungle in Argentina, but the northeasterly states of Corrientes and Misiones readily qualify. Many of the trees have been cleared to make room for the Yerba Mate crop, of which most is consumed within Argentina itself (and sometimes in the United States by strange people like me).
Although I had Yerba Mate even for breakfast in the jungle—in the form of teabags, usually referred to as mate cocido—the drink which kept me going during the day was ice cold beer. In the above picture, I am enjoying a Quilmes, which is as popular down there as the various Anheuser-Busch productoids are here. You can see the edge of the pool at the Posada la Sorgente on Avenida Córdoba in Puerto Iguazu. In the late afternoon, I enjoyed having a cool one by the outdoor bar while reading my Kindle.
My overwhelming impression of the selva was that it was hot and humid, especially as it was getting ready to unleash a Biblical thunderstorm on the evening of the day the above picture was taken.
Bananas on the Bar at Posada la Sorgente
Here is another view of the bar, which had a handy basket of home-grown bananas at its edge.
I don’t know if I will ever find myself in the jungle again. For the Iguazu Falls, though, it was worth it. My greatest fear going there was the possibility of getting bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes. Not too far north, in Brazil, the Zika fever (carried by the same Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry malaria, dengue, and chikungunya) is so prevalent that residents of the State of Pernambuco and surrounding areas are being urged to avoid getting pregnant. The danger? The children are in danger of being born with microcephaly.
Fortunately, not only was I not bitten: I did not even see any mosquitoes.
Orchid in L.A. Arboretum Greenhouse
In various posts I have made to this blog, I have expressed some distaste about visiting the tropics. In November, I will make a two-day exception by visiting Iguazu Falls at the junction of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Since I share with Martine an abhorrence of mosquitoes and the diseases they pass on to humans, I will wear insect repellent and avoid going out at dusk, when they are most active. I shall also ask my physician—who herself has visited the falls—whether I should also take chloroquine, which I could buy over the counter in Buenos Aires.
My curiosity has been piqued by all the great waterfalls I saw In iceland, especially at Dynjandi and Gullfoss, in 2013. For someone living in an extreme drought zone like California, the thought of all that water is intriguing.
I shall take an overnight bus from Retiro bus station in B.A. to Puerto Iguazu and fly back to B.A. after two days.
Despite my reluctance to pick up some tropical disease, I will probably take one or two of the jungle trails around the falls (just not at dusk) to see all the rich plant and animal life. Tourists at the falls are assailed by troops of coatimundi (see below). They are cute little buggers, but extremely voracious and aggressive.
Cute But Dangerous
After my broken shoulder, all I need are some nasty coatimundi bites, possibly rabid.