Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Palimpsest

from Bob Stelton

Mule Safari to El Mirador

The MexiMayan adventure began in Carmelita, Guatemala in the northern Petén rainforest. Carmelita is at the end of the road. Traveling beyond to El Mirador would involve horses, mules, and walking. Our mules carried everything including water.

Assembling horses and mules was trick in itself. The good folk of Carmelita didn’t believe we were really coming, and we were short of mules, horses, and saddles.

Our drive to Carmelita took longer than planned and we were running short of daylight.

In time the mules and horses were saddled, and we were off into the jungle. Nightfall did overtake the expedition before first camp stop as we stumbled along chicle hunters’ trails with only moonlight serving as a beacon.

Our first stop was a chicleros camp. Chicle–still collected by chicleros by their slashing sapodilla trees and collecting the latex–once was the basic ingredient in chewing gum.

An uncomfortable bareback mule ride, or a jungle hike, battling mosquitoes, cursing ticks, and questioning personal sanity can test the strength and determination of the most intrepid adventurer but a short rest and dinner prepared by trail cooks recharged all batteries and we enjoyed a wonderful night roughing it!

A few chores before breaking camp, some dishes to wash, packing fodder for the mules on the trail, and we’re off into the jungle. Next camp — El Mirador.

Then a short jungle hike from Danta and a 260-foot climb to its top for an unparalled and awesome view of the jungle complete with sightings of distant Maya centers. Miles of green surrounded the pyramid and countless Maya structures dotted the arboreal sea.

El Mirador offered a few amenities we were denied on the trail: benches and a rough table for dining as well as an aguada with a catwalk into the pond to get the traveler closer to the algae like water.

Another serving of jungle cuisine before our discovery of many shocking any looters’ pits: the priceless heritage of a culture torn into as rodents might destroy a garbage dump.

Then Carmelita and civilization, a pleasant drive through Tikal, and we’re back at Lago Petén Itza, our mule safari to El Mirador completed.

We invite you to check out the full narrated story of our travel adventure from this timeless 1990 movie posted in 2008 to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLgV_ojfvWoiDqU44Ysvh3A

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