Today, after class, I got to go on a guided tour of the Mayan ruins known as Yaxha (pronounced Yash-ha) with Deiter, the owner of Dos Mundos school who is also an archeologist, and 5 other Spanish students or travelers. Yaxha is most famous for its role in Survivor Guatemala. Today, we saw no one else there except some friends of Deiter's. It was amazing!
Several people on my bus ride to Flores recommended Yasha and told me I really must go there if I could, so I was really happy to find out the school offered this activity. Since Deiter has worked at the site, he gave us a terrific tour with behind the scenes knowledge and access. I saw spider monkeys jumping through the trees for the first time ever. We heard the eerie high volume howler monkeys. Deiter swore profusely when ants attacked his foot while he was standing trying to take a picture. The number of bird calls could not be counted. And those were our animal encounters. Mostly, we did a lot of stair climbing. Up and down one temple and then another. This site is older than its more famous counterpart, Tikal. And the location couldn’t be more beautiful than near a long river/lake in the jungle. The pyramids are often intentionally set in groups of 3 or 7, often 2 or 5 smaller ones flanking 2 taller ones. Deiter explained that the sacred roads were cleared of trees during Mayan occupancy to help keep the canal water clean. The roads sloped slightly to one side to allow water to collect and flow. The noble people lived in the tallest pyramids of stone, which still stand to some extent. All the servants lived in adobe-type houses, which can only be imagined. Old pillers of pictures stand, but the actual images are only recreations now. The one we saw depicted a king with a huge pile of hair atop his head filled with animals, birds, serpants and plants. He held a septor. A dwarf stood at his feet. There are two main big pyramid structures in Yaxha, and like in other mayan sites, they were built with intricate planning and knowledge of the sun. At the shortest and longest days of the year, the sun rays from the set and rise fall directly on the steps leading to the entrance.
We concluded our tour with our own spectacular sunset view from the largest pyramid overlooking the jungle in all directions and the lake toward the west. We talked on top with a toast of Guatemalan rum, which Deiter brought and shared. Can I say, I’ve found one of the coolest schools to study at?