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el mirador

In the morning, I cook breakfast, break camp and walk less than a hundred metres before emerging from the trees into a clearing surrounded by a variety of more or less ramshackle structures dotted around a rough football pitch. I survey the scene to identify the building emitting smoke and then make my way towards it. I call out a greeting and a man emerges from the adjacent building. If he is nonplussed by my appearance out of the jungle at seven o’clock in the morning he gives no visible sign of it and it is not until he has provided me with a cup of coffee that he asks me any questions.

When I have finished my coffee and, in my turn, begin to question him about the ruins he tells me that an archaeologist is on site and offers to take me to meet him. We walk to a second set of buildings hidden behind trees where a number of people are sitting around over the remains of a lavish looking breakfast. Dr Richard Hansen, the archeologist, however, is not in evidence and I learn that he and his party were up late the previous night on top of one of the pyramids in the hope of observing a meteor shower. I wait for a while but the morning starts to drift by, and I am a little unsure of my welcome, and so eventually I wander off to check out the site.

Unlike the more popular and accessible Mayan sites I have visited most of the structures at El Mirador are totally overgrown and some might be barely discernible to an untrained eye if it weren’t for the mostly hand written signs indicating there presence. La Danta, the largest of El Mirador’s pyramids, is about half an hours walk away and I climb the rough stairs up the steep sided tree covered mound to admire the view over the jungle.

The view from La Danta, over the jungle canopy, towards Mexico and Calakmul which is only about 50 kilometres away.

The top of La Danta, the largest pyramid at El Mirador, provides a shady pleasant platform from which to view the world. Raised tree covered mounds, both near and far, indicate the other structures of El Mirador as well as those of more distant sites.

Some sort of survery marker on top of La Danta at El Mirador.

I walk back through the jungle while howler monkey roar and moan from the canopy far more engrossed by the natural surroundings than the ancient ruins.

Howler monkeys are said to be the loudest of land animals and take a bit of getting used to.

Magic...

...jungle...

...life.

However, while peering into the canopy with my binoculars to admire the birds – trogons, kites, creepers, are amongst many of the feathered creatures I catch a glimpse of – I hear the sound of approaching vehicles and soon a couple of golf buggies round a corner bearing the archeologist and his party. They draw to halt and after Dr Hansen finishes scolding me for venturing into the wilderness, alone and unguided, I ask if I can tag along on his tour.

Dr Richard Hanson is an archeologist who has been working at El Mirador since the 70s. He points out here details on a carved rock panel...

... that boasts what is perhaps the earliest example of Mayan writing discovered.

My unexpected encounter with Dr Hansen means I get a rare opportunity to see inside of one the pyramids, home of this multi-coloured dark-loving gecko and the odd rat. The rock walls are studded with ancient fragments of pottery and a host of other tantalising traces of ancient Mayan life.

The Temple of the Jaguar is the only structure that has been fully excavated at El Mirador.

Most are simply tree covered mounds that reveal little to the untrained eye.

Dr Hansen and the group go about their business and I return to my more aimless wanderings in the forest before returning to camp to have a much needed wash at the lagoon. I pass by the kitchen and the men invite me in to share their beans and tortillas with them.

The lagoon at the El Mirador encampment provides water for most camp needs.

As the sun drops towards the horizon, I take my sleeping bag and sleeping mat and climb to the top of El Tigre the second largest structure at El Mirador. Clumsy, squawking birds are jostling noisily for the best perches in the tree tops below the pyramid.

I watch the sun set over the jungle and the stars come out one by one. A boat shaped moon is sailing directly overhead and I fall asleep under the illuminated sky. Each time I wake during the night I gaze up at Orion, Sirius, Taurus, and the Pleiades playing out their eternal drama of slow motion pursuit across the heavens. The meteor shower may have been the night before but there is no shortage of shooting stars to add a little extra dynamism to the show.

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