Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Swinging Time in Guatemala

Alice and I went to Tikal for a few days, and enjoyed our tour of the Mayan ruins. We stayed at a very nice hotel in the National Park. It had a very nice swimming pool, and I still have a small cut on my forehead where I banged my head against the wall when a horrible sound woke me from dead-tired sleep in the middle of the night. When I found our flashlight, and stopped the bleeding, I went out to investigate.

In and around the swimming pool were several small frogs; their bodies were only about two inches long. I could not believe the crashing, ear-drum smashing sounds they were producing. I kicked a couple into the water, thinking it might scare the rest to shut up. It didn't.

I put ear plugs in, to little avail. Then suddenly, they stopped. Deafening silence.

For awhile I couldn't go back to sleep. I couldn't stop listening for them to start again.

Our second day we took a short trip to the edge of the park to slide suspended from cables through the rainforest canopy for a total of over two kilometers. The adventure sounds very ecologically and environmentally proper: communing with the rainforest canopy, and its canopy dwelling creatures.

Actually, it is primarily an adolescent thrill ride, but this realization didn't put Alice and I off this adventure for even a moment. We were rigged into our harnesses, clambered up stairs and ladders to a platform high in a tree, and soon found ourselves gliding rapidly under the forest canopy, suspended from a wheel running on a cable. Our gloved right hand rested on the cable behind us to keep us from spinning, and when we got near our destination platform, we used it to press down on the cable to slow us down.

On our first slide, Alice pressed a bit too much a bit too soon, and stopped short of the platform, but one of our young guides quickly pulled her in. On the other hand, I had to press down very hard and slow myself quickly because I came in very fast. Alice was certain that my much greater weight gave me much higher speed.

At any rate, we continued through the rainforest in hundreds of meters increments, climbing from each destination platform to the next lauching platform high above.

We tried to squeeze some ecological and educational tidbits from our experience, but the only time we noticed Nature above and around us was during the periods on the platforms. Once we launched, we focused on getting to the next destination platform smoothly and safely.

One of our guides, Felix, borrowed our camera and took photos of us sliding along, plus a couple shots of some howler monkeys that were probably amused watching us.

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