I realized within the first 5 minutes of walking to El Mirador that having a jungle guide was indispensable. Rain changes everything quickly because so much of the El Peten jungle is swamp land. Reroutes and detours are common place. The wrong trail could could mean walking in water up to your thighs along with other life forms. This is why we had a jungle guide. His name was MiguelCaal.
All Hail theTicks
The ticks are gun metal gray and small. It can take a couple of days for them to dig in,suck and engorge and given the opportunity they stand out nicely against a Caucasian background. Quiet and motionless they seem to have individual preferences about where they choose to settle down. In this regard they are not so different from humans. Some seem to prefer the wide open spaces and others opt for more privacy and seclusion even if it means heat,humidity and occasional sunlight.
In the Guatemalan jungle it is inevitable that the body will join up with at least a few ticks after covering 100 miles in 7 days. It is a swampy jungle and the going is tough. Sometimes bush whacking through ankle deep mud, stumbling and trying not to grab onto trees with a thousand tiny skin piercing spines, grasses that cut and slice, or touch the sap of the toxic Che Cheng Negro tree. That is the hard part. But when it is all said and done and after a couple of days of rest, the ticks (and the rashes and blisters), clinging to the body are the most tangible reminders of a brief blast of brain altering visual splenders, orchids, butterflies, birds, never before heard sounds and air so pure Al Gore would wet his pants.
There are people who might be disgusted or choose to focus on the parasitic quality of this tick/human relationship. The ticks fulfill their main goal in life, getting the blood, and in the end they even have a quick, straight forward euthanasia. All gain, no give. That is undoubtably parasitic.
But there are those that see give and take in this bond. These little critters are the kind of thing that stop ninety nine point nine percent of people from putting their big toe in these waters. And that means, about 40 miles beyond the last lazy speck of a town, where the road goes no farther, after a couple of days of walking, one can climb a 2,500 year old sacred Mayan pyramid, so far above the jungle canopy you feel airborne, visited by a few dozen brilliant butterflies, turn 360 degrees and take in nothing, absolutely nothing, but jungle, jungle, and more jungle for as far as the eye can see.
All hail the ticks!