When I was 20, I went to Guatemala with my best friend to explore Mayan ruins. We visited Tikal, the largest ruined city of that civilization, deep in the rainforest in the northeast of the country. At that time in my life I travelled lightly with little baggage and no preconceptions.

It was a monumental hike through miles of sweltering jungle to reach the city complex. A single day at this incredible place did not seem enough, so we thought it would be fun to stay overnight in the forest and sleep on top of one of the huge temples. We brought an extra flask of water, and maybe a head torch, but I think that was all.

At closing time, rather than leaving the park with all the other visitors, we hid quietly amongst the trees and waited until the warden had passed us on his check. Then we shared a vial of guarana and honey, and clambered silently up one of the less-visited temples. It was an intense climb up a crumbling precipitous staircase and over gnarled vines, with my heart in my mouth and adrenalin coursing through my body.

When we got to the top of the temple the sun was setting over the rainforest. The sky was huge and our eyes had to adjust after a day amongst the trees. We were high above the forest canopy looking down on treetops. I felt like a god. As the twilight deepened, the howler monkeys began to sing. Their cried conversations swirled below us, mingling with those of the toucans and the roar of a lonely jaguar.

We smoked Mexican grass and ate tiny crumbled biscuits from the bottoms of our pockets. We looked and listened for hours. The stars came out. It was glorious, wild, primitive. My dreams as I slept up on that platform were intense.

I give thanks for that adventure.


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