The Mayan ruins of Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The Mayan ruins of Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Have you ever eaten a marshmallow melted by a volcano? Well, I have. Let me tell you how this happened.

I’m eleven years old and I just took my first trip overseas to Guatemala. I was very excited about taking the trip, especially after I got my passport. I went with my father and my grandmother. Years ago, my grandmother worked in Guatemala while in the Peace Corps. She wanted to show us around the country.

We landed in Guatemala and then took a small plane to Tikal. Both my dad and I were excited to see the Mayan ruins. Before I left, I had watched YouTube videos of the pyramids and ruins at Tikal.

When we finally got there, the jungle was lush and beautiful. There were many parrots and other colorful birds.

Tikal is amazing because there are so many pyramids. It was much more impressive to see them in person than in a picture or video. Many of them are unexcavated and one was in the process of being excavated. We were shown Mayan governmental buildings. During the time of the Maya, the Temple of the Jaguar was painted bright red. Our guide told us that Mayan villagers kept the Mayan ruins a secret for years.

The author in front of the Temple of the Jaguar. Long way up!

The tallest pyramid is 70 meters high. It was a long climb to the top, but it was definitely worth it. After reaching the top, I looked out across the jungle.

It was an amazing view of green as far as the eye could see. There was silence except for the sounds of howler monkeys in the distance. Their cries reminded me of the sounds of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies. One of the monkeys threw a branch down and hit some guy in the head!

After leaving Tikal, we explored Lake Atitlan. It is big, blue and beautiful (but also polluted). Three huge volcanoes ring the lake and puffy clouds hang low in the sky. As I looked to the top of the volcanoes, I could see steam rising.

My dad and I climbed up one of them. It was very desolate, and I could feel heat from the ground. My dad and I were alone except for one stray dog. We stopped and roasted marshmallows over the steamy volcanoes.

Later, we saw a Mayan ceremony in Antigua. I was amazed at how colorful their clothing was. We also visited some very colorful cemeteries. The market there had huge bags of corn and flutes for sale. The food in Guatemala was good, especially the plantains.

Finally, we visited Rio Hondo, the little town where my grandma lived while in the Peace Corps. It is not a safe place now. The roads are poor, and there are gangs in the area. I saw many kids doing chores there to help support their families. But they also get to have fun.

I went to a fair with some of the kids in Rio Hondo. They did not speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish, so we communicated with hand gestures. We still had a great time. The rides at the fair were fun, but they were also dangerous. Half the rides were operated by hand and there were no safety straps.

Overall, the trip was great. I would recommend visiting Guatemala, especially if you are interested in the Mayan culture. Be careful of the centipedes, though. I saw a huge one in the bathroom in the middle of the night – that was creepy!

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Derek Ray Jan. 11, 2013 @ 2:40 p.m.

Nice story, Max. Sounds like quite an adventure!


Javajoe25 Jan. 11, 2013 @ 11:17 p.m.

Excellent travel story. Sounds like you come from a long line of world travelers, Max. Be sure to keep up the family tradition and don't forget to keep a journal.

What I like most about your writing is how you describe what the world looks like through a young set of eyes. Marshmallows and centipedes...only an eleven-year old traveler would put those two together in the same story. I look forward to seeing more of your writing.


eliz12 Jan. 12, 2013 @ 4:19 p.m.

Fantastic article Max! So descriptive and informative. I can't wait to hear about your next adventure.


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