Missing in the jungle
Anthony gave us a taste of his life with his festival diaries and now he's back, giving us an insight into his adventures around the world as he heads off for 18 months of travelling.
Anthony embarks on a trek through the Guatemalan jungle, but things don't exactly go to plan when two members of his party go missing.
A drop of warm rain ricocheted its way through the complex of tree leaves leaving us staring skyward. A few seconds later a second drop came and then a third. Finally, the tropical downpour began battering our tree shelter. "We can start the search again at first light," the drained guide informed us whilst looking into the immense jungle. Six days earlier our group of seven set off on a trek through the Guatemalan jungle, but only five returned.
Seven Kilometers south of the Mexican border, buried deep under the relentless Peten rainforest, lies the ancient Mayan city of El Mirador. No road access into the Mirador Basin means a 140km round-trip hike is required to reach it. The region is home to pumas, snakes, monkeys and the largest preserve of jaguars in Central America.
'The gringo trail' is the main route through Central America that tourists take to explore the area. The effects of these popular trails are the same the world over: increased convenience for travellers coupled with high prices, jaded locals, and the feeling of being herded around like cattle with a dollar sign branded on your backside. In an attempt to escape I arranged a group for the six day trek. Starting at Carmelita, an end of the road village that guards the muddy gates of the jungle, our group of seven included two Americans, three Israelis and my friend Mark from Whistler.
On the first day our guide emerged from his house with a tired looking brown bag. In it was an assortment of green and black rubber boots, "For the swamps and snakes," the guide insisted. September is the rainiest month of the rainy season and our high-tech footwear probably wouldn't cut it.
"The potent smell of damp earth engulfed us and constricted the already tight walls. The smell, mingled with the half uncovered hieroglyphs, wrapped us into the excavation's ancient world and created an atmosphere of mythic adventure."
By day three we had made it to the ruins of Nakbe. Two and a half millennia ago it would have been a hive of activity. In its place now stands a city of lush rain-forest, its leafy hands hiding the temples behind a green wall. With the Archaeologists on leave for the month we were encouraged to offer the guards a small amount of money to persuade them to show us more of the city. It was money well spent and they removed the locks on one temple's tunnels, believed to have been a place of healing for the young. As we entered the tunnel, the potent smell of damp earth engulfed us and constricted the already tight walls. The smell, mingled with the half uncovered hieroglyphs, wrapped us into the excavation's ancient world and created an atmosphere of mythic adventure.
Three more wonderful days followed as we explored the ruins and began to feel at home in the isolation of the rainforest. Enchanting bird songs and howling monkeys became the familiar backdrop while we ate our meals on fallen trees or temples, fighting mosquitoes in a never-ending battle.
We arrived back in Carmelita on day six, but not everyone had returned. One of the guides had walked off following an argument with another guide and the group had become separated. Two of the Israeli girls had carelessly wandered off trail and become hopelessly lost without supplies or equipment. Teams of locals searched before the evening light faded completely, but to no avail. The following 24 hours were harder than any of the trek as we tried to work out how we had become so complacent. Following frantic phone calls to the Israeli embassy and the local emergency services the army was brought in for a rescue search. The girls were found the following evening safe and sound.
That night the seven of us recounted the adventures we had in the jungle. We wished we were sitting back on top of Nakbe's temple, towering above the canopy and watching the dark sky, instead of thinking about bus schedules, hostels and free pancake breakfasts.