February 24-26, 2018 - A private trip:  "Mr.Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology":  El Mirador

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Last time, 2011, at the hotel in Flores, loading supplies into the first two helicopters.
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in 2011, reaching the top of La Danta pyramid.  Plan to go there again.

No, we are not a travel agency, the name is just a joke.  We will go, with two helicopters, to "El Mirador" on February 25, 2028, with 20 friends. 

In 2011, another 20 traveled to El Mirador and thanks to careful planning, enjoyed 6 hours there and had a fabulous day.  I hope to repeat that experience and make it better this time with lessons learnt then.  In 2012, we went, with 48 people and two buses to Tak'Alik Ab'aj, where Christa Schieber named the group "Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology" after our donation paid for carbon dating tests that helped her make a big discovery.  In 2013, we went, with three helicopters and 36 people to "La Corona" and in 2015 with a chartered plane and 33 to Palenque, Yaxilan and Bonampak.  Now the MTA goes back to El Mirador.

Most of us have visited, many times, Tikal and Uaxactun, Yaxha, Copan in Honduras, Tak'alik Ab'aj and other sites, easy to reach by road, but El Mirador was a distant dream.  If you cannot afford thousands of dollars on your own helicopter, then you have to drive a dirt road to La Carmelita and from there, hike 2-3 days through mud, or ride on a mule.  I prefer my "Archaeology in luxury" and thanks to getting a group together, it now seems possible to go by air and not pay a fortune.

The cost of the trip is $1,500 per person, including a $250 donation EACH, to FARES, which funds the Mirador Basin Project

The price includes a bus from Antigua to the airport and back, the flight to Flores (5 in a helicopter, 16 on a chartered 19-seat TAG plane), two nights at the Maya Internacional hotel, two dinners with drinks (beers, sodas, waters and wine. If you want liquors, you have to pay the hotel), two breakfasts, helicopter flights to and from El Mirador, an experienced archeologist guide, all drinks and a lunch in El Mirador (with cold wter, sodas and beers), tips to various people along the way and a return to Guatemala and Antigua.  If at the end of the trip, there is any money left, we will donate it to FARES.  The last time, in 2011, there was another $50 left per person for an extra contribution to FARES.

I used the deposits you gave me in November to pay TAG a deposit to gurantee the chartered plane, the helicopters and pilots.  I also paid the hotel rooms in full. 

I now need your second 50% payment during January.  I have to pay the rest of the money to TAG and the the donation to FARES and extras like drinks, tips, buses to and from, as well as food in Flores and at El Mirador.

People going:

1.           Elizabeth Bell 
(paid 100%)
2-3.       Tomas Cernikovsky & Lorraine Duncan
(paid 100%)
4-5.       Barbara Chastain & Tom Blakey
(paid 50%)
6-7.       John Chudy & Mary Anne Anderson
(paid 100%)
8.           Marion Hatch Popenoe
(paid 50%)
9.           Sylvia Jauregui
(paid 50%)
10.         Agnes Molina
11-12.   Raul & Cindy Montenegro
(paid 100%)
13-14.   Steve & Maricela Olson
(paid 100%)
15-16.   Frank & Linda Peterson 
 (paid 100%) 
17-18.   Hilda & Sarah Rogers
(paid 100%)
19-20.   Kathy Rose & Hal Vogel
(paid 100%)
21.         Maria Streicher (paid 100%)
22.         Enrique Hernandez, Arqueologist, our guide.  See his photo at the bottom of this page.

Hotel Maya Internacional is at http://www.villasdeguatemala.com/index.php/en/maya-internacional

TAG airline
is at https://tag.com.gt/
Saturday February 24

12:30 - bus from Antigua to the airport, TAG hangar

14:30 - Helicopter and a chartered plane fly from TAG to Flores Aeropuerto Mundo Maya and Helipuerto del Hotel Maya Internacional.  The plane will carry the luggege and coolers for drinks the next day.  Shuttle transfer from the airport to hotel.

19:00  - Dinner with drinks included, water, sodas, beer, wine.  Anyone ordering liquors will have to pay the hotel directly.  Does anyone need a vegetarian option ? 

Over dinner, we will distribute lists of the 4 helicopter groups of 5 people each for the next morning's exciting trip to El Mirador.  On average, each helicopter carries 900-1,000 pounds.

Sunday February 25

- Breakfast included.  The restaurant normally opens at 07:00, but the hotel will open it early for us.

- First two groups leave the hotel's heliport for El Mirador, with coolers with cold drinks flew to El Mirador and land at 08:00. Helicopters return to the hotel about 08:30 and refuel.

08:45 - Second two groups leave for El Mirador, with sandwiches and arrive 09:15.  The helicopters will stay at the El Mirador heliport.

09:30 - 15:30 - A walking, hiking, climbing tour of El Mirador.  Dr. Richard Hansen, Director of the Mirador Basin Project, promised to provide an archaeologist as a guide.  See the map below and links to various websites about El Mirador. We will first go to the distant La Danta pyramid and then will return for lunch and structures closer to the helicopters.

Lunch:  at the amazing Structure 34.  I hope to have enough food for the guide, drivers, pilots and the security staff at the site.

15:30 - the first two groups will fly over the La Danta pyramid and return to Hotel Maya Internacional in Flores, E.T.A. 16:00.  The helicopters refuel and return to El Mirador about 16:35

16:45 - the second two groups will fly over the La Danta pyramid and return to the hotel, E.T.A. about 17:15.  Sunset at 18:06.

19:00 - Dinner with drinks included, water, sodas, beer, wine.  Anyone ordering liquors will have to pay the hotel directly.  Does anyone need a vegetarian option ? 

Monday February 26

07:00 - Breakfast  

08:00 - Shuttle transfer for 15 people to Areopuerto Mundo Maya for an 8:30 flight in our chartered Embraer plane back to Guatemala.

08:30 - Plane and helicopter return to TAG at Guatemala City airport.

10:00 - bus to Antigua.  Or UBER to Guatemala City destinations.
"Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology" made an exciting trip to La Corona in the PetÚn in 2013 ... please click on this link to see a short video of that expedition.  This will be similar, but to El Mirador.

La Corona Archaeological Expedition

July 2012: Richard Hansen's Final Report on 2011 at El Mirador.  A huge file, listing donors, showing Hansen with VIP's and celebrities at the site and in meetings, exhibitions and conferences around the planet. Please note that it takes, depending on the speed of your connection, a long time to download (10 minutes!!! lots of photos), but it makes an interesting read.  There is a section in the middle of the document that talks about actual exploration work at the site.  Please click to download the report, which will open as PDF.
... and here are some photos of our 2011 trip to El Mirador.  Hopefully, this coming trip will be better!
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Most of us made it to the top of La Danta.  We wondered why it should be called the "largest pyramid, by volume, in the world" and now we understand a bit ... it sits on a huge platform 600 x 300 meters, and once you scale that, there is another platform with more pyramids on top. 
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Talking about La Danta, here is part of the staircase system.  When you get to the top, you will see three more pyramids, the main one in the photo on the right.  Click on any photo to see a much larger image.
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This composite photo is the uppermost level of the La Danta structure.  In the back, on the right, is s staircase to the very top. Click to see a larger image.

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At the very bottom, there is a very clear sign showing you what it must have looked out and how it was built.
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The interesting thing about this, the bottom part of the top pyramid at La Danta is the "reconstruction".  The original pyramid may have been build, as a religious site, about 200 B.C.  El Mirador was soon after abandoned.  However, more construction went on and about 700-800 A.D., many big stones removed and made to support walls of many small rooms, of which you can see four here ... probably residential.  One of our party thought it was like converting a New York brownstone into apartments ... more on the the next two photos below ...
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... at another site, another "residential conversion".  The sloping hill behind shows you the condition in which the archeologists found this structure.  The plan sloping wall with dirty green stucco was the original, ceremonial pyramid, maybe 200 B.C.  However, the stone wall in the foreground was added almost 1,000 years later to turn the "ceremonial" into "residential", probably for some king's family around 700-800 A.D.  ... and see the next photo to keep up with the story ...
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Just above the area shown in the last photo, here is a residential area constructed about 700-800 A.D. on top of a ceremonial building that was built some 1,000 years earlier.  Talking about converting old buildings into "condos", seems the Maya were at it much before us.  With each photo, you can click and see a much larger image.
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The Mirador Basin Project and the site are now supported even by Guatemalan companies and here is a sign listing some.  Click to see a larger image. 
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 ... and here it is.  This is the side of one of the causeways, where in 2009 they found what they now call the "Popol Vuh Relief", made of stucco. It is amazing.  And yet a small part of the causeway was explored, and only one side.  There could be much more of this on the other side or further along.  The photo is a little dark, since it's all protected by black tarps until they can build a more permanent roof to protect it.  Larger image if you click.  Visit their website for a detailed story.
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Around the archeologists' camp and the old heliport, which was abandoned once it was discovered it was in the center of a post-classic acropolis, a fairly "new structure", there were dozens of ocellated turkeys.  We used to see many at Tikal some years ago, but not now.  Here there were many.
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More ocellated turkeys (not "oscillated") ... see Wikipedia
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Out of the heliport, en route to El Mirador, we flew over the island city of Flores, with the old Spanish cathedral on top of its' small hill.  Click to see a bigger image.
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Enrique Hernandez was our excellent guide through the site, here showing details of an old stella, always ready to answer all our questions about El Mirador, the Maya or any other sites.  He has worked here 7 years.

Map credit to www.mapasdeguatemala.com

From the Heliport, we first explored the archeologists' camp and then went all the way to La Danta.  Richard Hansen suggested that we do that early, while we are still fresh and it turned out to be an excellent idea.  The staircases constructed to get you to the top are long, but sturdy and excellent. We went on a fairly cool day, overcast in the morning, but by lunch, the sun was up and it was getting warm and we were glad that after lunch we explored the areas closer to the helicopters, a Maya royal palace, the newly discovered "Popol Vuh relief" stucco and the "royal bath" on the side of one of the causeways.  By the time people were tired, we were close to our choppers.

El Mirador:  If you plan to go, please study these links before you go, to have an advance idea of what to expect:

Click here to learn more about the Mirador Basin Project
This page is a combination of our photos and a description of the component parts of our trip to El Mirador:

Mirador Basin Project, ran by Dr. Richard Hansen, FARES, the organization that raises money for it, and the helicopter company, the airline and the hotel in Flores.  We are not, in any way, connected with them, and this is not an advertising page.  You can try and get to El Mirador some other way, but it is extremely inaccessible.  Unlike at Tikal, where you would be one of several hundred visitors on a given day, here at El Mirador, during our last visit, other than our guide, the pilots and security staff, we were the only people at the gigantic site. 

To  contact the author, Tomas Cernikovsky, write to:  cernikovsky@hotmail.com