Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another Country

Saturday

Immediately after crossing the Belize border, we crossed through a fumigation garage, after which we were hailed to stop and pay for it. We were expecting Q18, but it was Q38 for us. Then, we had to walk over and get our paperwork filled out. The people stuff was easy, but the car import was troublesome as they wanted copies of the documents. We had copies of everything but the license (we had copies of those, but they were cut and taped to look just like a license and he wouldn’t take that). He sent us next door to get a copy, but the machine was broke and the other place was closed. Someone offered to take us to take us into town to get a copy (for a fee), but if we did that (fee+any more border crossings), we may not have enough money to get to the next ATM. So, we decided to go back to the customs agent and explain. He then took our stuff and made his own copies in the office there. Yay!  Lesson learned: we need to have copies of all of our documents to hand over to the officials at the border crossings.

After that, it was pretty much routine. We crossed the border and there was a bridge toll collection booth. They asked for Q50, we asked for a receipt, and she gave us 3 sheets of paper with prices on them, saying  we add them up to the Q50. I am pretty sure we got ripped off.

Then we were off, well until we saw a Texaco gas station with a “Cajero” sign. In Spanish, “cajero automático” means ATM, so I thought that might be one. We had heard there weren’t any ATMs until Santa Elena so we were surprised. It was, and I got money, at a decent exchange rate. Hallelujah! Then we were off to Tikal. Surprisingly, the Guatemalan main roads were pretty good, better than the Belizean main roads. We had heard Guatemala’s roads weren’t so hot.
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Belize
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But now that we had money, I was tempted by the possibility of going to Yaxhá, Guatemalan’s 3rd largest Mayan site. Its Q80 entry fee pays for 3 sites: Yaxhá, Topoxté (an island ruin) and Nakúm (a sacred site). I was filled with exciting dreams of adventures—kayaking to the island ruin, visiting and camping at Nakúm, etc. Turns out that you can’t kayak in the water and the tour to the island costs Q200pp. And, you apparently can’t drive the 17 miles to Nakúm in our van, or so they told us, not enough clearance. Yaxhá was nice enough, though.
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After our grueling hike through 97°F heat, we decided we would travel onto Tikal so we could get a head start in the morning. Tikal is a Mayan ruin in a Guatemalan National Park, so you are expected to drive 45km/hr (20 mph) down this nice highway. As a reminder, they would put up animal crossing signs. They had jaguar, turkey, coatí, and snake.
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We camped at Jaguar Inn that night.

Sunday

Getting started early, we avoided most of the crowds and most of the heat in Tikal. On our walks through the ruins, we got to see the oscillated turkey, spider monkeys, coatí, a keel-billed toucan and agouti (some type of Central American rodent).

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We did climb the highest pyramid there, which is 210 feet. However, they are still restoring it, so the top part was off-limits. We probably didn’t get as high as in Calakmul.
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You know, I have a theory about Mayans. I believe the reason they built such tall places was to take advantage of the breeze you can get up there. The humidity, heat, and stillness of the jungle floor is eased a bit by the breeze above the canopy. If I were a person in power with minions to my beck-and-call, I might have them build 200-ft pyramids just for that reason.
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After a good lunch of Chicken Pepian at Jaguar Inn, we decided to head south to Finca Ixobel near Poptún to stay the night.
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 Strawberry Licuado- basically a smoothie

DSC03771 We were sitting under a red umbrella

With Jonathan running out of shirts again and no prospects of finding a washer and dryer in the near future, we spent the rest of the day doing laundry by hand.

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