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Sunday, May 19, 2013

A GLIMPSE OF GUATEMALA BEFORE BLASTING THROUGH BELIZE


Our first thought is to blast straight through Guatemala so that we can cross into Belize as soon as possible. But, after looking into our paperwork, we discover that if we arrive at Belize’s border after Saturday afternoon we will not be able to pass through, as we have to buy insurance & they close up shop for the weekend. Of course this is all maybes, but we don’t want to be stuck at the border & it is now Thursday night. So after consulting maps & books we decide to spend time exploring the eastern side of Guatemala.

It is hot & humid so we drive (the air conditioning in the cab is great) on to the main road. The surroundings are dry & hilly, the roads excellent. Once on the main road there are lots of trucks. By dusk we reach Rio Dulce – a scruffy town right beside a huge river & lake area. We stop for the night in the carpark beside Castillo de San Felipe. We have decided to catch the tourist boat from Rio Dulce to Livingstone - a small town on the Caribbean coast. There is no road.

It proves to be an amazing trip. First we head towards the lake past 100’s of yachts (Rio Dulce is a popular haven for yachters’ as it is safe from hurricanes) & on to the Fort where we camped. Then on towards the Caribbean via a huge inlet, lots of thatched villages, a hot pool (where we take a dip) & then a canyon. Then a few hours to explore town & sample the local food before heading back to GR2.We decide to get a bit further that night, eventually pulling over at a petrol station. My goodness what a noisy night – not trucks going past, but I think everyone from the town came to chat, very loudly!

We head off early. Our destination is the Mayan site of Tikal. We want to get there early before it gets too hot, but we can’t resist detouring to the peninsula town of Flores set in Lago Petén Itza. Finally we reach our destination.  Tikal is up on a hill surrounded by thick lush jungle, making it hot work. But it is pretty amazing. The pyramids are huge….and they go on endlessly. Three hot hours later we call it quits & return to GR2 for lunch. We head back to Lago Petén Itza & camp near the village of El Remate on public land. We can swim here, while the local ladies wash their clothes. There is a large tent here as well. It is for the army guys working on this part of the road. We will be well guarded!

It is Monday morning, so we head to the border. Again nice & easy. All done in less than an hour - including insurance. Hello Belize. They speak English here.

Because it is so hot we only stop at San Ignacio long enough to visit an ATM. The town is full of character with lots of old wooden buildings. We have been following a gorgeous turquoise river & the jungle is lush & green. We do not stop at any of the many Mayan sites. The road surface has been so so, but once we turn off onto the Hummingbird Highway it is great. The scenery is lovely with lots of jungle & 1000’s of orange trees. All the oranges are heading to the juicing factory & then overseas. We stop for a swim in a lovely cenote/sink hole. It is aptly named The Blue Hole. Then we stop for some Mennonite icecream before heading down a long narrow peninsula to Placienta. On one side is the Caribbean & on the other a huge inlet. Heaps of magic camp spots by the water. There are also lots of expensive houses! Another US retirement area.

We camp right on the wharf as we want to catch a trip over to the Great Barrier Reef (the second biggest in the world). At 9am we are off, with only another couple for company. What a magic day. We go out to Silk caye on the reef & snorkel off the beach. Later after lunch we snorkel off the boat with Loggerhead turtles, sharks & stingrays – an amazing experience. (Oh how I wish I hadn’t forgotten to bring Johns underwater camera) After a very wet ride back we have enough time to head back along the peninsula & up the coast to the Garifuna village of Hopkins. We camp right on the beach.

We are now heading north, but have a few stops planned. The first is Belize Zoo which is supposed to be a must see. It is laid out beautifully & there are lots of animals & birds, & also lots of kids on school trips! Then on to explore Belize City. We follow a walking tour of the scruffy old town, have a local lunch before heading north along the waterfront, finally finding the flasher part of Belize.

We stop for the night right beside New River ready for our boat trip tomorrow to Lamanai (yes another Maya site) A great trip it is too. A lovely 2 hours stopping to look at bird life, another hour touring the ruins & then a quick ride back. While we are at Orange Walk John gets a grease & oil change & tyres changed around. I use the Tyre Shops Wifi.

Our last night in Belize is spent camped right beside Four Mile Lagoon. The next morning a very quick exit from Belize….but Mexico is another story. The huge new border facility has been open 3 days. The power is down. When the power is back on it only takes 30 minutes. We drive through an x-ray machine & we are in! Hola Mexico!!!

 

 

 

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