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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for Transportation

Desert my A#$*!

This is us in the desert:

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As you can see, it got a little wet (as did the inside of the van - thank goodness we had thermarests as back up for the soggy mattress). This was on our way to King’s Canyon - a 300km detour from the Big Rock. Before we got to canyon we had to stop off for fuel and were lucky enough to spot a sign telling us the road to the canyon was closed for the time being due to floods. As we settled into our free layby for the evening, a group of forlorn looking Germans pushed their car into the layby to join us - they had braved 40 cm of water in their vehicle and it wasn’t doing too well.

The next morning we woke up to see yet another car being pushed into the layby - fast becoming a car graveyard - these people wanted us to try and jump start their car, but it didn’t work - they had also attempted to drive through too much water.

With some more recent local knowledge we decided to risk the journey which went just fine. We climbed up to the canyon rim and managed a glimpse of the magnificent vista just as the rain started pouring and a thunderstorm surrounded us. We hastily retreated before the road became flooded again and were just in time as the ranger was closing the road as we left.

Strangely onour way back down the road, we saw one of the dead cars being towed towards the canyon, rather than civilisation - not sure why!

Here’s our one piccy of the Canyon anyway, think it was worth the wet hike to the top of the rim…?!kc_1.JPG

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Why is everyone staring at us?

We observed that whenever we drove into a populated car park people stared at us. It dawned on us that it might be because our van looked like this

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Our camper van is from a company called Wicked which paint all their vans with silly stuff and cartoons. Our van has the Lord’s Prayer on one side, the Ten Commandments on the other and “A dead athiest is someone that is all dressed up with nowhere to go” on the rear. Its name is “No Peace”.

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This all seemed to tickle quite a few people; several times we found people sneaking up to photograph our trusty home. Fortunately they mostly did it whilst we were out (at least I think they did).

We saw another Wicked van with “Is there another word for synonym?” on its tail. We rather liked that.

Posh buses and chicken pants

Indulge me a small grouse, if you will.

In all our travelling around Central America on numerous chicken buses and boats no one has interfered with our luggage, despite them being frequently abandoned out of our sight for the duration of the journey.

Last night we got a very posh bus from San Cristobal to Oaxaca (interestingly pronounced Wahaca) with a company called ADO. It took 12 hours. This bus was so posh that you check in your bags and they are loaded on the bus for you.

When I got my bag off the bus this morning I discovered that someone had cut the cable tie securing the zip and had been nosing around inside. Now, the US Homeland Security gents do this all the time, but they always have the decency to leave me a little note explaining why.

Unfortunately for my potential thieves at ADO I had packed my unwashed chicken boxer shorts and assorted other filthy clothing just at the top. Apparently this was enough to put off my - they didn´t even steal my natty knacks!

The final frontier…

Our journey between Flores in Guatemala and Palenque in Mexico was well researched. Several of our Guatemalan border crossings had been a little bit fraught so we were keen to find the easiest option. A travel agent in Flores was offering cross border bus-boat-bus tickets but is notoriously unreliable so we reluctantly opted for the chicken bus.

The journey took just over four hours to the tiny Guatemalan village of La Tecnica. Whilst en route it seemed the entire population of one village boarded the bus. The Guatemalan border post was in the middle of nowhere and amazingly there was none of the usual people trying to rip us off. Except for the border guard himself, who successfully ripped us off to the tune of 20 Quetzals each (They do have you rather over a barrel. Sods.).

The bus dropped us right at the river bank where a long wooden boat happily took us across the river to Mexico. We wanted to get a bus to Palenque so we intimated this to the small number of taxi drivers lurking around. One of them took us to a minibus and agreed to convey us to our destination for a reasonable price. We´d heard strange stories about the immigration office here, but our bus man pointed us in the right direction and it turned out to be easy to find, quick, efficient and didn´t even try to exort money from us.

All in all this was probably our easiest land border crossing yet despite all our apprehension and with some relief, I have to say, our last.

We now seem to have left the land of chicken buses and are disappointed to report that on all our chicken bus journeys, we have not seen a single chicken on the bus (though other travellers we´ve met have, so the name remains justified).

Swimming with mermaids

As we are having such a terrible time on this round the world trek, as many of you keep alluding to, we decided to treat ourselves with a snorkeling trip from Caye Caulker. The second largest coral reef in the world is three miles offshore (so this is not quite paradise) so a boat is needed. There were many tour operators in town touting for our business but for me there were two considerations:

  1. The type of boat
  2. Whether they would lend me a prescription mask

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in fast, rigid launches of late so when Ragamuffin Tours presented the opportunity to go sailing and snorkeling and had a prescription mask for me to borrow we signed up with all haste.

The boat was a 15 m ketch called Ragga Queen - a lovely motor sailor - just the kind of boat I would like.

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Wind seems to be an afternoon phenomenon here so we motored to the reef. At the first stop we jumped in were happily admiring the fishes - lots more than we had seen at Utila - when a strange grey beast lying on the sandy bottom loomed into view - a manatee! After seeing them from the surface last week this was a real treat. I dived down to have a closer look and swam alongside the beast for a while. It was beautiful in its own special way, but I say ungainly and fantastically ugly at the same time - I have no idea where the myths of manatees being mermaids come from.

My extensive observations of marine mammals lead me to conclude that if I was such a beast I would opt for two hind flippers rather than the single big tail that manatees have - it’s not a fast moving, efficient looking beast - perhaps they adhere to the official motto of Caye Caulker “Go slow!”.

At our next two stops along the reef we swam with nurse sharks and sting rays and loads of big ugly fish - it was really rather special.

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On the way home we sailed which was lovely. The peacefulness was only disturbed by the loud reggae music blaring from the stereo, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter.

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Transportation quandries

After being abandoned at the roadside by a broken bus en-route to San Pedro Sula we were keen for an easy passage to Belize. We planned to leave Honduras on the Gulf Cruza, alledgedly a 45 passenger boat, and cross the Caribbean from Puerto Cortes to Placencia in Belize.

The Gulf Cruza was broken, but another vessel, about half the size would take us. Hmm. When that boat cried off due to insufficient passengers our only option was a even smaller boat going to Dangriga.

Now, ordinarily for a 60 mile sea crossing I’d be slightly nervous about going in an open fiberglass boat, its only safety feature being duplicated outboard engines, but we were desperate not to spend another night in Puerto Cortes or endure the long bus ride to the shorter crossing in Guatemala so threw caution to the wind and jumped in.

All went well, but I’m glad we don’t need to do that again.

New adventures in Flip-flops

After suffering some mild abrasion by my fins, coupled with sandal wear and insect bites, I have been forced to abandon my trusty posh Merrell sandals in favour of a pair of flip-flops. I have always spurned such footware in the past as I endured negative experiences as a juvenile.

They cost me 75 Lempiras (Two pounds). I´ll let you know how I get on.

A busman´s holiday

We arrived at Puerto Barrios in Guatemala just too late for the boat to Belize, so took the boat to the charming town of Livingston in Guatemala instead - a town that can only be accessed by sea or river - just my kind of place!

We found fine accomodation on the cliff top overlooking the Caribbean and splashed out on a room with a balcony to enjoy the pelicans, frigatebirds and were pleasantly surprised by an evening roost of several hundred Aztec Parakeets.

We went on a small boat cruise up the Rio Dulce. It is a beautiful steep sided wooded gorge. The boatman was competent, his patter even seemed quite good, but it was hard to tell as my Spanish is still very poor. We travelled close under the cliffs, up little creeks and even stopped for a swim in some thermal pools (just like Deception Island, but properly hot!). All in all, a fine day. 

A sleepy border crossing…

After the immigration office in San Pedro Sula rudely refused to extend our Honduras visa - we would have to go to the capital, Tegucigalpa for such a service - we opted to make a run for Belize and re-enter Honduras three days later, thus gaining a new visa.

We bussed our way along the bumpy coast road to the Guatemalan frontier and arrived in the heat of the midday sun. Where the bus stopped we continued walking - there was no obvious guidance or directional aids, but Guatemala is west of Honduras, so that is the direction we went. Eventually we chanced across what appeared to be the immigration buildings - an elaborate collection of modern, yet completely unused buildings.

We found the immigration officer asleep on a concrete plinth in the shade. Fantastic!

Across the border…

Our departure from Antigua was slightly delayed due to my gut situation (see the comments on the previous post - six hours in a minibus might just have been too much). We started waiting for our bus at 0345, as instructed and 45 minutes later it arrived. By 0930 we were at the frontier of Guatemala and Honduras in glorious sunshine and unbearable heat. The highlands of Guatemala enjoy a rather pleasant temperature, now we are in real tropical heat.

The border was a quiet affair compared to our last crossing from Mexico - just a few eager beavers attempting to induce us to change currency - all terribly civilised. The one curiosity was that the Guatemalan immigration office towards the Honduran side of the border and the Honduran office on the Guatemalan side.

How queer.

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