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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for October, 2007

Places we don´t like in Central America

At our last stop in Belize we met an American chap who was amused to listen to Fiona´s positive reviews of all the places we have visited. He exclaimed “Oh come on! There must be somewhere you didn´t like!”, so in response here is a list of the worst places we have visted:

  • The Mexican/Guatemalan border near Tapachula - rather like a James Bond arms bazaar.
  • Lake Yojoa, Honduras - not all it´s cracked up to be. Impossible to explore without a vehicle. D&D´s gave us D&V.
  • San Pedro Sula, Honduras - a big horrible city.
  • Palenque (the town, not ruins), Mexico - a small town with no redeeming features.
  • Santa Elaena, Guatemala - A terrible place. Kids threw soil at us. Little sh*ts.
  • Puerto Cortes, Honduras - nothing to detain the tourist and unreliable/unsafe boat services to Belize (Puerto Barrios/Livingston is a much better route). It´s only redeeming feature is a cinema.

Curiously there was nowhere in Belize we didn´t like. It´s a lovely country. We didn´t spend any time in Belize City, but from the bus it didn´t look too bad at all.

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).

Monkeys tried to poo on us

We are currently back in Guatemala for a flying visit. Today we visited some more Mayan ruins (we seem to be doing this every other day at the moment) called Tikal. These ruins are set within a huge area of jungle and have some of the tallest structures of the Mayan world. The temples tower out of the trees and make an amazing sight once you have climbed up them to see the view - we have done a lot of climbing today - one set of steps were so steep it was practically a ladder - I tried my best not to be too scared!

Along with the amazing ruins, we also added a lot of animals to our tick list - we are being so lucky I know! As we arrived in the park we were greeted by some oscillated turkeys which are very colourful and pretty compared to the turkeys people eat at Christmas. A group of Coatis were also hanging around near the entrance and seemed fairly unperturbed by our presence. We also heard the sound of Howler monkeys for the first part of the monring (we arrived at 6.30am, urgh!). As we approached the tallest temple which we thought we should start with we got our best views of wild keel-billed (Guinness) toucans yet - they look so odd in flight!

As we were wondering through the jungle in search of some more ruins we came across both Howler and Spider monkeys, both of which seemed to enjoying trying to poo on our heads!! We managed to avoid the unpleasant bombs (although there may have been some wee at one point) and got some great views as they swung through the trees - some with babies attached - so cute. As we continued round the site we saw another couple of troops of spider monkeys - they´re so graceful and quiet compared to the noisy, and slightly clumsy howlers.

Having climbed our last (and scariest!) temple we headed back towards the exit and saw a Trogon (sp unknown as yet) and then a guide pointed us in the direction of a “muy grande aves”, thinking it was just the turkeys again we were a bit blase, but thought we should show some interest - the guide got frustrated with our inability to find the turkeys and pointed up at a tree where a Harpy eagle was cocking its head at us - this bird was indeed very big, and a bit scary looking, especially its huge talons. A local boy went past and obviously taunted the bird because as he walked across the road, the bird flew down and straight at the boy - needless to say he fell to the floor and then ran for cover - I don´t think these birds are to be messed with!

After such a long and exciting day, we have now headed back to our current place of stay, Flores, to investigate how to get across the Mexican border - sounds like it should be an interesting experience, so we shall keep you posted!

A surprising find

We stopped for a couple of nights at a very agreeable establishment called Trekstop which is close to the town of San Jose Succotz, next to the border with Guatemala. Our accomodation was a bit like a large garden shed in a forest, but with a composting toilet ensuite and a butterfly house in the garden.

There were plenty birdies about the site so I happiliy wandered down a track - at the end I looked behind me and was suprised by a huge Mayan construction dominating the skyline. Now, we knew it was nearby, but our guidebook had not alluded to the fact that it was so impressive.

To get to Xunantunich we crossed a river on a rickity, old, hand-cranked ferry (a truck wheel is an integral part of the mechanism). The ferry would take  one small car at a time, but nothing bigger for fear of the cables snapping as the river was in spate.

The ruins were great - small enough to get round in a relaxing hour or two, and impressive enough to amaze us. From the top of the temple on the skyline we could see for miles eastward though Belize and miles westwards into Guatemala.

On the way home we enjoyed a bunch of Collared Aracari´s - a type of toucan - eating fruit in a tree.

We lunched at the Xunantunich Inn and Fiona would like to commend them for their first-class veggie burritos and keeping us dry whilst it rained.

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