Route Map<br>(Click to enlarge)
Route Map
(Click to enlarge)

Belize and Guatemala
Feb 4, 2000 to Feb 5, 2000 - Chicanna, Belize and Tikal (Guatemala)
By: George Bovard (george@dotGeorge.com)

Feb 4 —Friday : Escarcega. We slept in a little but got the car loaded quickly and skipped breakfast. The road is good and the traffic light. There is light rain and we wonder what "the boys" may have run into. Later we learned that they had driven in rain all way across the Yucatan. We're doing 120 clicks (kilometers per hour) most of the time and we pass several signs for Mayan ruins along the way. Finally we see one that fits our schedule (need a break, rain has let up) so we stop at Chicanna. It was a shame to have to pass up Palenque, but it was raining and Palenque is quite a ways off the road.

IMAGES FROM CHICANNA
Chicanna was only 2 clicks off the road and cost us $1.70 each to get in . Its a small ruin but is nice and quiet and remote. We were the only guests when we arrived, but there were a few attendants. We bought a few replica clay relics from the gift shop. A couple from New York City arrived as we were leaving. They had flown into Cancun and had rented a car to do a quick loop around the peninsula. They had a small "Chevy" which is like a 3-cylinder sprint here. It would do 160 clicks if you pushed it real hard and they were. Mark and I managed to push on into Chetumal (on the Caribbean Sea) at 1:00PM, just in time for lunch. We ate at a really nice place right on the beach. It was one huge, grass-roofed palapa but we ate outside on the deck next to the sea. Food is a little pricey for Mexico but I did find a good Shrimp Curry dish for $7.50. Margaritas weren't too bad (we must be back in civilization). Before parting with "the boys" in Villahermosa we had agreed to check in on Mark's answering machine. Mark leaves a message for them, that "We are on our way to meet them in Belize City". Then he checks his messages. Jim has left a message that they have decided not to wait for us since they have heard we will not be able to get a rental car into Belize anyway. They have gone on to Tikal in Guatemala and will meet us back in Villahermosa on Monday. Well, we've come this far, plus these guys are generally pessimistic anyway, so we drive on to Belize. The rental car poses no problem, but we have to backtrack a couple of miles to get the car fumigated for a couple of bucks. Its a scam, each side claiming they don't want the other countries bugs, but what they really want is a few extra bucks from everyone passing their way. The Belizean border wants to keep our car title since we're returning that way. We notice that they are doing the same to some other tourists. I think if we insisted, or said we we're passing through rather than coming back they would have let us keep it. Roads in Belize are fair, but very poorly marked. The GPS was a big help, but the main North highway wasn't even on it.
Judy's restaurant - Trek Stop
Judy's restaurant - Trek Stop
(click for larger image)
Its getting late and we decide to blow past Belize City so that we can make it to the Trek Stop near the Belizean/Guatemalan border. It's a place I found on the Internet, run by couple of Yanks who have moved down to open a campground. Its dark and we're only three miles from Guatemala when we spot their sign. We see their sign, but no Trek Stop. Just a big, impassable hill. After checking out all angles we head up the nearest road on that side of the street. It gets steeper and narrower and muddier and rockier as we go up, but there's no where to turn around. We're scraping bottom by the time we make out a house and a few other buildings. This is it! The rooms are all rented, but tent camping is only $3.50 and it has stopped raining. John and Judy are great. Judy runs the restaurant and we give $5.00 for a tasty BBQ pork chop and some pan-fried potatoes.
Community kitchen for the ecco-tourists at the Trek Stop
Community kitchen for the ecco-tourists at the Trek Stop
(click for larger image)
John and Judy moved down from Wisconsin 3 years ago and started building this camp for ecco-tourists. They opened 2 years ago, but are still building. Everything is nice and new. There are several college age tourists that are staying much longer than us. World travelers at the age of 20, and mostly on their own. They have made friends along the way and may be travelling together for short spells 'til they get tired of each other or their interests vary. They are usually on a tight budget and this bunch is using the community kitchen to save money. One of them caught a scorpion in camp and it is in a jar on the table.

Feb 5 —Saturday : The Trek Stop (visit their website at http://www.thetrekstop.com). We slept great. I thought I heard rain during the night, but there was no sign of rain when we got up. The tents were as dry as they'd been all trip. Mark still wants to try Tikal, be it by car, bus or taxi. We decide to try it in the car. We're a little worried that we may have trouble with the borders since we left our title at the North border. At least we'll be trying to explain it in English, mon. As it turns out its no problem what so ever. They just leave it "open" on the stamp in my passport. It costs $7.50 US to exit Belize, but its good for 30 days so we'll only pay once. Its 35 Quetzales to import the car into Gautamala. We each exchanged 30 US from a street vendor who guaranteed us that 6.50:1 was the best rate. As it turns out the going rate is 7.50:1. We payed 2 bucks for another fumigation. The girls working the vehicle counter in Guatemala were very helpful, even though they only spoke a little English.

 First town in Guatemala
First town in Guatemala
(click for larger image)

For the first ten miles the road was dirt and pretty rough. We expected it to get worse if it changed, but it soon opened up to a good black-top and we were able to do 110 clicks. Guatemala is beautiful. We only passed through small villages, most with few, if any cars. People look really poor, even by Mexican standards. There are lots of pedestrians, of all ages. There are small children carrying clay water pots on their heads. I make a mental note to take more pictures of people! Lots of critters wandering the streets -- dogs, pigs, horses and donkeys. Some are right in the middle of the street. In 40 miles or so we hit the turn off for Tikal. We had heard of a gringo run resort around here named Don David's. We see the sign but somehow we missed the resort. We wanted to ask if "the boys" had been there. Turns out they had been. Here's a photo one of the other guys took:

 Don David's resort - Guatemala
Don David's resort - Guatemala
(click for larger image)
There were some locals doing laundry by hand in the lake. 20 miles to the North is Tikal. We arrive just at noon and drove around all the parking areas looking for the guys' motorcycles. We asked some other riders if they'd seen any dual-sporters around but they hadn't. We decided to eat right near the only entrance incase the boys come or go. Good grub for about $5 US. We ordered the fried beef, which turns out to be a thin, tasty steak. There's plenty of it. Good potatoes and steamed veggies, too (carrots, green beans, and something turnip-ish). We are about done when I spot Jim Holley walking toward us from the ruins. I give chase and holler "Hey Holley, aren't you in the wrong country?" much to the amusement of the other gringo diners. There are lots of Americans here as well as Germans, Aussies, and Brits. As it turns out "the boys" had camped at Don David's last night and ridden the bus up here. They had hidden the bikes away for safety. Jim, Steve, and Jeff are heading back in order to get to Belize City where Jim has a reservation at the Biltmore Best Western. Frank and Dale are staying another night at Don David's before heading West out of Guatemala to tour up the West Coast of Mexico. We agree to catch up with the other three in Belize City tonight after we do Tikal.

Tikal - Guatemala
(click for larger image)

Tikal is awesome. We hiked about 5 miles and saw less than a quarter of it. We did see the big stuff. With five pyramids over 100 feet high they were able to clear all the brush off of two, add wooden steps to another to allow access to the top without clearing the jungle from it, and still leave two buried in situ. It's so neat! 50Q to get in and 75Q for the guide book and map. We saw Coatimundis and howler monkeys. The coatimundis would pose, but the howlers were impossible to photograph. There are Toucans and Leopards (El Tigre) too, but we never saw any.

Coatimundi - Tikal
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My favorite shot of Tikal
From the top of pyramid 3 you
can see the tops of 1,2 and 4
(click for larger image)
Afterward we bought a few souvenirs and t-shirts, and a couple of "Gallo" beers. Good beer again. Got two more for the road. We've got a lot of driving to do and a border to cross before we get to Belize City. Leave it to Jim to find the only hotel in Central America with the little bottles of shampoo and conditioner. It's a very nice place with locked parking for the motorcycles, nice restaurant and bar, etc. There's a beautiful pool in a park-like setting between room wings. I get a chef's salad for $7.50 US and a bowl of French Onion soup for $7.00. Hit the sack about 10:30. The others are pretty tired since they got up at 4:30 to catch the 5:00 bus to Tikal.

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