|With the newly purchased “ Best/Worst of the 80’s” as our sound track ("Ojo Del Tiger" and Thriller were the highlights, Crul Sumer- not so much) we took a vacation from our vacation, rented a tiny subcompact, and headed up to Tikal in northern Guatemala. The trip took slightly longer than expected as we spent 3 hours lost in the traffic of Guatemala city, heretofore known to us as “stinky smog capital of the world”. Once out of the city, the cement houses of corrugated metal and exposed rebar eventually gave way to homes made of sticks with thatched roof and others made of mud. Women sat in the doorways making tortillas and the children chased chickens in the yard just as their ancestors did 1,300 years ago.
Tikal is a collection of ruins that were rescued from the jungle that had consumed them. Almost more amazing than the ruins themselves were the animals that now live there. We saw howler monkeys and spider monkeys by the dozen, tons of peacocks, tucans, parrots, and coti. They say Jaguars and crocodiles still lurk but (fortunately) we did not find them. Tikal was built in 700 AD and was deserted about 200 years before the Spaniards came (~1500AD). Current theory is that the inhabitants outgrew the city and it could no longer support them. The experience came alive for us as we played Mayan family on our way. Alex thought the job of son/hunter/gatherer was much more fun than being stuck at home with mom making tortillas.
From Tikal we went to Rio Dulce, a river surrounded by jungle that flows into the caribbean. Despite the ongoing light rain (“Chipychipy”- our new favorite word that means, essentially, drizzle), and occasional heavy rain, we thoroughly enjoyed this part of the world. We reached our hotel through an isolated, desolate, and thoroughly muddy road. While Gillian and the children bravely stayed inside the car, Peter (armed with a tiny flashlight and some mosquito repellent), walked to find the hotel. To get there, we had to cross a narrow (two planks), but long (probably about a 3 wood- hit solid) rope bridge going over mucky river water and thick foliage. The huts, the warm air, the water, and the bridge was right out of a New Orleans Tabasco commercial- or a Disneyland ride. We finally found the hotel, and the whole family braved the journey there. All said, though, fabulous spot! Great Cuba Libre’s while listening to the songs of the night jungle.
We hired a boat the next day to take us around Rio Dulce, which was quite interesting.This is the vacation playground for the Guatemalan elite, with posh vacation homes with huge speedboats waiting for their masters. We then headed out to the Island of Livingston, one of the only places for the Garifuna. The Garifuna is a tribe of people that came from Africa during the slave trade, to the Caribbean, and finally settled here. They have their own language and music (usually played with 3 drums and 2 turtle shells). Incredibly lush and verdant surrounding, with small houses along the water with the only access being by boat. Here (as in much of Guatemala) the standard boat is literally a hollowed out log. These fishermen maneuvered these tiny boats with incredible grace and agility, tossing out small nets that (alas) remain in our heads as National Geographic shots- not quite captured with our little instamatics. Lunch here consisted of Tapado, a Garifuna classic fish stew made with coconut milk. Awesome. Though more modern versions might be advised to cut up the fish, rather than serving it with an entire fish stuck headfirst into the bowl.
Next day we bagged the rainy area and headed to Copan, Honduras. There were two roads there: 1) The main roads, which looked like the long way there and 2) a direct road from where we were, which was at least an hour less drive (at least that’s what it looked like on the map). We obviously chose #2, which seemed like a good idea at the time, as the road was paved, cluttered with little Tienda’s and pleasant people. This, however, soon changed, and we found ourselves on a dirt road, in the rain, with huge puddles, and inclines and declines that would make Lance Armstrong wince (think Fillmore street). The only (rare) vehicles were 4x4s. We braved on (or something like that) in our subcompact, two wheel drive, Huyndai Getz. The road took about 2 hours, 3 years off our lives, and saved us, of course, no time. But we made it, and it was great to HAVE DONE. Went by the coffee pickers, sorting their beans. Incredible vistas.
The Copan ruins were great. Poured rain, though, so that always puts a literal damper on things. We headed back to Antigua a day early.
Nurses here get paid $10 a day!
Pirated movies here are $2 and rather entertaining. Sorry for breaking the law. We feel somewhat good about it though, as we can watch it in Spanish, or with subtitles, so it’s...uh..educational!
Terry makes the best huevos rancheros south of the border but really threw us for a loop when she added bits of hotdog to it this morning.
Chicken update... The house chicken has one more week to live as he will be the birthday feast for Maria Theresa next week. He is DEFINITELY free range.
Alex quote for the week :” It is pretty beautiful here with all the palm trees. It can’t get better than this. “
That is it for vacationing. We start work in the hospilito tomorrow.
Gillian and Peter