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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another Central American Travel Day

Mick and I decided to head onward to Tikal, Guatemala. After a leisurely breakfast in Caye Caulker (leisurely for the mosquitos), we boarded the ferry back to Belize City.

The boat was an open affair with maybe 35 folks aboard. As we left Caulker I could see waves breaking over the barrier reef. This reef consists of the second longest barrier reef system in the world, second only to Australia's. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Was I close enough to "collect" it? Jason says no, since he actually dove it a few days later.

OK, fine. But, after watching a show about the North Korean/South Korean border I'm claiming North Korea. I was in Panmunjan in 1976. As part of the tour we entered the building where negotiations take place. North of mid-point of the table is technically in North Korea. I'm saying the ruling lies outside the "law" against airport visits.

But I digres...

As we were blowing on toward Belize City a thundersquall blew up. Since we were all sitting out in the open it looked like we were going to be soaked, if not fried. The crew of the boat quickly broke out tarps for the passengers. It was a futile effort. But whay a wild ride! Lightning and pelting rain crashed down around and upon us through windblown waves. Highly recommended. Better than Disney.

The two hour wait for the bus gave us the chance to dry out our stuff. Fortunately, we were booked on a direct bus to Sta. Elena, Flores in Guatemala, the nearest town to Tikal. The bus wasn't bad. There seemed to be quite a few evangelicals aboard, notable for the women's conservative dress. Each woman's hair was covered with a kind of napkin folded and pinned in exactly the same way. I always wonder where the rules for that sort of thing come from. You know, starched habits, non-patent leather shoes,head coverings. That sort of thing. Who makes those up?

The conquistadors may have established Catholicism as the dominant replacement religion, the protestant evangelicals are giving a good run at conversion. Seventh Day Adventists, Church of Christ and several others have been hard at it. Saving souls with promise of the afterlife payoff. It must be a good sell, because the average Centroamericano sure ain't gettin' it down here.

Crossing the border into Guatemala was simpler than Belize. One building held the customs offices for both countries. One immediately noticeable difference was the money changers. They swarm the bus the instant it pulls to a halt. The rate of exchange stinks, but at least you can get rid of the previous country's now worthless scrip. We should really go to a Euro-type currency throughout the Americas. Everyone takes greenbacks anyway. It would make it much simpler. Greece gave up the Drachma, the oldest existing currency in world history, when the Euro came in. I can't imagine there would be much resistance to replacing all the various Colones, Dolares, Pesos, Quetzales and whatnot.

I came to enjoy the border crossing immensely. Much more interesting than the mindless lines in airports. Inner dialogue, don't you know.

We hit Sta. Elena bus station around 8 PM. It may be summer with long days up north, but nearer the Equator it gets dark around 6 or 7. So we were in the dark as to which way to go, figuratively and literally. But, soon we were oriented and heading to the little island city of Flores. Mick was grousing about the seemingly dodgy neighborhood, but no one paid us much mind.

Flores sits on a small half mile squared island in Lake Peten. In Mayan times the Itza had an established village there. Today it is mostly restaurants, bars, hostels and souvenir shops. A 400 meter causeway connects Flores to the mainland. As we started onto the causeway Mick noticed a nice lookinghotel off to our left.

The Peten Esplendido was indeed very nice. And due to my near total lack of Spanish I thought the clerk quoted a price of $50 a night for a two night stay. A nice two night stay in a double with A/C, private bath, swimming pool (which we never got around to using) and cable TV seemed like a good deal. And it would have been a good deal. But, it turned out it was $100 a night. Ouch! Hadn't planned on that. Fortunately, and unlike Cuba, plastic works it's magic in this part of the world (This would be huge later on).

After booking a tour of Tikal for the next morning we hit the local ATM and scouted Flores. New currencies always ppush the limits of my math skills. It took three withdrawals of Guatemalan Quetzales until I had enough for the next day's festivities.

1 comment:

J.C. said...

OK, I agree with North Korea, because without major geo-political changes, that is the most you are ever gonna get. Special circumstances. The reef I'll give you with an asterix...
BTW: PanhandleMama is my mother.