Friday, February 27, 2009

Coban Part 2 MAROONED

Metal on metal. Rotor worn paper thin on backside. No available parts. Weekend approaching, shops closed. Four more nights in Coban. Just ordering a new rotor from Guatemala City was a nightmare in itself. Waiting for it would be another challenge. We set out to find things to do and actually fared pretty well.
One night Coban played Sanarate at the nearby estadio. Never have I heard such language at a sporting event. Even at Qualcomm when 50,000 drunk Bolts fans disagree with a pass interference call, the verbal reprimand is nothing compared to what streams across the futbol field here. Personal threats, questions of sexual orientation, and blasphemy of family members is common. That aside, the game ended in a 1-1 tie and Garen and I escaped with our lives.
The next few days brought steady rain and not much going on. One wet day we drank a bunch of coffee under an awning at an outdoor cafe and watched Titanic in spanish. "Jack, es muy frio!"
The next day there was a dog show in the town square. Not the kind where an animal is judged on beauty, gait, grooming and background, but the kind where people dress their mutt up in a cape and goggles and refer to it as super-perro. Camper sat quietly off to the side, and disappointedly stared them all down.
This particular street dog was highly qualified for what should be a new category in Guatemalan dog show: "best candidate for swift and immediate euthanasia."
We wandered the streets for hours at a time, discovering beautiful old cathedrals, busy mercados, and the ghetto
Finally our part arrived for 340Q and our brake guy spent the day putting it all together. His labor cost 190Q, bringing our grand total to less than $50US.
So long Coban.
We packed up that night and split for Antigua early the next morning.

Lanquin-Semuc Champey

Up the road from Coban, we passed through the 'cave' town of Lanquin and camped up at Semuc Champey, where we jumped off rocks and bridges to our hearts' delight.

We camped on a river and partied until late with a huge group with people from Long Beach, Seattle, Honduras, Germany, NY, and probably many other places. Garen and I contributed a bottle of Belicean rum, some dude sang and played a ukelele, and everyone crowded around a bonfire. It was a bit like sixth grade camp, except we did not play capture the flag, and i earned a hangover.
Semuc Champey is famous for a series of beautiful natural pools on an otherwise rushing river complete with waterfalls and an underground section.
On the way down into the Lanquin-Semuc area, it felt like our brakes were getting pretty bad. We had trouble coming to complete stops, and a few times the pedal went to the floor with no response. The following morning, we had no brakes at all. Just godawful screeches and vibrations.
We have been talking about needing brakes before the trip began and our lack of action finally came back to bite us in the ass. The mountain roads were very steep with treacherous cliffs and narrow passages.
We limped the truck back down to Coban, where we thought we may be able to find parts, in one of the scarier drives in my recollection. Our heavy truck builds momentum quickly, and we nearly employed Flinstone foot brakes on more than one occasion.

COBAN 1st stop

Coban was never a place where we thought we would spend much time. It is merely another old mountain town, known now as a convenient launching point for nearby caves, falls, etc. We found a cheap and scenic campsite within city limits at the Parque Nacional.
Thats Ray's truck you seen on the right there. Ray is from BC and we will see him again soon.
The park is green and lush with dense forest, yet only a 5-10 minute walk to the bustling town square. So we planted down for a night. The following morning, we went on the tour of an old coffee plantation owned called Finca San Margarita. Owned by Germans, it produces Deiseldorff beans, is guided by Angela, and lost on Beckers, who understood very little of the rapid all-Spanish tour.
There were plenty of trails to hike in the park, and a playground for the dog.
Left for Lanquin and Semuc Champey after a few days, but our time in Coban was not finished....

Rio Dulce-Agua Caliente

On the road again, this time from Tikal to RioDulce, with a brief stop in Flores for a propane refill. After a fairly long drive, we decided to drive right through Rio Dulce to check out Agua Caliente, which is a waterfall about 90 minutes down a bumpy dirty road. This particular waterfall is significant because, as the name suggests, hot water flows from the top down into the cool pools underneath.
The result is a bit of steam, a small entry fee, and three begging children that love stickers almost as much as we do.
Stayed at Hacienda Tijax, after failing to find camping. This place actually advertised camping on a posted sign and in the guidebook, but would not deliver. So we stayed in one of their tiny, reasonably cheap cabanas.
It was jungly and pretty, but with nothing else to do, we just shared beers and stories with some folks from Missouri and cut out early the next morning for Coban.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

outta Belize y into Guatemala

It´s a short drive from the Family Farm to the border with Guatemala, and we passed without incident, save for paying to have the truck sprayed down with some sort of ´pesticide.´
Camp stayed in the truck, she´s undocumented and roaming Guatemala for now...
Since it´s close to the border and most likely the last set of ruins we´ll pay to see on the trip, we headed straight for what is said to be the best set of Mayan ruins out there, Tikal.
What they say is true, Tikal is bigger and better than anything we have seen. It´s in the jungle and there are monkeys and crazy birds everywhere, but they were too fast and niether of us had a rock handy at the right time.
Some of these ruins are ridiculously tall and steep, but they still let you up there to climb about on them. They built a rickety ladder for one temple that was very, very frightening to climb up and especially down.
Once we got up there we saw this blind guy who didn´t know that he was one step away from certain death, standing there with his back to an 80 foot drop, crazy bastard.
Alex and I ventured off into the forest to find some monkeys or jaguars or something but instead only found this scary fellow, previously undiscovered!
We tried to camp here at Tikal but they denied Camper entry into the park as they aim to keep their jaguars safe, understandably. We camped for two nights in Remate behind a little restaurant on lago de Isabel, where we laid about on a rickety peir and did flips into shallow water. The place is nice but once you´re done with ruins, time to go...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Well I am very, very itchy; 300 or so bites. People freak out when they see me, like I am a leper. I am trying not to scratch.
After chatting with Stu on the way out of Pine Ridge, we set out for a day of waterfall viewing and rock jumping. First and best stop was Big Rock Falls, but we didn't bring the camera down the steep hike for fear of getting it wet or stolen. This place had a couple great pools and just a few nice rocks to jump off of, which we did. After enough, we hit Five Sisters falls, where Camper swam,
and Alex
and I jumped off of rocks into some deep, refreshing water.
The place was nice but a bit developed for our taste, complete with an outdoor elevator for the lazies to bypass the stairs.
We headed to Rio On pools, where there weren't many fun cliff jumping options. Camper picked a bad line crossing a set of rapids and was on her way to drowning under a waterfall when I got to her; one doggy saved, thank goodness. This place was a bit boring so we went to check out the nearby caves, where we heard there was a camping option. The camping sucked, but the cave was incredible.
We walked about in there for a bit, Camp taking a dump, and headed out to find ~15 Belicean Army gunmen waiting for us. Apparently there has been some robberies in the area and these guys had just finished an 8 hour jungle hike. They carry M16's.
Nothing do do but move on, we headed towards the quasi-border town of San Ignacio. We camped in a spot called The Family farm, where proprietor, Roy, walks about smoking huge joints and talking about everything from drug smuggling to music to world economy. Nice guy; we cooked dinner and went out on the town to two spots; Bonkers and Faya Wata. Bonkers had an ex- rodeo clown bartender in a cowboy hat; Faya Wata was a loud, obnoxious place where we drank a few beers talking to some people from Holland... The town wasn't as cool as our often wrong guidebook said it was... Onward, towards Guatemala!

Monday, February 16, 2009


This morning I woke up agitated because I lost my ATM card yesterday. After checking online, it was apparent that no new charges were on my account and I came to the understanding that I must have left it in the machine in Orange Walk. We drove back up to this small town and waited at the gas station for the ATM machine service guy to make his daily check. Luckily for me, the machine must have sucked the card back in and held it after I stupidly failed to put it back in my wallet. All is good and my card is safe and sound. On the way out of town, hundreds of people lined the road, staring and taking pictures. Apparently "sahm-one god kilt" and the onlookers were hoping for a glance at the body.
Back on the road.
We pulled off the freeway to check out a prison gift shop, a first for me. Mostly carved wooden art pieces and figurines. Nary a shiv made out of a toothbrush to be found.

Onto the Belice zoo, where there are jaguars, monkeys, parrots, and photos of miscellaneous wildlife in the hands of a scantily clad Harrison Ford from the 70s.

Afterwards, it seemed appropriate to take the Burban wheelin in a protected park reserve.
IMG_1593What started out as 'making a u-turn more interesting' resulted in a muddy, two-winch-pull fiasco and buried the truck far deeper than the bubbling exhaust pipes. We were fairly tired at this point, so we ventured off to find a place to camp for the night.
On the way uphill into the mountains, we came across a Toyota truck in a ditch minus a right rear wheel and brake assembly. The talented Belicean pilot had somehow managed to control the careening vehicle and a young passenger, with a 150 gallon full tank of water in the bed into a jungly drainage canal. While they waited for assistance, we helped find his wheel in the bushes.
We found the folks at Pine Ridge Lodge, a place that does not regularly offer camping, to be more than accommodating to our camping needs. Thanks Stu!
This site would be a perfect launching spot to the waterfalls we intended to jump off of the following morning, and also a place where Garen could get bitten by more than 350 forest gnats, leaving him horrendously splotted and itchy.
Until the next...


So long Mexicans. We are now in the land of english/creole speaking black people. Thus far the folks here have been extremely helpful, funny, and curious about our trip. That is, except for the pendahos that work at the border. After slow lines, fees, stamps, and paperwork, they dinged Garen $50 extra US dollars for bringing Camper along. The senior customs official threatened to slaughter the dog if we attempted to leave her at the gate. Garen, as you may have guessed, did not care for that remark, however it seemed wise to just pay the fee and move on.
We drove through rainstorms into Orange Walk, where I tried to sabotage the trip (see next post), and continued down to Crooked Tree. We camped out back of Crooked Tree Lodge and chatted at length with owner Mick, who has a wife, two kids, three dogs, and a crocodile.
BTW, we are well aware that Belice is not spelled in the manner you are probably accustomed to reading, but our computer is missing the operative key for the job. Also, they spell it this way in MX.
We have move on to drinking beer made locally by Belikin, who provide a stout option! A bit sweet for my taste. (would kill for a presidio IPA about now)


After passing through Merida and finding it not to our liking, we headed straight for Tulum, where we stayed three nights. We spent hours locating or first spot to camp and then drove down the road and found a free spot for the second. Tulum is a cool little town that has a separate beach area where most of the whities stay.

The ruins wouldn't be that spectacular if they weren't right on the water; they have their own beach!

It was windy the whole time we were there and we were even treated to some nasty storm clouds and rain, which was nice for a change. We spent a lot of time at a little bar at one of the cabana-renting beach lodging places. They had a ping pong table and we played around 40 games; Alex won the majority of those. We met people from Oregon and Australia; had a great time as usual. On the way out we drove the ~70K to Punta Allen and back. This spot is another diver's mecca but we don't dive, so we looked around and decidd that while pretty, there was nothing to do. We drove back to Tulum for one more night's sleep before the next stop, Belice!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This place is blown out, feels like Vegas. Sorry we don't have very many pictures, but all we did was walk around and look at the expensive bars that except american dollars that are everywhere. They were all empty. We went to Hooters, Hard Rock, McDonalds, and Starbucks!
We might even forgo these party towns for awhile...
Oh, and there was a strong stiff wind the whole time we were there...

Chichen Itza and more ruins?!

We're getting a bit tired of the ruins, but since Palenque as so fun and we met so many cool people, and because we heard this place was the coolest EVER, we had to check it out. We showed up in the evening and camped in the front lawn of a crappy hotel called the Piramide, giving us access to their pool which was deep enough to dive into but showed signs of past diving board removal...????
Next morning we made quick work of the ruins and were quite disappointed as they cost WAY more than any others and visitors were not permitted to walk on the ruins, only on the manicured grass around them.
Admittedly, they were pretty spectacular, intricately carved and very steep and tall. They would kill folks, lop their heads off, and roll the heads down the stairs. Who knows what happens to the losers (or winners) of the ball game they had going...
Onto Cancun; gotta see it...