Entering Guatemala

Trip Start Jan 07, 2008
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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Well, the border crossing was less dramatic than expected.  Actually the border crossing between Belize and Mexico was a complete NON event.  I heard when I arrived in Belize that I had gotten lucky.   Whatever, I am just glad it was easy.
 
The minute I stepped onto the bus outside of immigration in Belize, the change was obvious.  No more nice Mexican buses....it WAS the chicken bus without the animals.  Retired American school busses with honking sound systems installed and blaring Soca music.  Welcome to the Caribbean, mon.  And... English speaking black folks too. I was so happy I could hardly contain myself.
 
The bus ride to Belize City was a few hours and as smooth as you would expect a school bus to be on a poorly paved road.  We passed though a town called Orange Walk which interestingly enough had a Menonite community.  Nothing like those uptight gingham skirted  women with cornrows to set your mind right.  Bizarre.  Then onto Belize City which is beat up, dirty and wet.  Lots of standing water everywhere in canals and ditches all over town.  Can you say mosquito?  I took the water taxi over to Caulker Caye the first night and enjoyed the tropical atmosphere.  I saw all I needed to the first and departed the next morning.  Great swimming, great snorkeling, all sorts of cool water sports, but no beach and high prices (island typical).  I came, I saw, I left. 
 
The next day I headed back to Belize City and caught a bus to Dangriga which sits about way down the coast of the country.  The ride was rough again, but the music good and the vista amazing.  After we passed through Belmopan, the road changed dramatically and I could hardly believe how beautiful it was.  They call it the Hummingbird Highway, and it really was about the prettiest two hour ride I have ever been on.  And, the weather was CRAPPY.  Lots of cloud ringed mountains laced with palm trees, orange groves as far as the eye could see, and green, green, green.  It was harvest time and the scent of oranges that hung in the humid air was breathtaking. 
When I arrived in Dangriga I could have been pulling into the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans....no lie.  All black folks, all friendly, architecture the same, fried chicken, all the stereotypes inherent with NOLA.....It was terrific.  I loved it.  Not much to do there, it is usually used as a home base for ventures into the jungle, but I loved hanging for a few days. 
 
Day four found me on the road again heading to Palencia, a small peninsula town near the Southern part of the country.  I had heard that the weather had created some problems on this roadway a few weeks back and suspected I might run into some issues traveling, and I was right.  It took all of 3.5 days for me to run into that "rainy season road issue" I was worried about.  Four weeks previously a huge storm had washed away a fairly substantial bridge.  Then, the day before I left the temporary bridge was washed away so when I got to were the bridges used to be, we off loaded and headed across the river via inflatable launches.  I swear, I thought that this would be the point where all travel would turn bad.  Talk about third world....Then when we got to the other side there was no sense of organization for buses and such so I just sat it out waiting to see what was going to happen and opted NOT to get on the over crowed bus.  "I'll wait for the next one thank you." 
 
While waiting I got eaten alive on my legs by some small bugs I never saw, but a few hours later when welts turned up on my shins, I knew they had existed.  Those took a solid week and a visit to the Clinic here in Guatemala to get straight.  Then I had to take another route to get to Palencia that involved water transport, which was fine, but when I arrived they were having their annual Lobster Festival and rooms were not easy to find.  I found a crappy room, spent the night and headed South early the next morning.  When I arrived in Punta Gorda two very long school bus ride hours later, I had planned on spending the night but when I saw the town, I decided to go for it and head to Guatemala.  This is when the adventure really began.
 
Transport here usually doesn't leave until it is full.  Better economics.  So when our very small launch was loaded with 20 people and their luggage, we headed towards Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.  The seas were a bit rough and we basically sped across the top of 4 foot swells.  There was lots of trash, organic as well as plastic crap, floating in the water and a lookout on the front of the boat directing the captain around it.  Things got really wet really fast and they pulled out long black piece of plastic for people to hold across the rows to keep dry.  NO way for me.  I am not riding in a plastic bag for an hour over rough waters.  I was lucky enough to be on the front of the boat and didn't have such a huge problem with it.  At this point I frequently laughed out loud to myself.  The others on the boat just stared at me.  About half way there, I head the outboard motor let out a not so nice sound, slow down and then stop.  Okay, here is where panic set in.  I have no idea how large the swells were....suffice it to say they were uncomfortable and I feared that if we sat too long, we would likely roll.  I had no idea what country we were in because we were smack in the middle of the waters that joined Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. I heard someone yell to the "captain"  and ask what the problem was.  When I heard him say "basura" (trash) I wanted to throw up.  I though for sure, something had damaged the motor.  About a minute later the engine restarted and I was happy to be moving again.  That rolling on big swells in no fun and when we hit land I was happy.  But no....I had to push the envelope.
 
Again, Immigration a complete non-issue and I decided to go back down to the waterfront and try and catch a boat to Livingston my final destination.  Did it and again, loaded onto a full boat and headed out.  Wrong choice.  There were several moments for sure I thought we were going to roll - mid air.  Crazy!  But, I kept saying to myself, people do this every day around here.  I'll be okay.  And ultimately I was but my hands hurt from holding on so tightly for 30 minutes.
 
We arrived safely and I was thrilled but again, some special event had hotel rooms very full and I had difficulty finding one.  Eventually there was a little rain and I covered my back pack.  Then more and I put on my stylish poncho/tarp then it was raining so hard I had to step inside a store.  What next?  I've got to say, I just kept laughing.  There was nothing I could do about it.  I met a nice heavily pierced and tattooed Catalonian man inside the store and he told me that he was sure there was room in his hostel and offered to help.  When the rain stopped we headed out and we ran into some other folks he knew from the hostel.  They were heading there so he passed me off onto them.  I was thrilled. 
 
I was fortunate enough to get a room at the hostel for a whopping $7 for the night and dropped my pack and headed out for some food.  I was tired and wanted to just take a shower and go to bed.  But, when I returned there was no water in my room.  That took an hour to remedy and then when it did come on, there were big black chunks in it.  After I clean up a bit I finally laid down on the bed and it was so soft I couldn't  get comfortable.  No sleeping tonight.  And, as romantic as the notion of a mosquito net over a bed may seem, they do NOT let fan air into the sweating person laying inside.  I found myself laughing hard at about 2 in the morning. 
 
Suffice it to say I got up early the next day, packed my bag and hit the street.  I found an awesome room for the same price on the other side of town.  By the time I got settled in I laid down for 4 solid hours and stared at the wall.   I was wiped out. 
 
Been here for a week now.  It is a bit of the Mayans meets Jamaica scene and I am enjoying it.  Heading up the Rio Dulce tomorrow and hope to find a cool place to stay there for a few weeks.  Will keep you posted on the adventures.
 
 
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Comments

jlslavin
jlslavin on

keep going!
I really wanted to see pictures of the welts you got. Go find us a good pork dish.

slavin

bobdeveaux
bobdeveaux on

Great Inflatable Boat
How did you cross the river?? I was going to suggest trying to cross using one of these:
http://summertym.co.uk/product/Bestway_Marine_Scout_Deluxe_Inflatable_4_Man_Boat_125inch_x_60inch

badnomad
badnomad on

rock on
Jodi, you rock, keep on trucking and keep us all posted, think about you frequently and I too, just laugh, in A GOOD WAY!

LOVE

BAD

karenmhk
karenmhk on

peeps at the beach
what a strange shirt! thank gawd it wasn't a Little Debbie image - or Simon (Hubig Pie)! I would have heard you laughing all the way up here!!

nikinicole
nikinicole on

wow
Man, those are some CRAZY traveling experiences.
So, gotta ask yourself, 'Am I having fun yet?!'
yeeeeeeeeee-haaawwwwwwww
Travel safe baby!
XO

nikinicole
nikinicole on

T-shirt
Oh-my-god, That would have been HYSTERICAL if that guy was wearing a hubig's t-shirt!!!!!!!!
However, the peeps made me laugh my ass off!

dvendy
dvendy on

Yee HA!
That boat ride across the swells reminds me of the Donzi rides to the Vineyard!!!!! Kill Me Now!! Love D

twateacher
twateacher on

Seaworthy.........?
Never mind the historian you found.....Leave it to you to find the BROTHERS in another country, no less. Glad you survived the Titanic! Hey, you gotta experience some REAL Indiana Jones-type excitement on your journey, right? Happy you're safe and even more happy the welts went away!
Peace,
Nina

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