We got up this morning to a first. Alex was the first on the trip to get something stolen. The bikes were not 100% secure last night and early in the morning, some scoundrels had rummaged through his unlocked tank bags and stolen what little there was in there. Some tie-wraps and some bungie cords were gone but Alex was sufficiently annoyed on top of being sick. I felt bad for him as I know how irritating having something stolen from you can be. That was to be the first of a few bad things to happen to Alex during the day.
We left Belmopan behind and headed west for the Guatemala border crossing. We arrived at the border with very little money except for US currency. We managed to use a combination of currencies from Belize and the US to pay our exit costs from Belize. Our passports were stamped out of the country and then we had our bikes also stamped out. Off we went to the Guatemala side where we had to pull to the side to have our bikes fumigated. The half blind man spraying the bikes with some carcinogenic substance was a bit overzealous and didn’t even wait until Alex was off his bike. He sprayed the bike and Alex’s right foot and leg before Alex could hop off. Bad thing number two :). I learned from his mistake and gave the bike a wide berth during the spraying. That cost us $2 and then we locked the bikes up and headed to the immigration line to get into the country. That cost us another few dollars and then we had to stand in yet another line for the bike importation. Copies of our passports, drivers license, registration and title had to be provided and then we had to go stand in a huge line at the bank to pay the $5 bike import fee. Fortunately, the security guard at the bank quickly guided us to the front of the line past 30 or so other customers. Since he was carrying a shotgun nobody had anything to say and Alex slipped him a tip of a couple of bucks for his help. Ahhhh… the good part about tips/bribes/grease whatever you want to call it in Latin America :). It gets things done. Of course, the bank would only take Quetzals so we had to change 20 US dollars with the black market currency guys that congregate at border crossings. We got an exchange rate of 7.50 Quetzals per US dollar which was close enough to the official rate of 7.98… these guys need to make a living as well.
All in all, the crossing went quite smoothly. We got out of there in less than an hour and were soon whizzing along in Guatemala. The roads were really nice until suddenly they turned to absolute crap. No asphalt at all and huge potholes everywhere. However, it didn’t slow our progress too much as we are quite adept now at dodging anything in the road. We stopped for lunch shortly thereafter at a dubious looking roadside shack that I had my doubts about. However, I’m not sick yet so all is good :). The chicken had been freshly killed that morning and I saw the lady mixing the dressing into our salads with her bare hands but hey… it’s and adventure right? The great thing is that we each got a chicken breast, tortillas, rice and a cucumber salad for 20 Quetzals or about $2.50. I will take a little illness for that 🙂
Back on the road, we headed for Tikal to see one of the better Mayan sites. We got into the closest real town to Tikal and found out that the nearest ATM was in Flores which was about 25 mins away. Having no choice, we rode into Flores and eventually found an ATM. Flush with 2000 Quetzals (about $250) we decided that it was too late in the day to go to Tikal and rush through it so we found a nice store area that had a big supermarket and some other businesses and did a little food shopping. We also each got a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut for, get this, 13 Quetzals or less than $2!!!! What a deal. My pepsi cost more than my pizza! One thing that was really cool is that motorcycles are HUGE in Guatemala!!!! They are everywhere and all small 150cc or less type bikes that you would see in Bermuda. It really reminded me of home. It also reminded me of India because of the rickshaw type taxis they have there and also here 🙂
After lunch and shopping, we headed back toward Tikal and stopped overnight in La Reforma. On the way into town, Alex spotted a strip of land that extended into the lake a bit and we decided to ride our bikes out onto it for a photo. Little did we know that there were 4 girls, one man and a few women out there as well. The kids were half dressed and bathing in the lake. The man was soaping himself down and appeared to be buck naked. His eyes got rather wide when we rode right up to him and pulled out our cameras. The women were washing clothes in the lake. They all looked at us like we were from Mars!
We rode around town looking for a place to stay. Alex wanted to stay at some broke down hostel but I said no way 🙂 We ended up at the El Muelle Hotel. It was a nice hotel, with Internet, a pool, a restaurant and was situated right on a beautiful freshwater lake in front of Crocodile Mountain… all for $30! We found out later from some sandal wearing, tree-hugging, granola chicks (no offense Emily) that when the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 that the great apocalypse is supposed to strike right at Crocodile Mountain… supposedly because the Milky Way lines up with it or some nonsense. The people we meet have been living in the jungle too long!
Alex figured out bad thing numbers 3 and 4 when he discovered that he had somehow lost his pocket knife. That was right before he got bitten by some large unidentified spider that gave him a rather painful welt.
I enjoyed a nice beer out on the pier and then took advantage of the Internet to catch up on mail and skype with Nick, my parents, Chris, Colin, M and Kelly… who rudely did not answer my call :). We had a so-so dinner at the restaurant and then I spent the rest of the night updating my site. I’m trying to stay current. Alex also got bad thing number 5… he spilled ketchup all over the table at dinner. Suffice it to say that his days can only get better 🙂
I also realized that it’s only a week until I see my kids for Xmas… Yeah baby!!!!! We are going to Disneyworld for the first time so I hope they love it as much as I love them 🙂