1997_Road_Trip ........       Driving Trip Through Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico

                                                    1997 Road Trip Part 2                  1997 Road Trip Part 3

This is our 2nd road trip to the jungles of the Yucatan. You can click on the photos to make them larger. Enjoy!

Day 1 – Saturday 12/13/97

We leave Casa Grande at 0500 hours. It is 40’F when we leave. We get to El Paso and the Mexican border at 1019 hours. We drive through Juarez (and see more wedding dresses than we have ever seen anywhere) and South of town is the inspection point where we get our Mexican can registration and Visas. After leaving the inspection point we drive South and see many sand dunes, similar to the Yuma area.

We arrive in Chihuahua at 1730 hours and find Hotel de Cobre for 75 pesos a night. Outside our hotel is a carne asada quesadilla stand – we gorge! We are 590 miles into our adventure on the first day.

Day 2 - Sunday 12/14/97

Woke up at 5:00am cst – on the road at 6:00am.

7:48 38’F temp reading in Camargo Chihuahua

Shortly after Gomez Palacio we got lost. The road signs are very confusing. We ended up on hiway 40.

Purchased gas at border of Zacatecas/Durango on Hiway 49 – 982 miles into our trip. After the town of Rio Grande the road was freshly paved!!! (briefly) After the town of Camargo we started to notice white patches everywhere – at first we thought it was trash and then realized it was snow. (thought we were headed south??)At 1719hrs we refueled in San Lois Potosi – 1216 miles into our trip Question?? Why are they farming what appears to be prickly pear cactus??? We checked into the Hotel Ahuetemoc in San Lois Potosi. Day 3 – Monday 12/15/97 We were ready to leave our hotel room at 7am this morning. After getting lost in Gomez Palacio we decide to hail a taxi at the hotel –then pay to follow him out of town. The taxi led us to hwy 57 and we only had to pay him 20 pesos. Cheap! We would have spent more in gas finding our way!Left: Temple of the SunCenter: Temple of the sun (front) Temple of the moon (Rear)Right: Temple of the moon taken form top of Temple of the Sun. 07:52 we see the temp is 44’F at 6,580 feet elevation. We still have plenty of ice in our cooler even though we only bought one bag in Casa Grande three days ago! 0832hrs we pay a 3 peso quota 1102hrs we pay a 34 peso quota 1330hrs we arrive at Teotihuacan ruins outside of Mexico City. We pay 16 pesos per person and 30 pesos for the video permit. It is 77’F and we are at 7,480 feet. We tour the ruins for two hours. 1615hrs we find Hotel Texas. We paid 130 peso per night for two nights. Hotel Texas is within walking distance of many sites in down town Mexico City.Left: At the Museum  Right: Swinging Indians Day 4 – Tuesday 12/16/97 We started our day going to the Museo Nacional de Antropologio. While at the park (museum grounds) we watched four Indians swing down from the pole while one sits on the rotating top playing his flute. After the museum we walk to the Alameda park & zocalo – while there we talked to a man who volunteers for the university teaching the history of Mexico and Mexico City. He spends a lot of time telling us of the Aztec culture. That evening while walking around eating off the taco stands we try bull ball tacos (not knowingly). Yuck!

Day 5 – Wednesday 12/17/97

We went to the Palacio de National amongst the armed federallies. There are beautiful murals on most of the walls and building exteriors. We walked by the San Fernando church & cemetery. They would not let us enter the cemetery and we were told Benito Juarez was buried in there. (there were a whole bunch of gatos (cats) around here) We then walked through the Templo Mayor & Museum which is one of the original Indian ruins that they had built the city over. We saw beautiful paintings at Museo de San Carlos. We then went up to the 43rd floor of the Latino-Americana building and got a birds eye view of Mexico City. We were told that it was a rare day in Mexico City and that the wind was blowing the usual smog out of town – just for us!

Photo left: One of the muralsCenter Left: The church made form stones of Templo MayorCenter Right: Downtown Mexico CityPhoto Right: Downtown taken from the 43rd floor. During the evening rush hour we decide to ride the subway again. The Berkley Guide warned us of riding during rush hour but we were done site seeing and wanted to see what the fuss was. We left our wallets and purses at the hotel and head for the subway. We had been riding the subway now for two days so we knew the procedures. Rush hour was incredible – wall to wall people cramming onto the subway cars. And the Berkley Guide was right – Pam was groped twice and I was even groped once! But that was the extent of the thrill of the rush hour subway experience!

Photo Below: Following the guy who helped us get "un" lost outside of  Gomez Palacio

Day 6 – Thursday 12/18/97

We began our journey today at 0400hrs to beat the rush hour traffic out of town. We were sure of our route today out of town so no taxi escort was necessary. Shortly after leaving Mexico City we climbed up to 9,940 feet and it was down to 54’F. We stopped outside of Oaxaca for fuel and we were now at 1,840 miles into our journey. We just drove through Oaxaca this time as we have stayed in Oaxaca last year. We ended up staying in Tehuantepec for the night. Day 7 – Friday 12/19/07 We begin our fifth wedding anniversary leaving out of Tehuantepec at 0800hrs. The temp was a warm 77’F as we are on the edge of the Pacific Ocean now. We are entering the jungle territory so we started taking our malaria pills Dr. Parkin suggested. We stopped just before the Guatemalan border to get fuel some 2,050 miles into our journey. We are not sure how the gas will be in Guatemala so we top off with Mexican fuel before entering. Photo left: Mexico City From 1300 – 1600 hrs we are at the border crossing. What a zoo! There is a line of cars then a large parking lot. While waiting in the car line people come up to us offering their “express” crossing service. We decline. Finally we park and Pam stays with the truck while I go and get the papers squared away. I get in line behind some Texan’s (Hispanic) and when they get up to the window they start going off on the worker about being American and they can’t treat Americans like they are. (It is all in Spanish so I can only pick up a few words here and there) The worker closes the window and several armed guards come out and escort the Texans (3 of them) to the back room. The border is now closed and I wait for 45 minutes when the window re-opens. No sign of the Texans. The line now is getting REAL long and in fact now there are two lines, one with the regular people, and the other with the “express” people. The official takes stacks of passports from the express people and starts stamping them without even looking at them. He is stamping frantically trying to get caught up. I slip Pam and my passports into his pile, ours gets stamped and I get them back without having to pay the US$5 recommended bribe. Yeah! I then proceed over to the car registration window and since I was first in line while the border was closed I am now whisked through that line as well. So three hours later we are officially in Guatemala with our truck. Crossing costs are: 10 Quetzals for immigration, 5 Quetzals for customs, and 20 Quetzals for vehicle exit fee. With the exchange rate it comes out to about US$5.83. Not so bad!We drive into Guatemala and to our pleasant surprise find the roads here are better than the US. They had just repaved the Transamerica highway through Guatemala and the road is real nice! (I noticed they had triple layered the pavement) We arrive in Coatepeque at 1730 hours. We find an ATM to get some quetzals, no success, a second ATM, no success, then finally a third ATM and now have the local currency. We find out hotel, Hotel Halchite. The hotel was not in our Berkley guide nor the other Mexico guide we have but is very clean and nice. We check in then head out for some dinner. We find a Kentucky Fried Chicken (looking) nock off and go in for some chicken. While eating the electricity goes out. Within one minute candles are brought out to every table and are lit to keep us in light. Several more are burning on the counter where you order the food. They just keep going like it never happened. We ask around and they say the blackouts are almost a daily routine for them here. After we finish the dinner we spot two white 20 year old men dressed in white long sleeve shirts and black pants. We ask them if they speak English and find out they are Mormon missionaries down here working. We talk to them for a while and get the low down on the city and area. Day 8 – Saturday 12/20/97 We are on the road today at 0600 hrs. The cold shower was more refreshing than we had planned (evidently they only heat the water for the evening showers) and it being 71’F at 2,200 feet elevation. Burr!0830 hours we stop to take some pictures of Volcun de Fuego and active volcano. It is now already up to 84’F. We are now at 14 degrees North Latitude – Casa Grande is 32 degrees North Latitude – We are more than half way to the equator!!!We continue to drive and then come through Guatemala City. It takes us a full hour just to drive across the city. The traffic and smog and very bad here. At 1000 hours we fill up at an Esso station. The gasoline is now sold by the Gallon instead of the liter here… go figure. Gas was Q123 for 12.5 gallons. No too bad…. We arrive at Chiquimula at 1300 hours and find our hotel Pasada Perla de Oriente. The cost is Q90 for the night (about US$15). We rest up for our next border crossing tomorrow into Honduras and to see our first Mayan ruin – Copan! Day 9 – Sunday 12/21/97 Today we start at 0600 hours – it is a perfect 76’F outside and we are at 2,519 feet. Today we leave the pavement for dirt and gravel roads to cross into Honduras. We make it to the Honduran border at 0830 hours. We are now 2,553 miles in to our adventure. The crossing from Guatemala was an interesting stop as we have never been to a less traveled border crossing. Everything is much more primitive. There is a strip of land some 100 – 150 yards wide that neither Guatemala nor Honduras claim. In between the two countries there are several young people all gathered around smoking pot. We asked them what was up and they said they can come to this place and neither country will arrest them for having or smoking pot. Interesting….. With less people around we are not as concerned with theft from our truck so both of us go in to get our papers this time. The costs for Honduran crossing was L20 for Immigration, L10 for Customs, and L10 for vehicle entrance. Exchange rate is about 9 Lempiras to the US dollar so the cost comes out to about US$4.44 – HOWEVER they also ask for US$30 bribe to cross the border. Not an official cost mind you but a contribution to their families well being (as they put it). We figure they got us since we have traveled all this way so we pay the ransom and cross into Honduras. The road to Copan was again winding, bumpy, dusty, dirt and gravel but only 69 miles round trip.

Left Two: The hieroglyphic staircasePhoto right: Two pyamidsCopan – Copan is large Mayan ruin. It sits in an area that if you look to the South it looks like high desert and if you look to the North it looks like the dense jungle we have been driving through now for the last two days. It seems the mountain it is on is the edge of the rain forest. Copan is famous for its hieroglyphic staircase. They started making this staircase carving out pieces of their history in each of the steps. Supposedly the higher up the staircase you go the later the date – but we had read that the jungle had taken over the entire site and the staircase was ruined by the vines and other vegetation so parts of the staircase had been re-assembled incorrectly. (How we would we know – we can’t read the Mayan glyphs) Crossing back into Guatemala again we have to get all the papers for Guatemala, what a pain! We continue our drive North now through Guatemala and stop at the ruin site called Quirigua.

Quirigua is famous for its tall stela. Stela are single pieces of red sandstone and carved into some very interesting monuments. Quirigua boasts the largest stela in the world. The largest is 35 feet high weighing in at 65 tons. (and they said the Egyptians were handy…) We checked into a mom and pop bed and breakfast type place for the night. At dinner we met the other guests, a couple from Germany, and a single Frenchman named Thibaut Lespegnol. He said he was planning to take the bus to Tikal and it would be a two day bus ride – so we invited him to ride with us. It was very cool meeting these people form Germany and Thibaut – the stories we exchanged were priceless.

                           Part 2 of 1997 Road Trip                                Part 3 of 1997 Road Trip