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Day 10 – Monday 12/22/97

  Our friend Thibaut poses along the road to Tikal Woke at 0500 hours and left the Hotel Royal at 0600 hours. With Thibaut now with us we had plenty of conversation along the route. My favorite was when we stopped for gas and I went to get a snack – a Kellogg’s Pop Tart. Thibaut explained that they were far from French tarts and gave us crap all day for us eating the substandard pop tarts. We arrived in Sta Elena / Flores just before noon. Normally we looked for the cheaper hotels but since we were staying here for Christmas we decide to splurge and get the US$29/night hotel. The Hotel Peten had hot water, a swimming pool, a very nice room, a restaurant, and even a beach front on Lake Peten. We need to turn in early as we hear that watching the sun rise at Tikal is like nothing else as spectacular. Day 11 – Tuesday 12/23/97 We leave for Tikal with Thibaut at 0430hours. Yup, O-dark thirty. We get to the ruins and walk down the jungle infested trails with our flashlights looking for the ruins. We find what turned out to be Temple II and climb up to the top and sit and wait for the first light to appear. Tikal is fogged in everyday in the mornings. As you sit and finally see light appearing through the fog the animals start to wake up and make noise. You hear the howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, and other animals as they start their daily feeding rituals. After a couple of hours the fog burns off and from the top of the pyramids and temples you can see for miles and miles.

Photo Left: Temple IPhoto Center: Temple IIPhoto Right: A White Nosed Coati they eat right from your hand here (they loved the pop tarts!) Tikal is amazing with all of the animals and beautiful rain forest, not to mention the ancient Mayan ruins. We climbed Temple IV up to the top of the roof comb (which involved a 12foot shaky flimsy aluminum ladder) Brian climbed a rope about another 12 foot to the very top and shared the top with a vulture – both of them just looking out over the jungle. We took a lot of photos and video. At 1300 we left to drive 22 Kilometers to the North to Uaxactun. The road was basically a jeep trail. We were told that normally during the rainy season the road is impassible unless you have a 4-wheel drive. Luckily December/January is the dry season and our truck makes it with no problem. The road is very narrow and I would call it a trail through the jungle and not really a road.

Photo Left: The road sign to Uaxactun

Photo Right: One of the ruins

Uaxactun – We get to the ruins and are greeted by 25 – 30 children. They ran from out of the jungle form all over to meet us. Apparently there are no tourists that ever make it this far. Too bad! The children would run up and down the walls of the ruins like it was their play ground – even with the 20 – 30 foot drop offs – we were nervous but they were just having a ball. Brian made them line up in a line and we had brought a couple of bags of cheap Halloween type candy with us. Brian handed some out to them and they were very happy. We drove over to the modern village (I say modern but no electrify and not sure if they had  running water or not) with most of the kids on or in our truck with us – we had no idea we could fit that many kids in a truck. We bought a few corn husk dolls the locals had made and gave the asking price (about US$1 each) without trying to talk them down. We were experiencing a modern Mayan village and the culture – without the tourist spoiling effects. Thibaut could not believe we were so gullible buying their dolls.

Day 12 – Wednesday 12/24/97 Christmas Eve. Woke up around 0700 hours, laid around and then eventually went walking/shopping in Santa Elena. Interesting town. Photo left: The view form our hotel of lake Peten Christmas eve is highly celebrated – especially with fireworks. As soon as the sun set they started lighting off fireworks every – all over town. It started to slow down around 10 – 11PM but then at midnight the BIG fireworks show started. Not much sleep tonight but it was definitely a different cultural experience. Day 13 – Thursday (Christmas Day) We awoke at 0345 hrs to prepare for our 2nd visit to Tikal. When you think about what you want to do for Christmas, something special, watching the sun rise in Tikal is unparelled. Again we (along with Thibaut) donned our flashlights and went through the jungle paths. Since we had been to Tikal already we had an idea on where we were going. The travel guide said the best place was from on top of Temple IV. Unfortunately there were several more tourists who also read the same review so the sunrise from Temple IV wasn’t as spectacular because the steps were full of noisy people. Silence is golden! Oh well!

Photo Left: A map of the Tikal areaPhoto Right: A Ciba tree is consumed by vines.

Today we took more video of the areas we did not have time to visit on Tuesday. We also came across some wild turkeys, deer, and some spider monkeys that we did not see on Tuesday as well. How appropriate for Christmas- turkey! Our feet gave out around noon so we headed back to the hotel for rest and lunch. That night we said goodbye to Thibaut as he wanted to head over to Chiapas Mexico and we wanted to head to the islands of Belize. We exchanged e-mails and we were back on our own now. Day 14 – Friday 12/26/97 We started out down the road to Belize at 0600 hours and made it to the Belize border at 0730 hours. The dirt road through Guatemala to the border was an excellent one. (Brian said better than any dirt road he has ever driven on) By 0900 hours we were driving through the jungles of Belize on paved roads now. The thermometer in the truck was reading 103’F today – hard to believe it is Christmas time! We arrived at Belize City, looked around for a parking place to leave our truck, and decided the hospital was as good as any. The airport wanted US$20 a day to park and was far from the sea port. The hospital was free and looked pretty safe. The hospital was also right by the ring road so we could get a taxi easily to take us to the water taxi port. The water taxi was slow and took us an hour to get to Kaye Caulker. Once on Kaye Caulker we found the Hotel Edith (US$6/night – in 2008 we returned to Kaye Caulker and found the same hotel was now US$50/night). We went snorkeling around the island, ate a fantastic dinner, and filmed the sun setting on the Caribbean Sea from a dock – picture perfect! We hear that 45 people were massacred in San Cristobal de las Casa, Chiapas Mexico. This is the town Thibaut was headed for… we e-mail him and a week later hear back from him – he never saw any violence his whole trip! Day 15 – Saturday 12/27/97 We woke at 0600 hours, watched the sun rise, and then caught the next water taxi back to the mainland. Amazingly enough the truck was still at the hospital where we left it. By 0800 hours we were back on the road heading for Mexico. Pam notes at 0819 hours we are at 3,210 miles into our adventure. Also for the last 700 miles the truck has been messing up – not running well. We kept thinking the engine was going to die on us. We get to the border and we cross in less than 10 minutes into Mexico! Evidently our papers we got on the US/Mexico border are still good and we do not have to get additional papers. Yeah! At 1120 hours we drive through the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto on our way to Cancun and stop at our first inspection point of the entire trip that they look inside our truck. Kind of weird after last year being inspected over 20 times and now go over 3,000 miles through 4 countries and now get inspected???? We pull in to Cancun and find a mom and pop hotel for 265 pesos a night at the Novotel Hotel. We drive around Cancun to see what it has to offer and decide to stay on the outskirts and avoid the tourists, English signs, and inflated tourist prices that Cancun is famous for.

Photo Right: At the base of Chitchen Itza Pyramid

Day 16 – Sunday 12/28/97 We woke at 0800 and set off to find the ferry to Isla de Mujeres. (The ferry was a cheap alternative to the tourist charters out of Cancun) We walked around Isla de Mujeres checking all the hotels we could find on foot and none had any rooms available. (they said you had to make reservations before hand??) We spent two hours checking out the island and then caught the ferry back to the mainland. We found a bus and rode around Cancun passed all the large hotels and stopped at Punta Nizic. We decided not to snorkel. We went to a local theater and watched “Flubber” in Spanish (it was still funny) and went back to our hotel (Novotel) right around the corner.Day 17 – Monday 12/29/97 We fueled outside of Cancun and headed South to Xcaret. We decide not to pay the US$105 (per person) entrance fee to the park and swim with the dolphins. We then went to Chitchen Itza.Photo Left: A view from atop the pyramidPhoto Center: A view of the ball courtPhoto Right: On top of the ball court - they claim the king used to watch the ball games form up hereChitchen Itza is the largest Mayan ruin close to Cancun and probably the most visited ruin site. It was spectacular despite the crowds of people. We learn there that their observatory (El Caracol – not to be confused with the Belize Mayan site of Caracol) was so advanced they knew of Haley’s Comet, the earth rotated around the sun, and many other observations not know to European man in the 100 – 900 A.D. time frame. Their ball court was the largest we had ever seen.

Photo Left: El Caracol observatoryPhoto Center: The start of the pillar pathwayPhoto Right: The most photographed spot in Chitchen Itza We then drove to Piste, had our oil changed at 3,710 miles into our journey, and checked into the Chac Mool Hotel. It was a humid 78’F and hard to believe it is December. 1997 Road Trip Part 3