Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mini vacation in Guatemala for Marge and Tom

Just back from two nights away, our first time to get away together since last November. We have been very busy working here with the business and also doing some community projects. Life is good here in the jungle; as one of our good friends here in Belize says, “you came to Belize to live a simpler, quieter life, right? Well, the only problem is, you brought yourselves along!” So true, George, but we love living here and love the life we have created for ourselves here. We went over to Guatemala for some rest and on the way we decided to hook up with Hugo Mayen, a tour guide that we use for some of our Tikal trips. He also does tours of Yax Ha, another Maya site on the way, where the first TV Survivor series was filmed (his father, Hugo Sr. worked with the TV crews). Hugo picked us up at the border and drove us in a very nice Toyota Hiace van to Yax Ha.
This was the start of our tour at Yax Ha. The walls inside this building have scratched in drawings made by the Maya. You can't usually get in, but the guard moved the gate and let us come in to look. — with Hugo Mayen
Another temple at Yax Ha. Yax Ha means Green Water.
This is the edge of a Maya-built very wide causeway, or sacbe.
The sacbe is the total width of this picture. You can see the wall on the right.
Climbing to the top of a temple in the main plaza. Tom was already at the top with the camera.
This was the view of one of the temples from the big temple in the main plaza. It hardly looks real.
This is Tom inside a tunnel that shows the four layers of this building, which the Maya built over the course of about 900 hundred years.
Marge looking down from the top of the highest temple at Yax Ha, with the Yax Ha Lake in the background.
Marge clinging to the wall on top of the highest temple, cringing as Tom backs near the edge to take Marge's picture.
Hugo Mayen and his girlfriend Waleska on top of the highest temple at Yax Ha, enjoying the cool breeze.
After touring Yax Ha for about 2 hours we ate lunch at Hugo's mother's restaraunt in La Maquina on the main road from Belize to Flores and Tikal. We had eaten there before and the meals are always excellent local food served in their thatched palapa with a floor that I decided I had to try to copy for our eating palapa here at Moonracer Farm. We took a collectivo from La Maquina to Santa Elena (a large town on the main land next to Flores). We stood at the edge of the road outside the restaraunt for about 10 minutes until one came by. The collectivos are mini vans that pick up and drop off passengers all along the road from Melcher to Santa Elena. Marge got in the front seat (sitting in between the two regular seats) and I ended up getting all the way in the back seat, the only one left open. The ride wasn't really that bad but some of the bumps in the road for me - all the way in the back - were a bit rough, but for about US$7, not really that bad. We got out of the collectivo at the bus station in Santa Elena and then took a tuk tuk to the island of Flores where we stayed for two nights.
Welcome to Flores, Peten, Guatemala!
Boats for hire to tour around the lake at a leisurely pace.
This is the hotel where we stayed. Basic, but clean and inexpensive, about US$33 for 2 people for 2 nights, or about US$8.00/night/person. The power on the whole island and also for the entire town of Santa Elena was out from about 11am that afternoon until about 2am in the morning. However, not having electricity here in the jungle most of the time made us feel right at home!
Our room had a private balcony, perfect for viewing the always beautiful sunsets over the lake.
Our first morning, looking off our balcony and into the lake, we watched two men rowing a boat from the mainland to the island of Flores, with their dogs swimming along ahead of them.
These two dogs were in the lead, and stuck close together the whole time.
The two dogs made it to shore first, and left a wet path on the sidewalk after they climbed up to street level.
The little black dog at the right was about Jack Russell size, and the boat stayed with him the whole way while the bigger dogs swam ahead. Near the shore, one of the men threw the yellow puppy in the water to swim the last little bit.
The yellow puppy was really quite a good swimmer - better than the little black dog.
All the dogs made it to shore and went about their business for the day. We wandered about the streets in Flores just taking in the sites and relaxing as we strolled along taking pictures. Flores is a very touristy town, many people from all around the world stop in to enjoy the beauty of the lake and take day trips to the Maya sites close by.
One of the streets in Flores.
Another street in Flores.
Another narrow street on the hill in Flores
This is the cathedral in the center of the island. It was built on top of a Maya temple that was destroyed by the Spanish. We then walked over to Santa Elena to wander around the markets and explore what the local town had that was interesting. Tom found some new "crocks" for about US$3.50, and we munched on freshly cutup mango as we meandered through the market place. One thing that Marge and I reflect back on a lot after we walk around local markets in cental american towns, we are usually the ONLY white people, and we are just walking along taking in the sights. We feel completely comfortable and talk with a lot of the vendors and people hanging out, just like we would anywhere else we go. All of the locals are very friendly, offering us some of the local fruits and vegetables or to show us some of the local sites (like caves up in the hills - but we did not have the proper clothes for a jungle hike). Getting around in Santa Elena is done mostly be taking tuk tuks. They are basically low powered motorcycles with 3 wheels, room for 2 (or 3 if you have small butts) people in the back seat, the driver in front single seat, sometimes teaching their 3-5 year olds how to drive. To go anywhere in the area costs 10Q or US$2.75 for 2 people.
Tuk Tuks everywhere!
This is the Santa Elena market. The selection of produce made me consider moving to Guatemala.
More Santa Elena market. One of our goals was to get some bed spreads and we found the vendor that we visited last year when Margaret Rush was here. She had the size we needed and for a reasonable price we finally got something to cover our guest beds that brightens up the rooms. We meandered back to our hotel hot and tired, took a swim in the lake and then relaxed with a bottle of wine (much more affordable in Guatemala then in Belize) to enjoy the sunset.
The second night's sunset was more dramatic, and Tom found the sunset setting on the camera (hey, we've only had it for 5 months...). The following morning we got a local breakfast in the park near the cathedral and headed over to Santa Elena to start our journey home.
This is the Santa Elena bus station.
They put gringas in the front seat of the collectivo. So, from our room in Flores, aboard the tuk tuk, then collectivo to the Guatemala/Belize border - just about 2 1/2 hours. We called Julio who was waiting for our call in San Ignacio, he came and picked us up and home we went! Great little mini vacation. We can't wait to get a few more nights off sometime to recharge our batteries again!

1 comment:

sandy A said...

that sounds like a great trip! Good for you two to get away sometime.