Guatemala and Honduras - Rio Dulce and Copan
Europe - Germany, Belgium, and France
Nepal - Around Manaslu
Australia - Driving around Southern Australia
Australia - Olympics
Australia - Great Barrier Reef
Thailand - Bangkok
Vietnam - Central and South
Vietnam - North
Egypt - Along the Nile
Egypt - Touring and diving
Israel and Jordan
Brief return to the USA
Ecuador - Quito and surroundings
Ecuador - Galapagos Islands
Ecuador - Quito and the jungle
Peru - Machu Picchu and Lima
Peru - Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Zimbabwe and South Africa - Vic Falls and Blyde River Canyon
South Africa - Motorcycle trip
Argentina - Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls
Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes
Chile - Exploring the Lake Region
Chile - Pucon and the Bio Bio
Argentina - El Calafate and El Chalten
Chile - Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine
Argentina - Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia
Chile - Santiago and Punta Arenas
Guatemala and Honduras - Rio Dulce and Copan
Guatemala - Coban and Spanish school
Guatemala - Tikal and Spanish school
Guatemala - Antigua and Spanish school
The minibus was late, so we did not leave Antigua until almost 4:00. Even then, we drove for about 20 minutes toward Guatemala City, when we flashed our brights at another minibus from the same company. The second bus did a u-turn across the highway to join us. We pulled off into a gas station at which point we had to switch buses since the other driver and bus were ours for the weekend. The two families from Chicago in "our" minibus had to unload all of their things, including at least 20 bags of groceries, and load them into the bus we had been in. The families seemed great. They are on a mission in Guatemala with their children.
Finally we were off to Rio Dulce. We got stuck in the Friday evening traffic in Guatemala City. We finally arrived in Rio Dulce at 10:00pm. Mario (the driver) called for a boat from our hotel then we chatted with him about his life in Guatemala. Hotel Tijax is interesting. Eugene, a Guatemalteca who lived in the states for high school and college, owns the hotel and the adjacent 500 acre rubber plantation.
The 'jungle walk' starts with 500 yards of rope suspension bridges over the marsh of the river. We heard and saw a few birds, and had lots of fun walking on the bridges. The path turns into the new road for awhile. We walked along fields with cows and chickens Up the first hill we snooped around the construction site of a new house that looks gorgeous and has an incredible view over the valley. We found out later that Eugene is building it. A few hundred meters further is a wonderful pool fed by natural springs. It was a little cool for a swim at 7am, so we continued up to the crest of the hill with incredible views of the rubber plantation and valley in one direction, and the Rio Dulce in the other. On the return trip we came upon some horses, including a pregnant mare with a huge stomach.
We worked up quite an appetite on our morning walk. Hotel Tijax served us well, with a fantastic and large breakfast.
We rode Casa Rosada's boat to Livingston. On the way we stopped at Mario's Marina which seemed great, and slowed as we went around the Islas de los Pajoras with 100's if not 1000's of [pic cormorants and snowy egrets]. They slowed the boat to point out a spot where a hot spring comes out forming natural hot tubs along the river bank. Closer to Livingston, a wooden dugout boat waved us down. The boat of two teenage boys had sunk. The dugout had rescued them but could not get them home, so we gave them a lift to Livingston.
We stayed at La Casa Rosada which was unanimously recommended from travelers we had met. Cathy, the owner, is from Berkeley, and is very friendly. We relaxed on the beach until the tropical rains poured down when we moved to the patio. Dinner was outstanding! We had delicious lobster and a local fish, rubalo. At one point, the hotel's cat appeared with a tiny, tiny kitten in her mouth. She had the kittens 2 days before, but noone knew where. The cat was moving them to drier shelter. One of the women helping Cathy came near our table to see where the cat was going and we started to chat. She, Courtney, is a new nurse from Spokane,WA. She is volunteering with the Protectyo Ak'tenemit just down the Rio Dulce. The project works with the indigenous people from approximately 30 villages providing a school for the children, educating the adults on health and hygiene, teaching skills for work and providing a dental and medical clinic. It was fascinating dinner conversation to learn about the indigenous people, most of whom do not speak Spanish.
Once again, the result was worth the ride. Copan is not as vast as Tikal, but has Rosalila, a perfectly preserved Mayan temple. The real one is accessible through a tunnel and there is an exact replica in the museum on the property. It is spectacular. The entire temple is painted in vibrant colors which make the ruins come alive. the style of the carvings and stelae are slightly different than the other sights that we have visited. The stelae are carved on all four sides and resemble the shape of the figure rather than the others which are rectangles with rounded tops. The sculptures are better preserved in Copan so more detail is visible. It seems that each building has more decoration to it. There seems to be more frequent use of the skull as a symbol. Another gem of Copan is the hieroglyphic staircase that has around 2000 glyphs.
We also learned that Guatemalan driving is not quite as crazy as it seems. Drivers communicate an incredible amount with a wide variety of horn, hand and light signals. Flashing brights, for example, can mean many things depending on context - from an oncoming car on a straightaway, it means okay to pass; but on a curve, it seems to mean there's someone behind me, so don't pass. We didn't learn the whole language, but we did ride a bit easier when we realized there was some method to the apparent madness.
On the way we connected through Panama City. We walked around the concourse which was another mall with Ferragamo, Bally, a couple of Tommy Hilfiger shops and others. We were surprised to learn that Panama uses American dollars as their paper currency. Then onto the plane for our short red-eye flight. Santiago is 2 hours ahead of Panama City and 3 ahead of Antigua, which shortened our sleep time.
Revised: Wed Feb 13 11:37:54 2008 on