Crossing to Guatemala By Truck
We made it to Guatemala! And not a minute too soon, the expensive beer of Belize, Belliken, was becoming half our daily cost.
In Guatemala, the beer of choice is Gallo. We had a bad run in with some skunky Gallo we bought in Mazatlan, Mexico, and were concerned that the local stuff would be the same. At one point in Mexico, we were drinking 2/3 of the beer and pouring the rest out, because after it got the slightest bit warm it was putrid. But, heck, we'd picked it up for $2.50 a six pack.
I'm glad to report that local Gallo, especially the bottled stuff, is good. It's a lot like Bud Light, really, or what I recall Bud Light tastes like. And though at $1-1.50 a piece, it's not dirt cheap, but it's better than Belize, and full size.
Guatemala has proven so far to be a great country.
The border may have been our easiest. There are pigs laying in the slop at the border. They don’t give you any grief. And quick. It’s great.
Our first road was unpaved for about 20 miles, and we were concerned. But it opened up. Stopping at little stores along the way, we immediately felt the difference between this country and the previous two. And as a Spanish speaking country, Guatemala is head and shoulders above Mexico. Not as dirty, lots of horses, and they're well cared for, less trash burning.
Why is this? I can’t say for certain. Perhaps it’s that Mexico is more industrialized, and with that comes trash, and with that trash burning. Maybe it’s the outlook of the people. Perhaps Mexicans are always in the shadow of the States, and that colors their outlook. Maybe it’s the Maya.
Our destination was Flores, a little island on the lake, and the main staging town for trips to the Mayan ruins of Tikal.
There's a causeway from the mainland town of Santa Elena to Flores. The mainland boasts the bus station, dirt, nighttime crime, and a huge market.
The market sells awesome fireworks.
These are more bombs than Blackcats. They're made from old newspapers, rolled in a special way and packed with gunpowder. They're loud and powerful.
Found a hotel, the Dona Goya, for $12 US a night, three beds, no AC.
Everything in the town seemed to be sponsored by Gallo. The causeway says Gallo. The Christmas tree in the square had a rotating Gallo ornament on top. All you can buy is Gallo.
The Mayan world had several main cities. Tikal was at its height during 500-800 AD, and often at war with Caracol in Belize, and another called Calakmul that's in the Mexican Yucatan.
The place is very popular. Buses run from Flores every hour, and it takes about an hour to get there. It's touristy. If you're looking for solitude, you might be able to find it if you get there very early, but we also heard that the "sunrise" tour at dawn isn't that good because of the pre-dawn fog.
The ruins are "better" than the others, but with the tourists comes the restrictions. You can ascend only one of the super-large temples, and at that it's only via a wooden staircase.
The grand plaza is about as big as a football field, maybe larger. There was one other distinct difference between these ruins and the others -- they sold Gallo at the grand plaza.
We saw (and heard) some howler monkeys. These things aren't much bigger than the spider monkeys that we saw back at Lamanai. However, their howl carries a mile or more. It's deep and rumbling, a pulsating moan reminiscent of a group of cicadas. It’s creepy.