Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tikal and Varying Degrees of "Lost"

We decided it would be “neat” to camp within the park boundary of Tikal. That was a “we” until we rode past wildlife signs, that included a snake. I no longer thought it was as neat, but was excited to fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle… which again included howler monkeys which one could easily mistake for jaguars roaring.

Exploring Tikal the next morning was beautiful and somewhat exhausting as it is a massive site with trails connecting several different temple/pyramid complexes that are scattered throughout the forest.

Long hikes up these magnificent pyramids yielded views of the tops of other pyramids, scattered throughout the jungle of Tikal. 

We left Tikal at mid-day, figuring it was unlikely, but not impossible that we could cover the 300ish kilometers to Semuc Champey by nightfall.

Roadside entertainment

It became apparent that we were riding around on water-filling day... no running water means these barrels are filled regularly to supply households with their water for the week.


First, we made it out of Tikal, then to the turn-off for Flores and then went the wrong direction out of Flores and wound up on the North end of the lake. By the time we made it back to Flores and were onto the correct road, the sun was beginning to dip. Roel found a town on the map that looked large enough to have a hotel and it would be only 13 kilometers after another smaller but notable town.

After seeing all of the still un-excavated pyramids at Tikal, I can't help but wonder if every mound we ride by is a pyramid waiting to be discovered.
After said smaller-but-notable town, there was a sign pointing for the town we needed to head towards (Sayaxche), straight ahead. Well there was a small road with houses straight ahead, but it appeared to be a dead-end as there was a truck across the road and after the truck, the road disappeared into a gully. So we headed straight (and slightly to the right).

Within 13 kilometers, there was a sizable town but there were no hotels, and not surprisingly, no sign saying the name of the town. But we assumed it was the one Roel had noted on the map.

Ugh, no bueno.

And within 20 kilometers, the road had turned to dirt. Not nice dirt… really, just a never-ending string of potholes. We stopped at one farm and asked how much farther Sayaxche was. They were completely confused by me. I figured I was just pronouncing the name wrong. I mean really, how are you supposed to pronounce that?

By kilometer 35, the sun had set, and we found a Comedor next to the road, run by two women and their three children. I asked if we ate there if it would be possible to camp in their backyard. As astute business women, they welcomed us to camp and served us simple, but delicious, bowls of vegetable soup.

We paid 80 quetzals (about USD 12) for “everything” which was probably a killing for them… for us, it was just a relief to have a place to stay for the night.

A relief, for a little while, anyway.

One of the women was fairly interested in motorcycles and came over to have a look at the map of Guatemala that we were studying. I asked how much farther the road was unpaved for, and she paused, gave me a strange look and then asked where exactly we wanted to go. Semuc Champey. Another strange look and then she pointed down the road and told us that was where the Mexican border was.


We were camped along the road going to the Mexican border… no idea how close, and frankly, no idea why there was such heavy traffic that seemed to only get heaver as the night went on. And really, we didn’t want to find out.

I asked to use the “bano” and was led back to an area behind the kitchen (which, by the way, only featured a grill over the embers of a few logs). Our hostess pointed to a large basin of water and welcomed me to use it. I then said, “no, yo nessicito el bano” which elicited a very confused look from her. At which point I realized that I actually have no idea what the word for toilet is in Spanish. So, what’s a girl gonna do but mime using a toilet.

Understanding dawned on her and after I was told to wait, she led me into the house and to a small bathroom in the back. The shower consisted of a 1” PVC pipe running out of the wall, leaking water, a toilet with no flushing mechanism attached and a string sitting at the bottom of a tank that there was no way I was reaching in to grab, and a sink that had not seen running water… ever.

Hello, Dorothy? You’re not in Kansas (or Mexico, or the US, or Canada) anymore.

It was a good wake-up and I felt like an a$$.

We went to sleep to the sounds of one of the waitresses employing corporal punishment on her crying 3 year old and eventually were awoken by the noise of two trucks coming to a screeching halt right next to our tent which was set up under the roof of the restaurant (because our hostesses were worried about us getting rained on). I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about their sudden and unexplained arrival in the middle of the night until we realized that one of them was having mechanical difficulties and they’d both decided to stop somewhere “populated” to rest and sort out the problem. Sleep was elusive, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. 

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