Thursday, February 25, 1999

Greetings from Peten Guatemala!

It's only been a week since my last update to you all, but I'm in a new country and a lot has happened...

To start with I was shipwrecked! Yes, I was in a boat that was marooned on Blackbird Caye in the Caribbean. I know that that doesn't sound tough; like who wouldn't want to be shipwrecked on a deserted island in the Caribbean? I went out early one morning to dive the Blue hole (eat your heart out Joe and Andrew!) it was fabulicious! 47 meters down in the hole there is this network of caves full of stalagmites, and... Phosphorescence! But I digress. After doing two more dives on the clear glassy Caribbean, we were headed home and the engine cracked a block.
No one answered our mayday on the radio, so we needed to head for the closest land. The engine would work at about 1% of capacity, so we limped at a speed that any infant crawling could exceed till we hit the reef at Turneffe.
We then pulled the boat through the waist deep water inside the reef to Blackbird. After a hike through the mangrove swamp, we ended up crashing for the night in a resort that was abandoned after hurricane Mitch had pretty much destroyed it. There were only 4 other people on the island besides us. Luckily one of them had a telephone, so we called for help. SaraGrace was by this time worried sick (she was still on Caulker) but by 1:30 the next day we were rescued.

Anyway, we left for Tikal the next day and that's where we are now.


Saturday, February 6, 1999

Greetings from Caye Caulker Belize! (pronounced Key Corker)

Hi All!

I can’t believe that it’s been only a month since we’ve left! I look quite a bit different; My hair is now about ¼ inch long (for those of you who missed my going away party, Tom shaved my head; I finished the job with a razor the next morning) and I have a goatee! The baldness just looked goofy without it. I’m also a nice shade of brown – sort of like you get when you put too much milk in your coffee.
We have covered quite a bit of territory, but we’re over budget by both time and money. Our goal of making it to Rio by bus in 6 months and $6000.00 isn’t in danger though. Our plans called for us to fly in to San Diego, Take the trolley to Tijuana, then a bus to Mexicali, and the train to San Blas where we would change trains to go up the copper canyon to Creel.
Well, there is no longer train service from Mexicali to Guadalajara, so in Tijuana (which is the same as it ever was) we boarded a 22 hour long bus ride to Los Mochis. The bus only made one stop – in a place called Carbo where we ate and SaraGrace got searched by Mexican customs – she pressed the button and it came up RED.
Los Mochis is a very boring town – Only go there if you have to. We ended up having to spend the night before catching the train up copper canyon at the crack of dawn. The ride up the canyon was awesome! We only stopped once for bandits (The Federales were on the train with machine guns to discourage them) and once at the rim of the canyon in a place called Divisadero for the view. The train ride ended in a place called Creel where we stayed for several days hiking, biking, and lazing around.
We did a side trip from there to the bottom of the canyon to spend the night in a town called Batopilas. The ride down to the bottom of the canyon was probably the most spectacular ride that I’ve ever been on (SaraGrace hated it; it was too scary). I would highly recommend the trip down to Batopilas (or at least La Bufa – a town halfway down) to anyone contemplating a Copper canyon trip.
After leaving Copper Canyon we headed down to Mazatlan to pick up a package that my bank sent to American Express there and to visit my dad’s friend “Captain Ron” who lives on his boat there. Mazatlan is like Waikiki in Mexico – or the Costa Del sol. Pure tourist trash, but Captain Ron sure showed us a good time! We spent the evening boozing it up both on his boat and off.
The next day, on our way back to Ron’s we ran into 3 friends we had made in Creel, and proceeded to down as many 6 Peso beers as we could before the bar closed. So as much as I didn’t like Mazatlan, we sure had a hell of a time there!
After Mazatlan we took the night bus into Guadalajara – it has a very European feel to it. From there – Mexico City. The biggest city in the world reminds me a lot of Rome. Not suprisingly; it is full of 2000 year old buildings, and Catholic churches, and there were pictures of the pope everywhere (he had just left).
We left Mexico city after SaraGrace got pickpocketed in the subway (they didn’t get anything valuable) and took the scariest bus ride of our lives to Oaxaca. The bus driver did the 7 ½ hour journey in just under 4 hours – down twisting bumpy mountain roads. Oaxaca wasn’t as enticing as we thought it would be so we made for the coast – Puerto Angel.
The bus to Puerto Angel was the opposite of the one to Oaxaca – It was supposed to take 6 hours and took nearly 12. We stopped in Tehantepec for lunch and met a missionary lady there, then changed busses in Pochutla (another nothing town). We spent over a week in Puerto Angel, with side trips into Mazunte (the turtle arbitoir), San Augustinillo (charming) and the world famous Zipolite (reminds me of Kuta in Bali).
We got trapped in Puerto Angel – All the busses out were full – but eventually escaped to San Christobal De Las Casas – home of Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista rebels. We spent a couple of days there, taking a side trip into San Juan Chamula for Carnival before heading to Palenque. Palenque has nothing to recommend it other than the Ruins – The most spectacular that I’ve seen. Much better than Chichen Itza or even the Roman Forum.
Rather than back track from Palenque to San Christobal in order to go to Guatamala we decided to head to Chetumal to catch a bus into Belize – which we did.
By noon we were sipping rum punches in the cayes. This is a weird country – a strange mix of Mayan, Mexican, English, and African. Very pleasant though.

Where do we go from here?
Well, this weekend we plan on diving the Blue Hole (eat your heart out Joe!) then catcing the bus for Flores (Guatamala) and the ruins in Tikal. The road from Flores to western Guatamala is no longer passable – the hurricane saw to that – So we will fly from Flores to Antigua, enroll in a Spanish school by the shores of Atitlan, take a side trip to Copan in Honduras before boarding the 33 ½ hour bus ride to Panama City. This bus sounds like a good deal - $33US and you can get off for as long as you like in San Salvador (El Salvador), Managua (Nicaragua), and San Jose (Costa Rica). We plan on one night in San Salvador and Managua, and a couple of weeks in Costa Rica where SaraGrace’s Mom said she would visit us.

Take care, and hope all is going well!

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