<h1>Month: November 2006
Today is the last day of the tour. I have been in Playa Del Carmen for the last two days. Tomorrow I am taking the bus back to Cancun, then the ferry to Isla Mujares. Playa is more enjoyable than Cancun for sure. There is a bylaw here that forbids buildings to be higher than 3 stories high, and the city has kept its charm. For sure the strip is tourist territory (and expensive) and the beach is gorgeous, however after a few days I am ready to move on. Although Guatemala was my favorite place on this trip, there is a lot to say about Belize. I went caving for the first time in my life in Belize and it was absolutely amazing. To get there from St-Ignacio involved a 1.5 drive then a 45-minute hike into the jungle, crossing the Mopan River at 3 different places. Once we got to the cave, the surroundings were lush and pristine and there were hundreds of little fish in the water. Once geared up with proper shoes, a hard hat and headlamps the adventure began. There was a lot of climbing involved, but there were only 6 people to a guide, and only two companies are licensed to guide in this cave. It was amazing because it was a water cave; you actually had to swim to get inside then once inside you waddled from ankle deep to neck deep all the while climbing limestone boulders of various sizes. The Mayans used caves extensively for ritual worship and in this particular cave there were hundreds of pot remnants, some still intact and the archeologists found the skeletal remains of 14 different people. All the artifacts are over 1200 years old! It was like being in a dream. We had to climb high to see one full female skeleton now frozen in mineral deposits. It was a been eerie, as the Mayans did do human sacrifices, and the hole in her skull would indicate that she was one. I had never seen stalagmites-tites before and the interior of the cave was cathedral like. What added to the mystic nature of the cave was that there was little light, only a small headlamp on our hardhats. This place is a true treasure and it is amazing to me that they let people go in it at all. We were in the cave 3.5 hours. During that time there were hundreds of places where people could get hurt, and I was so careful with my feet and hands. However once the tour was almost over, I was out of the cave, only a few more rocks to go over... my foot slipped, twisted and crashed onto the rock. Bloody Hell did I feel stupid. My ankle got swollen right away. The guide helped me out of the water, he bandaged by foot tightly, and then I put the sock and shoes back on and after taking a few painkillers I had to hike back out of the jungle. Clearly since I could move my toes and I could walk nothing was broken. I was totally focused on just walking the trail one step at a time, adrenalin pumping. The guide made me two walking sticks. The hardest part was crossing the river because the bottom was covered in slippery rocks and it took me forever. The Garifuna guide offered to piggyback me across but I declined. The cool running water of the river actually helped my ankle. What was a 45-minute hiking coming in took me 2 hours to hike out. I was relieved when the end was near because it was starting to get dark, and who wants to be in the jungle after dark?? There are jaguars there you know. This happened about five days ago. I have been putting ice on it almost everyday, and rubbing arnica cream on it several times a day and taking arnica homeopathic tablets. It is doing much better although the outer side of my right leg is one big bruise. Yesterday afternoon, I did something that I have never done in my life, which is go to a spa. I floated in a tank of warm salty water. The weightlessness did wonders for the foot-leg. Then I had a full body massage with a RT. He was very conscious of my foot but still worked it to get the blood flowing properly. Afterwards I treated myself to a facial and manicure. I was blissed out after all of that. Something tells me that it will take a long time for my ankle to heal thoroughly and I would probably benefit from some physical therapy, (too bad that you are so far away Becky!). Although this incident puts a damper on the holiday, I am grateful that I didn't get hurt inside the cave and more grateful that it wasn't a worse injury i.e. broken. Of course I couldn’t go snorkeling in Coye Caulker, but walking around with a stick grabs everyone’s attention and I had the chance to interact with the locals a lot. Belize is more Caribbean in nature with a mixture of races and they all get along. The island motto was 'go slow', and since I couldn’t do otherwise I fit right in. I received all kinds of advise from the locals. One man actually biked back home to cut some stems of his aloe vera plant and he came back and rubbed it on my foot and ankle and helped to rebandage it. The Aloe had a cooling effect and helped. While in Coye Caulker I spent three hours in the salon getting my hair braided. It looks cool although I don't know how long it will last. My ankle puts a damper on my yoga retreat on Isla Mujares so I guess that I will be doing a lot of deep breathing.
Friday, November 17, 2006 Today was another overcast and cool day. It did not really matter because we left Flores to go to St. Ignacio, Belize. The journey only took a few hours. There is a no man's land for about 20km between Guatemala and Belize because there is some dispute over borders. I am not sure of the whole history. Going through immigration was a breeze and when the agent asked for the group leader I gestured towards Sarah. She told me afterwards that I should not have done that. I know that she was deported from Thailandfor not having a work permit perhaps it is the same here, and if that is the case I am not sure why GAP does not get their team leads permits if they are working in the country for long periods. The agents at immigration were black. Belize, previously known as British Hondurasn until 1981 does not fit with the reset of Central America. It's flavor is very much caribean, and they speak English here. They are a maixture of African, Mayan, European and Asian. They speak Spanish, English, Creole and Mayan. As for religion, I would imagine it is predominantly Christian. Coming into St. Ignacio itself was not spectacular.
The drugs worked!! I didn´t get motion sickness yesterday. The morning to the Guatemalan border is a bit fuzzy as the meds made me feel a bit drowsy. The chicken buses were fine as well. We left at 8:30am from San Cristobal and arrived in Panajanchel at 6:30pm. Once through customs we took 6 chicken buses. There were no chickens on our buses, but we saw some going by with them on the rooftop. As the day went on it got cooler and cooler as we got higher in the mountain range. The last two buses brought us down into panajanchel, it was foggy, just starting to get dark and the view was stunning. I was happy to get off the bus as that last one made me woozy. We had a nice meal and I was starving. I don´t usually eat when travelling because it makes the motion sickness worse. After some nice beans and cheese with tortillas I went to bed. It is exhausting to do nothing but sit all day. In the end the buses weren´t as bad as I had expected them to be. The road was paved all the way. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. We all got on a small boat and visited many of the villages around the lake, including the popular effigy of San Simon who smokes and drinks alcohol. Yes they actually put lit cigarettes in its mouth and pour Guatemalan moonshine down its throat. He wears a cowboy had and wears the ties and scarves that devotees have left as gifts to bring them luck. The effigy moves from place to place and now it is at the mayor´s house beside a large statue of Jesus with flowers and fruit hanging from the ceiling. Does this sound odd to you yet? Anyways lake Atitlan is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes... the water is deep emerald green... the view is gorgeous. No large resort hotels, no tall buildings, and just ordinary people living ordinary lives, and a lot of beautiful things to buy. The air is clean (except if you are behind a bus that spurts out awful black smoke of diesel fuel). This has been a blissful day. It is late afternoon and the fog has set in and it will probably rain. Tomorrow we are off to Antigua for a few days, stopping at Chittenango on the way. There´s apparently a wonderful market there on Sunday.
The Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza and Palenque were wonderful. Our tour of Palenque included a hike in the jungle and you could see stone everywhere indicating that there are still many monuments to be uncovered. They say that only 2 per cent of Palenque has been restored. The Mexican guides speak perfect English and really bring the whole place to life. In Palenque we even got to climb on the monuments and go inside some of them. The walk down the path leads to a gorgeous tranquil waterfall and ends at a museum where you can see many of the jade jewelry and masks found in the tombs... amazing considering the Mayan sites are over 1000 years old. I am now in San Cristobal de la Casas. Another lovely place surrounded by mountains. The people are so friendly... I really wish that I could speak Spanish! For my next trip to central-south America I will definitely be speaking Spanish.... some Spanish classes are coming my way, I think that I can even use my work professional development fund for this. I just hiked up a mini mountain to the church founded by San Cristobal. It is tiny, but I was lucky to be there at the same time as a few indigenous people who were chanting with devotion, kneeling on the floor in front of burning candles. On my way down the hill, I was invited onto the rooftop of a language school for the view and for a spiel about their hometown. Very friendly. I will be hanging out at the center square and the market area later on. The rain has stopped now and the air is a bit cool. Definitely need a sweater in the evening but hot in the daytime... perfect weather really. Tomorrow is a long bus ride into Guatemala. Getting here was torture for me as I suffer motion sickness and as you can imagine being in a mountainous area, the roads are VERY winding. Apparently tomorrow I have at least another 3 hours of this until we get onto the Guatemalan 'chicken bus' and I have no idea about the roads there, it might actually be worse. So I think to make it through the day tomorrow (the whole travel time is 10-12 hours) I will need to take some drugs, not homeopathic stuff, I tried that yesterday and that didn’t work.