Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mexico, Guatemala and Copan Ruinas

With Michelle starting PA school in mid-August and Matthew having the summer off from BSU during his pre-dental prerequisite classes, we realized this would be our last summer of total freedom for quite a while. So of course we had to don our backpacks and head for warmer climes while the gettin' was good.

Our journey started with loading up the Camery (formerly known as Campry) and heading east to Laramie, Wyoming to stay for a few days with Michelle´s parents and play with Meg, Dave and Sol. We left our trusty steed in Laramie and hitched a ride with Glen and Darla to the Denver Aiport where we met up with Matthew´s brother, Nathan and new wife, Melanie. From there we flew to Cancun, Mexico.

Being anxious to save a buck we stayed one night in Cancun city (not the hotel zone) for a place that was only $4 per person per night--a screaming deal--and split the next day to Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres was a great budget option for the ¨Cancun experience.¨ Matthew says, ¨It totally ruled!!!¨ There we had fun in the sun, went snorkeling, seeing lots of colorful fish and even taunted some beracuda! We visited a sea turtle research center and held a six foot cat shark (kept in a sea corral). Isla Mujeres is highly recommendable and we had the good fortune of hitting it when there were few tourists because of the mass hysteria caused by the dreaded swine flu...which, by the way, only two of the four of us caught so far. Really there has been no indication of any increased flu in Mexico...thank you Obama and goons for further perpetuating global hysteria and the need for everyone to rely on the US federal government for their wellbeing.

Valladollid was our base for visiting the massive Maya ruin site of Chichen Itza and a couple of cenotes (limestone sinkholes that are filled with fresh ground water that make for some awesome cave-like swimming experiences). If you have been following this blog you will remember Matthew´s extensive photo documentation of Chichen Itza from our last trip down here. The day was long and hot and we almost lost Melanie to heat exhaustion but luckily it was nothing a cold liter of Fanta couldn´t cure.

Our next base camp was Tulum on the beautiful Caribbean coast of Mexico. We stayed in a beach hut that was questionably a homosexual gathering place and had a shower room that was specifically for ¨romantic¨ activities. At least is had a beaded curtain for the door (not too conducive to private showering). The beach was beautiful white sand and the water was warm and blue. There are Maya ruins on the coast at Tulum that loom directly over a sea cliff. We visited the ruins and spent the afternoon body surfing at their base. Michelle FINALLY got the hang of body surfing and had a blast! That day we all got thoroughly sun burned despite multiple sunscreen applications. From Tulum we also visited the ruins of Coba and and nearly lost Melanie again to the sun god, Quetzalcoatl, and his minions of heat stroke. We also saw a number of american crocodiles in a big lake right on the edge of town and had a close up experience with a baby red lord amazon parrot that just bailed out of its nest and could hardly fly.

We did a border crossing at Chetumal into Northern Belize and drove through Belize onto Guatemala in one day. From what we could tell of mainland Belize we did not miss much by not stopping although the popular cayes (islands) are surely beautiful due to their popularity. Shortly after crossing into Guatemala a gigantic iguana with bright orange and black tiger stripes and body the size of a large dog crossed the road in front of us. In length from head to tail it was a good 6 feet long. It was interesting to see the sheer volume of farm animals grazing near the edge of the highway in the Peten with no fences to keep them off the road.


























We made the island of Flores, Guatemala (in the lake of Peten Itza) our base and had an incredible visit to Tikal. There we saw lots of animal life including parrots, tucans, many other birds, coatimundi, aguti, and spider monkeys. The site is so incredible it´s nearly impossible to explain in words. Towards the end of the day we met a Maya shaman in an excluded part of the ruin site. He gave each of us a soul reading of sorts and we learned that Melanie has a third eye, Nathan does what he does with an extreme level of knowledge, Michelle has an extremely positive aura and the potential to obtain a superior level of astronomical power and cosmic knowledge, and Matthew was simply empty with thoughts that jump all over the place. That clearly explains his difficulty with chemistry.




Our next destination was the incredible natural wonder of Semuc Champey. We visited this spot on our last trip and couldn´t pass up the opportunity to come back. It is situated in a limestone canyon, deep in the jungle of Central Guatemala and consists of a huge staircase of a dozen or more crystal clear, blue pools, each deep enough to swim and dive into with waterfalls flowing between. If you wanted to plan a postcard-perfect garden for swimming you could not do better than this place. Nathan and Matthew had fun wrangling green tree snakes and basilisk lizards. We stayed in a jungle hut just a few meters from the park entrance. Nathan exhibited his supreme manliness with a 40 foot bridge jump into the Rio Cahabon...despite his screaming like a school girl and wild-midair appendage flailing.


Antigua, Guatemala was the last base camp for Nathan and Melanie before returning back to their life of luxury and drudgery at home. From Antigua we did a day trip to the market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala´s largest. We traveled by chicken bus (old US school buses with big stereo systems, lots catholic paraphernalia and luggage racks) which turned out to be one of the most death defying experience of our lives. Picture an old US school bus full of Guatemalans and us ripping through narrow, crowded neighborhood streets at 70 mph with minimal breaking, lots of horn blowing and an extraordinary amount of praying for life preservation....multiply that by four and you are beginning to scratch the surface of the severity of the situation. We are convinced that by far the most dangerous part of traveling in C. America is not the thugs that are itching to mug you but rather the public transportation that is equally on the edge of robbing you of life at any unexpected moment. We should also say that the tourist shuttles (minivans) are no safer and we figure have a greater chance of getting creamed by a head-on collision with a dump truck or chicken bus as nearly ever driver down here feels like they have to pass on blind corners at every possible opportunity. We picked up some Guatemalan souvies at the market and spent a couple more days in Antigua enjoying the culture.





















We were able to fulfill Nathan´s life-long dream of encountering live lava flows at arms length. Volcan Pacaya offered us a great experience with jamming wooden walking sticks into the lava. Matthew procured his own hot lava souvenir and cooled it with bottle of water so he could take it home.















After that Nathan and Melanie flew home out of Guatemala City and we headed on southeast to Copan Ruinas, Honduras. For some reason we had low expectations for the archaeological site here but we were way off with our assumption--it was amazing! Immediately as we entered the park we were greeted by a large flock of scarlet macaw parrots. We were able to approach them within arms length at times and got lots of photos. It was incredible! It was one wildlife experience Matthew had long hoped for but we didn´t think the chances of seeing these birds was pretty remote. That was the first pleasant surprise. Next, the stela (carvings) were amazing. The detail was impeccable and level of preservation was unbelievable in such a wet jungle climate. Many of the buildings had intricate glyphs and carvings as well. This site also offers the opportunity to go into a couple of the archeology tunnels under a few of the structures for an exorbitant additional cost, but we were able to bribe a guard and explore them on our own for a fraction of the regular price. It was exciting and we even had to be sneaky and dodge a couple of tour groups passing through the tunnels as you are really only supposed to be there in guided groups. The tunnel experience made us feel like Indiana Jones because they uncover interior buildings and carvings that were previously covered over by later Maya structures. Just as we came out of the tunnels it the rainy season hit hard and it didn´t really let up for a week!





































































Next, through three days of hot, sweaty, uncomfortable bus travel we finally made it to La Ceiba, Honduras and this morning the sun is finally shining through the cloud cover, so we are off to the beach and we will update later.

4 comments:

Emily's thoughts said...

AMAZING!!! I am so jealous! You look beautiful in those tropical places! I am so glad you gave an update. It looks like you are having an incredible time. You are missed!

hammari (like safari) said...

Hey M&M (and N&M),
Sounds like you're having a great adventure. Your recounting of your experiences is very fun to read. I laughed a lot.
Looks like you're getting to enjoy photographing incredible places like you once talked about. Can't wait to see 'em in National Geographic someday. Keep 'em coming.
-Josh

The Powells said...

Hey guys! Thanks for the email with your blog address. It is so fun to reads about your travels. How exciting! You both look great. When you get back you will have to give us a call so we can hang out. Have fun and we will talk to you soon. Love, Hailey and Danny

Chandler said...

WOW! What a great update! You have taken such beautiful pictures! I love the ones with you on the lava...Matthew looks purely happy like he's just in heaven! And very insightful shaman readings...makes you think.
We're glad you're having SAFE fun. Miss you!

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