Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 3, 2008

Hola Friends -

As you'll recall, we did a lot of great swimming in Belize, but the lack of a larger boat excluded us from the superior offshore sites. In early May we decided, rather than fix up our friends' sailboat, to find a boat of our own back in the states. Thus began our slow return via Guatemala and the Pacific coast of Mexico.

We stubbornly insisted on getting back the $150 US worth of "temporary customs duty" we had paid on our truck. It turned out this meant a customs guard had to escort us from Belize City to the western frontier! He rode in the cab with us and required an extra $10 US for every stop. This curbed our usual proclivity to investigate points of interest along the way. But the border was soon reached and this impediment removed.

The feared Guatemalan robbings, kidnappings, and carjackings never occurred. Either they were afraid of the "Tres Bandidos" logo on the side our truck or Guatemala is not really that dangerous. We found the people friendly and stylish. The countryside teems with villages into which men, women, and children are constantly carrying colorful jugs of water and massive bundles of firewood, either on their back or their heads. They seem to haul these necessities over great distances. Result: they are Incredible-Hulk strong. And they still find time to weave elaborate fabrics and make their own clothing.

We visited the famous ruins at Tikal, then Guatemala City, Antigua, and Lake Atitlan, where we ran into Fabrio, an Italian traveller whom we'd met back in Cancun. The three of us canoed along the cliff-rimmed shore and saw little villages accessible only by boat, also an unnerving number of dead fish floating in the water. One down side of Guatemala is the pollution.

Driving through the Western Highlands we hit 11,000 feet above sea level at one point. On the recommendation of a hiking book about Central America we stopped at the town of Todos Santos Cachumacan, where we each had tailored for us a pair of the pants which all men wear here. You'll see these high-stylers in the pictures. We stayed at a $4-per-day hostel, got sick as dogs on the local cuisine, and spent the next couple days lying miserably in the back of the truck, parked in the courtyard of the hostel, to avoid whatever we felt crawling on us in our room and to be closer to the two bathrooms, which are dank, dark, concrete dungeons with seemingly pre-Columbian plumbing.

Once we were better we entered Mexico on the route that leads through San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. From here we made our way down to the Pacific coast, which we have been following ever since. The main stops have been Salina Cruz (overpowering smell of fish), Barra de la Cruz and Puerto Escondito (lots of surfers), Acapulco (worst traffic jams), Manzanillo (where Steve met up with a friend he hadn't seen in 26 years), Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan, not to mention the many small beach towns, which are practically abandoned, this being the tourist off-season. The Mexican states thus traversed are Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit, and Sinaloa. The countryside is dessicated, the rains not having started yet. The land is alternately mountainous and flat, with vast cultivations of mango, cocoanut, and corn. The beaches are beautiful and easy to access, we've had great luck with free campsites, and we've used the canoe for some nice lagoon and river trips. On the down side, the ocean is usually too murky, cool, jellyfishy, or heavy with surf to swim.

We are currently in the town of El Fuerte, Sinaloa, sussing out a way into the canyons of Chihuahua to see Jim Hogg, whom we visited early in our trip, but with whom we have no means of communication. After that we may take the ferry over to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula and see if the summertime offers hope for our original plan to canoe along the Sea of Cortez. If not we'll return to the states sooner than later. As you can see, our plans remain fluid. It's more fun that way.

Hope this email finds you all well! The Belize and Guatemala Pictures will be the last ones starting at number 98 onhttp://picasaweb.google.com/ginnygoon/Belizeit and the new Mexico pictures are onhttp://picasaweb.google.com/ginnygoon/BackInMexico. 
The older pictures may still be found onhttp://picasaweb.google.com/ginnygoon/MexicoTrip

Ginny & Steve

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