June 20 – July 7, 2016.
After a month in Belize, it was time to move along to Guatemala where we ended up staying three months. We crossed the border between Belize (Benque Viejo) and Guatemala (Melchor De Mencos) on June 20, 2016.
How can a country known for Civil wars, dictatorships, revolutions, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, extreme poverty, crime, drug trade and instability turn out to be one of our favorite country in Central America? Read our 3 part blog to find out!
After crossing the border we got diesel, sim cards for our cell phones, local currencies (1 USD = 7 Quetzals) and headed for Tikal National Park to see the famous ruins. Tikal is one of the major sites of Mayan Civilization, it was inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. but flourished between 200 and 850 A.D. It was declared a national monument in 1931, a national park in 1955 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The National Park is set in the deep jungle with an abundance of wild life, ancient trees, birds and steep sided temples on more than 570 square km (220 sq mi).
After a couple nights in Tikal we drove to Flores to get vehicle insurance and groceries and joined John and Mandi at a hostel that also welcomes Overlanders.
Neil, the owner of the hostel where we stayed in Flores told us about this place, Turicentro Los Cataratas (Waterfall Tourist Center). It is only 17 km from the main road but it took us an hour and a half to get there because the road was so bad. We got there on a Sunday afternoon and a few locals were swimming but by 5pm everybody left and we had the place to ourselves.
When driving from Tikal to Guatemala City, Finca Ixobel is the perfect place to stop for a night or two or tree… It’s an eco friendly hotel and campground located in a beautiful setting of pine forest and jungle. This oasis is a real labor of love that was started in the 70’s by an adventurous American couple. They offer a variety of accommodations from bungalows to tree houses and a beautiful camping area! Activities such as swimming, hiking, caving, bird watching and horseback ridding.
Rio Dulce, Lake Izabal
The plan in Rio Dulce was to camp a few nights and catch a boat that goes from Lake Izabal and then through a river to the Caribbean ocean to the Garifuna town of Livingston.
On our first night we got to see Saskia and Matt from Moxie Trek and their two adorable boys. We met them in Mexico but they were now living on a Sailboat. It was nice to catch up with them and share a diner at a restaurant they used to own in Rio Dulce.
Unfortunately the next day I woke up with a bad back that kept me in bed for 5 days! Probably the worst 5 days of this entire trip. It was extremely hot and humid and I had a terrible reaction to some codeine pills someone gave me. We had to cancel our boat trip to Livingston. Joe got to hang out with some expats mostly boaters since Rio Dulce is famous for being the safest place on the western Caribbean during hurricane season.
When we embarked on this journey a very close friend told us about their friends being posted in Guatemala City with the Canadian Embassy. And again through the magic of Facebook we became friends and they invited us to visit them. It could not have happened at a better time because after being sick it was so nice to be out of the camper and into a very comfortable upscale condo in the nicest neighborhoods of Guatemala City. We are always amazed how strangers welcome us in their homes and treat us like old friends. We stayed with Julie and Ricardo for 4 days and it gave me a chance to recuperate, do some laundry, clean the camper and get ready to pick up two of our grandkids and daughter in law coming for a visit. Oh and did I mention that Ricardo is an incredible chef, every night was a feast, and they even kept some of our stuff so we could free up the back seat of the truck to make space for our visitors.