From Belize to Guatemala was the third border we crossed. Border crossing is a different experience when you are traveling in a private vehicle. Normally it is a non-event…you just stand in line to get a stamp, walk through customs and that’s it. With a vehicle however, you have forms, fumigation, fees, insurance, copies of documents – all happening in different unmarked buildings with bureaucrats who may or may not be cooperative. So it is always a toss up how border crossings will go.
So far it hasn’t been bad. Leaving Belize however we ran into our first problem. Apparently when we entered Belize, the custom officer didn’t give us the correct vehicle importation stamp that would allow us to leave from a different border than we entered. So we got lectured by the agent about how it was our responsibility to check our stamps and how we could either drive 5 hours back or pay a $250 fine. I was beginning to think it was a racket but you have to smile and be nice always to these uniformed people. We breathed and said yes we understand you are correct can you please help us. Finally the pompous asshole’s colleague told him to just cancel the bad stamp and fix it. So we avoided the hassle and fines but lesson learned – check your passport for everything they put in it.
Guatemala is poorer than Mexico and you can see signs of that right away. In rural areas you see men, women and children collecting wood, working the fields, bathing and washing in rivers, or even mud pools. But even in urban areas, little everyday things are different from Mexico – like the lack of orange juice stands and ice-cream shops everywhere, the small variety of bread in the panaderia, no beer for sale in every corner tiendas – all signs of my priorities and much less discretionary income than neighboring Mexico.
Our first stop in Guatemala was Tikal, another Mayan archeological site. But this one is special not only because it was a major urban center back in the day but also because of its setting in the jungle. We arrived after a long day of border crossing and a couple hours drive but decided to visit the ruins right away rather than waiting until the next morning. Early morning is the usual recommendation for fewer tourists and cooler temperature. But our visit in the late afternoon ended up quite perfect. The tour buses left, only a handful of tourists remained. The sun was good. The animals were out. And we definitely lucked out on the weather.
After seeing the ruins and having an extremely overpriced dinner in the park, we camped for a night and took a stroll in the surrounding jungle the next morning. Ty has been in a drawing fix the last couple months. All day every day he is happiest when drawing. Although he doesn’t like doing it alone so I have been doodling quite a bit too. First words out of his mouth in the morning, “can we draw?” Everywhere we go he wants to bring his drawing stuff so we (I) can draw what we see. In Tikal was no different. His inspiration there was the ocellated turkey. I don’t know what that means except that it is very colorful like a peacock. He didn’t care about the monkeys or the coatimundis running around; those don’t have the same pretty colors.