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Old 03-10-2010, 10:22 PM   #46
BLACK TUSK
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Keep it coming Dorian. Much appreciated.
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Old 03-11-2010, 03:22 AM   #47
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Great RR! Thanks for sharing
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Old 03-11-2010, 04:46 PM   #48
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Old 03-14-2010, 12:59 AM   #49
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Day 26 - "Animal Day" San Ignacio. about 240kms



B-fast at a diner called 'Pops'. Food is not great but they have Easy Rider and Wild Ones posters, so that makes up for it.





Drove all the way back to Burrel Boom to find the community Baboon Sanctuary. It's a project where local land owners agree to conserve the habitat of Howlers and Spider Monkeys on their land, for the purpose of bringing tourism jobs and the preservation of the monkeys. When we arrive the office is overrun with Elementary School kids, so we wait 40 min for our guide Carolyn.

I love the musical sound of the teacher's voices in this:

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We head off on a walking tour, where Carolyn explains the goals of the project. It just reinforces the attitude of Belizeans, who are very conscious of conservation, much more so than at home. The government, as well as the people recognize the long-term benefits to tourism, as opposed to the short-term profits of logging,mining etc. It keeps the money inside the country instead of shipping it off to foreign interests. Wish Canada were more like that. Ok, enough politics.

Don't climb this tree:





After about 40 minutes of walkabout, we track down the Howlers. They are pretty accustomed to people, so we can get nice and close. It's not that they are tame, but they are certainly not afraid of us. We spend a good 20 minutes with 2 females, the dominant male and 2 six week old babies. Very cool. To hear them growl, you really need to be in the jungle at sunrise or sunset, they sound like a T-Rex form Jurassic Park. One of the guides was able to get the male to grunt a bit, but the Howler's heart wasn't in it.

Who's Dat?



This dominant male got in a fight with a local dog and his face got injured



Soon enough 2 females showed up, one of them toting 2 babies:



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Next up was the Belize Zoo, where we hung out for a couple of hours. The premise is basically an animal rescue: animals that would have otherwise died in the wild, or were illegally domesticated pets. They end up releasing a lot of the ones that will make it on their own.

There were a couple of busses in the parking lot and the people associated with tour busses



This toddler Tapir was one that was being kept as a house pet. The result was her being super tame, kissing my hands and saying hello.



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The Jaguars were of course impressive, as were the massive species of eagle and stork. It was a great experience. We saw the curator at the end, Sharon Matola, a friend of Steve Irwin's. I also got to hold a big Boa. Jay wasn't too keen to try this. The Belize Zoo definitely has earned it's word famous status and no visit to the area would be complete without dropping by. Awesome.





This bird is freakishly huge:






The eagles were cool too:



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The ride back was not quite as exciting as yesterday's Hummingbird Highway ride. How do you compare to that? We go for dinner at the recommended Martha's Guesthouse. Wow. Amazing steak,veggies,potatoes, coffee. Comes out to$50 Belize for both of us including drinks - IE $12.50 U.S. each. Less than half the price of home.






Paid the balance of our ATM cave tour, only 2 of us booked so far - Woot! I love being here in the off-season. Nice and quiet. Couple of rums and games of pool at the bar next door to Mayawalk Tours, then we stop to say hi to our Friend Fabio - his place is hoppin' tonight, go Fabio!




Return 'home' after a 2 min talk with Megs which was over in a flash. Damn phone cards.

We realize that with our tour tomorrow taking up the whole day, we will be missing some of the other cool spots around San Ignacio: Big Rock and 1000ft Falls etc. I really wanted to see these. We still have a 5 day buffer on getting to Ixtapa for Xmas. Should we spend one more day in Belize?

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Old 03-14-2010, 03:56 AM   #50
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Thanks for the report! It's quite an adventure!
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Old 03-14-2010, 06:49 PM   #51
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Old 03-14-2010, 07:21 PM   #52
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Thanks for riding along guys.
Still to come:

2 weeks across Guatemala
South West Mexico
Baja
Western U.S.
Home
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Old 03-14-2010, 09:54 PM   #53
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Day 27 - Dec 4 - San Ignacio -



Grab b-fast and start off on our ATM tour at 8:30. Actun Tunichil Muknal is an ancient Mayan archaeological site. Discovered in 1989, this cave had remained untouched for approximately 1000 years, and has only been open to the public since 1998.. The challenge of the Belizean government was to balance tourism with preservation - not an easy task by any stretch. What was to follow would be one of the most memorable days of our lives.



We meet up with our guide, Martin. He was one of the assistants on the original survey team and his company is one of only 3 that have certified access to the caves. Turns out there is no one else in our group, so we pile into the company's big safari style Chevy and the 3 of us, (plus driver) hit the road. It feels particularity odd to have someone driving us around, but we enjoy being able to study the countryside scenery. On the way, our driver makes a stop at the pharmacy, then makes a couple more stops delivering drugs and medicine to some of the farmers and their families in the remote countryside. I find this charming.

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After about 40 minutes on paved road, we hit dirt and travel another 20 min to the park entrance. We pack our gear (including dry bags) and spend 45 minutes in the jungle on the way to the caves. Martin is of Mayan heritage and is very knowledgeable about Mayan history and customs, so the whole hike is a history lesson. We also stop to dine on Bitter leaf and Koona nuts (kind of like a small dry coconut) - he teaches us how to break them open on the rocks.

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The lower cave system is "wet" and to access it you dive in and do a quick swim. The passages get progressively smaller and darker.

The feeling in the caves is of complete awe, humbleness and overwhelming spiritual presence. I am not a religious man, but something much bigger than ourselves is present here.

Entrance:










At one point, Martin gets us to kill our headlamps and leads us, through the pitch black, through some of the lower passages of the caves, our hands on the shoulder of the guy in front. He then "plays" some of the Stalagmites, by lightly tapping them like a giant Xylophone. Sound ON

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After climbing, wading, swimming and squeezing our way through the lower wet cave portion, we enter the dry cave area, "The Catedral", doff our shoes (with socks on to preserve the surface) and see dozens of sacrificial pots, offerings to the gods, tools and remains. Yes remains.

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This pot has a hole believed to facilitate blood-letting:





Up a 15 foot ladder balanced carefully against the cave wall, the "piece de la resistance" is the Crystal Maiden, for whom the cave system is named. The Stone Tomb is the highest chamber and the climatic end to our hike. On the way out, a group of about 12 is on their way into the tomb. I am instantly grateful that it's just the 3 of us on our tour and at the same time, I'm fearful for the safety of the artifacts. This area can't be sustained forever with this kind of traffic.






We slowly make our way down through the cave system, swim back out into the jungle and have a nice lunch stop before heading back. We thank Martin profusely and leave him a nice tip. he was the best - if you go, ask for him by name.







Back in town we run into a middle aged Ex-pat Canadian woman. We saw her briefly on her shiny Harley yesterday. She travels solo all over Guatemala, with her home base at Lake Atitlan. What a cool lady. I mean you have to respect her cahones, a blond woman, solo on a shiny softail in C.A. Respect. She reminds me of my late mother, who soloed on a BMW R60 across Europe around 1964. We re-visit Fabio at Mio Amore and feast on fresh vegi pizza and Fettachini Bolonese. Sure beats cookies and lemon peanuts for dinner. A farewell to Fabio and back to our luxury (by our standards) lodgings.

Tomorrow is day one in Guatemala. I've been there twice before and loved it. The first time was around 1991, while the civil war was still going down. My Mother, Father and Uncle spent a month in a rented Nissan Micra, bouncing down rough roads and dodging Guerrilla raids. The second time was just a day trip to Tikal, so I knew we couldn't miss that. Two days that we typically do not look forward to: Border Days and Malaria Tuesdays. They both tend to suck. Malaria Tues because you feel slightly drunk, foggy and disoriented. Border days because the potential for hassle is high.

So a few words about Belize before we head over the border.:

First off, Belize has a rep of being dangerous and inhospitable. You should have seen the look on the face of a Canadian lady we met when we said we were coming here - absolute horror. I hope I have smashed that reputation here. The people and the places were both amazing. Keep in mind that we didn't go to Belize city. Why would we? Second myth, Belize is expensive. This is only true if you don't try. The majority of the time spent here was 5 dollar dinners and 10 dollar lodgings. Deals are everywhere, you just have to lower your standards (think Hostel) and look harder.

One other thing that I am proud of is that I feel as though I'm breaking new ground on coverage of Belize. My extensive research before the trip brought up nothing but a few scraps about Belize, both here on ADVrider and on HUBB. People tend to either avoid this country, or fly through in one day. These people are really doing a dis-service to themselves. In fact one of my heroes, Glen, said in a post on here that "there is nothing to see in Belize". Ouch. I want to meet Glen for a hundred reasons, one being that I need to change his mind on this one. It was a common joke for Jay and I, whether gliding through a Jungle highway, hanging in a Creole community, climbing peaks and jumping waterfalls, visiting ancient mayan sites and caves, swimming the reef with sharks etc, to say to ourselves sarcastically "there's nothing to see in Belize" with a chuckle to ourselves.

The truth is that Belize has put aside a HUGE percentage of their land towards parks and reserves. Rather than a quick profit, they are looking to sustainable tourism to keep their economy afloat. Sometimes we don't realize as travelers, that visiting a third world country is not just awesome for us, but it helps out people and families wherever you go. With that in mind, it's my hope that you guys will stop by this amazing place, and as our customs agent said, be a "Bona Fide Tourist mon"

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Old 03-14-2010, 10:21 PM   #54
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thanks for the sharing...
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:19 AM   #55
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Chapter 4 - Guatemala - Adventure Paradise



Let me preface this chapter with some info regarding photos. I tragically and foolishly lost my memory card, including all photos from Guatemala save for Xela. Luckily, Jay was snapping some pics, although not as obsessively as I was. So this chapter will be made up of Jay's pics, and some subjects plain won't have any photo coverage. I'd like to thank Jay for his photo/video contributions, many of which have been included up to this point as well. More on my card loss later :(


Day 28 - San Ignacio to Flores Guatemala - 109kms

We're up and depart around 7-something. There's a creepy dude next door who looks like he's on speed and listens to a lot of Iron Maiden. He woke me up last night, randomly screaming at something or someone. Also the thumping bass line of the bar down the road made it hard to crash. Jay didn't have a problem. I swear, you could run a marching band around his bed and he wouldn't wake up. Lucky basterd. So this creepy, cracked out, muscle bound freak from next door approaches as we leave the compound in the morning. He kinda gets up in our face, stares at our license plates and scopes out our bikes for no apparent reason. Random.

Easy navigation on the way out of town today. Jason leads. He's been contributing a lot more lately with the routing and nav and I really appreciate it. Day is overcast. The cold I picked up from Jay is getting better, but we still both hack and cough a lot. We're both a bit nervous about the crossing/paperwork on the Guat side. I've done my homework, but who knows - I have no info on this specific crossing on the west side of Belize.

Leaving on the Belize side is pretty easy: get your passport stamped and hand in your import form for the bike. You have to pay a fee of $37.50 Bz departure tax. People whine and make a big stink about this. Harden the F**K up - I've spent more at the movies.

Second stage is crossing over to the Guat side, exchanging money and getting the bikes sprayed/fumagated. $12.45 Quetzals. I exchange my Belize dollars and barter 175 Q here vs 125 on the other side of the border. Yay me. For future reference, ALWAYS know the exchange rate before going in.Go here:

http://finance.yahoo.com/currency-co...D;to=GTQ;amt=1

...and you'll see that one dollar US is worth about 8 Quetzal. I printed out the "Pocket guide" on some little pieces of paper and kept it on me. Don't get scammed. They tried and failed. I go first and Jay watches the gear.

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Over to immigration. No questions asked about who we were, what we do, where we're going, nothing. I get a 90 day visa without asking and a smile from my agent. Over to customs for the bike, he asks me to get a few copies. I wander around the corner and find a nice copy lady - 1 Q per copy, (or 12 cents US.) Back to customs guy, he helps me fill out the form and sends me to the front of the bank line, despite my protesting. Pay my $40Q here, back to customs. He looks at my VIN, couple of stamps and signatures and I'm done. Elapsed time of about 25 min, and everyone super friendly. Easiest crossing ever. Jay does the same and we're done.

First up it's about 30 min of dusty. potholed gravel. Watch out for the brief paved sections, they have some nasty, foot deep holes that rocked us. It's paved the rest of the way to Flores. Some sections are brand new blacktop while others house big craters. We are hauling ass now. I've been warned about security on this stretch, so I want to keep moving and we do.

No Nav issues whatsoever, straight to Flores and we search a couple of hotels before finding a lakefront view room for 100Q per night (read $6 US each - not a typo). The view is amazing. We have no secure parking for the bikes, so we "knox" them outside. This is our term for heavy cable lock around a pole, both steerings locked, both discs locked and a cable cinch lock through the frames, with a bike cover overtop. So, we sleep fine at night.

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This town is located on Lake Peten Itza in the Peten province and a popular jump-off point to Tikal. It's situated on a small island, connected to the city of Santa Elena by a narrow bridge. There is a one-way street that runs the perimeter and a Zocolo up top that has a nice view of the surrounding area. In short, it's awesome. Cool history, architecture, restaurants and vibe. And for you single guys, some damn pretty girls. Lots of em.

We stop for a forgettable lunch on the waterfront. We're finding that waterfront restaurants tend to not try as hard. We then head over the bridge to Santa Elena to check it out and get Jay some cashola. It lacks the charm of Flores. We then wander the streets a bit, grab a 6 pack and hang out on the deck. There are some major fireworks going on all over town. Some are big explosions and some are the smaller string kind. Tons of small bikes here - never a helmet or jacket of course.

Later we head up to the Zocolo at the crest of the town and watch some local guys play some B-ball in the court there. They are good! Very aggressive and skilled. Had no idea that B-ball was popular here. We get plenty of strange looks as we sit there on the courtside and drink beers. Back on our deck we have a few drinks with some Norwegians that speak perfect English. Off to bed with the sound of another thumping bass line over the lake.
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:23 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by drifter dave

One other thing that I am proud of is that I feel as though I'm breaking new ground on coverage of Belize.
Not only have I really enjoyed your trip report, it has also shifted my opinion about the opportunities in Belize. My wife had wanted to plan a trip there recently, and I have to admit that my ignorance allowed me to dismiss the idea. Many thanks for the entertainment and education you have provided. I look forward to reading more.
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:50 AM   #57
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Day 29 - Dec 6th - Flores/Tikal


Pretty good sleep, up at 6am, coffee and hit the road. Day is overcast again, even a bit chilly. Rain threatens but never materializes. The road to Tikal follows La Lago Itza, familiar from yesterday, then branches north. Passing through little towns we ride by people sitting on the roadway. This seems to be a popular passtime. We dodge pigs, horses, emaciated dogs and children.

Nice riding on the way, good twisties and we go at a decent clip. Arriving at the gates of the first park boundry, they jot down the time of arrival and mark it on a little card. 20 more kms of slick, broken pavement through thick jungle. We pass by signs for Jaguar, snake, turkey crossing etc. Cute. Arriving at the second gate, the guard asks for our little sign in card and marks the time again. It's some kind of system to make sure we aren't making a stop on the way to go hunting or something.

The parking lot for Tikal is fairly empty - a good sign. We strip off our riding gear cable lock our helmets, pants and jackets to the bikes. The fee to get in is $150Q which is about $100Q more than the Lonely Planet guide says. Hmm. Maybe they should hire us for updates.


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Heading to the main Plaza, it's pretty quiet and void of crowds for the time being. We spend the next 4 hours exploring the ruins and climbing four of the major temples.





Another reminder that if you are seeing blank screens here that you need to update Adobe Flash to see the video.

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I love that you can climb all over the temples. They have only shut down a couple of them, due to people falling to their death. I try not to take it for granted that here we have freedom, whereas in N America there's no way we could do this. It would be all roped off due to fear of being sued.




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The stone says that in 2010 John Cusack will star in a bad film about the Apocalypse



By 12:30 we're getting beat and the full tourist onslaught is in effect. At one point, Jay and I are on top of temple IV and we are quietly taking in the amazing vista. In the distance, you can hear a Howler doing his amazing roar. About 40 tourists show up, all laughing and yelling at each other, drowning out the sounds of the jungle and shattering the peace of the place. I don't know if it's just me, but I enjoy quietly taking in the grandeur of the place. We leave.

On the way out we run into our Norwegian friends and hike together back to the bikes and a good lunch at the Jaguar Inn. Here you can pitch a tent, stay overnight and be the first ones into the site at 6am. I would highly recommend going this route and being there when the jungle comes alive. Next time.

The way home is all sunshine and great riding, passing a lot of vehicles and dodging piglets and horses on the way. Back in Flores we stop for a cheap snack at a place called Cool Beans and run into a fellow Canuck, Matt from Quebec. He had a bad run in with a mob in Nicaragua. They got it in their heads that Matt was some kind of foreign drug dealer and were out for blood. A kind-hearted minster interjected and saved his life by giving him refuge in his church. Matt decided to turn home and abandon his trip to Argentina. The whole lynching thing kinda turned him off. He now rides with a giant duct-tape cross on his windshield.

We wander the seawall and catch the sunset before returning to Cool Beans for a full dinner with 6 beers between us for a whopping $200Q. I get in a quick chat with Megs and send off an email to Glen Heggstad. hoping to meet up with him in Mazatlan.

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Old 03-15-2010, 10:03 AM   #58
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Not only have I really enjoyed your trip report, it has also shifted my opinion about the opportunities in Belize. My wife had wanted to plan a trip there recently, and I have to admit that my ignorance allowed me to dismiss the idea. Many thanks for the entertainment and education you have provided. I look forward to reading more.
Thank you SledgED, you just made my day.
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Old 03-17-2010, 09:27 AM   #59
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Day 30 - Flores to Semuc Champuey.

Up and B-fast at the super friendly cafe across the street. On the road by 8:00. We are trying to find Libertad and the start of Hwy 5. With our vague paper maps and lack of mapsource on my GPS, I have no idea if we went the right way, but we find Hwy 5 South.

This road is in great shape. We get to a town called Sayaxche and take a ferry barge powered by an outboard motor over the river there. People stare at us as though we are from a different planet. We weren't getting a lot of love on that ferry. One guy gave me the angriest look I've seen yet - 'the stink eye' or literally "death stare" as my diary puts it. Meanwhile a truck full of kids is all smiles as waves. Offloading from the boat, we are in a hetic market street full of people, goods, animals and just general chaos. We have to inch the bikes through to get by. I feel like we're in National Geographic.

After Sayaxche, the road gets amazingly scenic and beautiful. We start seeing a lot of traditional Myan dress. Fruits and nuts dry on blankets by the side of the road.




We go through Los Pozas, a true 3rd world town if we'd ever seen one. We ain't in Kansas anymore.

In a place called La Ceiba, we stop for gas and meet a couple of super friendly hombres who want to know all about us and the bikes. They ply us with the usual bike-related questions (how many cc's, how much to buy one, top speed) and we have some laughs at our poor Spanish skills. Their sign language warns that we may fly off a cliff to our death on the road ahead, especially if it is slippery.

After a turn east at a town called Raxruja, the road turns to exposed rock, embedded. The kind of road that rattles your teeth out, so we stop to air down in 40 degree C heat. The road is good going, but the signs disappear and it's anyone's guess where we are. I use the compass mode on the GPS. I wish I had more photos here. Somewhere, someone has a bunch of pretty pictures on a memory card.

After Sebol, the road turns to curvy, high altitude mountain road, going from paved to dirt and rock, then progressively narrower and more sketchy. In one rural town, we come across a football match and we can feel the whole crowd's eye's on us. If there were a record playing, you would have heard the scratch sound and the music stop.

Highest point:




Road turns to dirt - here it's getting narrower after leaving the paved section:




After a couple of hours, I am not really sure anymore if we are where we need to be. The road seems just too narrow, rough and plain tiny to be a major route. "Route 5" has a nice big line on the map and a crested symbol in the middle of the line - kinda like you'd see on interstate in the U.S. I stop and ask one young man in Spanish if we are headed towards Lanquin, but he puts is hand up, waving his finger, his head down, shakes his head and walks the other way. Ok, I'm starting to get frustrated now, like I do when Im lost and don't know where I am. Jay approaches a very kind hearted old Farmer, who graciously puts up with our lame Spanish and tells us that Lanquin is about an hour ahead. A look at our GPS and the co-ordinates on the paper map confirms this. Could this be route 5?

The road gets progressively broken down, with exposed rocks and ledges and about the width of a Toyota pickup. Around one corner we come across some fallen trees and a group of about 50 men with machetes. Let me preface this part by saying that one technique for robbery that I'd read about is to fall a tree and wait for a victim. So alarm bells go off in my head and my heart-rate increases.

The men give us a joyous reception however, big smiles and friendly waves, then carry on with their work clearing the debris. Hacking away with machetes, they remove branches and small trees seemingly speeding up to facilitate our progress. When the path his clear, we gun our engines to get a run at the rough terrain, bouncing our way past the work crew. As we pass, they begin to cheer and raising their arms to the sky and shaking their fists, they urge us on with hoots, hollers and yells. Standing on the pegs, climbing the loose rock, their yells escalate and dozens of smiling men with machetes become our personal cheering section, as though we are sports heroes. It is one of the coolest moments of my life and one that I will never forget.

At this point, it's single lane Jeep trail. Not difficult, but warranting some caution:



The odd vehicle that we encounter heading towards us either gives us room, or almost runs us into the ditch. After another few hours of narrow drop offs, rugby ball sized rocks and stair-step ledges, we hit a paved intersection and a sign for Lanquin! I have to say that my previously scheduled Hwy 13 route must have been faster and less of a hassle (not to mention paved), but Jay insisted on taking the "more direct" route 5. I sure am glad that we didn't take my route. #5 was an adventure and totally thrilling. But at the time, I wasn't so sure.

We meet a cool group of travelers at this intersection and they tell us to avoid our choice of Hostel, El Retiro and head for a better place right in Semuc. They tell us that the locals call that place "El Retardo", so we head towards their recommended hostel right next to the park.

After passing through the small town of Lanquin we arrive in Semuc and our new Hostel - El Portal. It's a very cool place, 2 min to the park, $40Q a night each and good, cheap food. Plenty of other cool travelers here from the U.S., Oz, Germany, Russia etc. We fit in just fine. What a day. Tomorrow we check out all of the wonders of Semuc. Stay tuned.

Portal is tucked away at the end of this path:



You are almost at the park when you cross this bridge. Portal is above it on the hill:



Political:



This is from the next morning:

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drifter dave screwed with this post 03-17-2010 at 09:38 AM
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Old 03-17-2010, 11:12 PM   #60
BLACK TUSK
weekend warrior
 
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Joined: Mar 2010
Location: SQUAMISH.B.C.CANADA FORMERLY JINDABYNE AUSTRALIA
Oddometer: 5
Thanks again

Thanks again Dorian.
Another pile of work.
I'm still drinking it in.
It's all amazing. the caves were phenomenal.
The video clips add such a dimension.
Looking forward to the next.
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