Guatemala, Mexico, Belize Trip Report

August 2011
Copyright Henry Richardson

I traveled for a few weeks in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize and it was a really good trip! The photos from the trip are in the Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala photo galleries:

photo Moving day in Antigua

While in Guatemala I was at Panajachel, Lake Atitlán, Chichicastanega, San Pedro La Laguna, Santiago Atitlán, Antigua, Tikal, and Flores. The highlands were probably my favorite and they were also a bit less hot and humid too.

photo "Chicken bus" driver in Guatemala laughing maniacally as he sped around the curves on a mountain road in the highlands in the rain. :-)

One really interesting experience was when I rode on three "chicken buses" going from the town of Chichicastanega to the town of Panajachel in the highlands. The first bus was so crowded that I was standing right next to the driver with one foot on one side of the stick shift and the other foot on the other side. I was trying not to interfere with his driving on the bumpy, winding mountain road. I was doing all I could to just hang on and keep from falling on him on the curves or falling through the windshield. :-) Later had to transfer to 2 more "chicken buses" at Los Encuentros and Sololá. They were less crowded so I could get a seat. The rain was pouring down during the ride on the 2nd bus and I was praying we wouldn't go over the edge of a cliff or turn over. :-)

Also, the Mayan ruins at Tikal were really cool! Well, actually it was very hot and humid in the jungle, but you know what I mean. :-) Arrived at Tikal about 4:15 AM and we hiked through the very dark jungle using flashlights to get to Temple 4 pyramid. Then climbed way up to the top to sit in the cool breezes and watch the mist hanging over the whole jungle below. Not much of a sunrise because of the mist but for me the mist was better -- very mysterious. Then spent the next several hours wondering around in the jungle and visiting many of the most impressive ruins at the site.

In Mexico I traveled through the states of Yucatán and Chiapas in the south visiting Mérida, Maya ruins at Chichen Itza, Maya ruins at Palenque, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Maya ruins at Tulum, and Playa del Carmen. San Cristóbal de las Casas was a place I particularly liked and certainly recommend it! Also, back in 2008 I spent a month traveling in Mexico going to Mérida, Maya ruins at Chichen Itza, Maya ruins at Uxmal, Maya ruins at Kabah, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato. Mexico is a wonderful country to travel in and I think lots of people would enjoy going there. I am not a fan of the big resort areas such as Cancún and Cozumel though.

photo San Cristóbal de las Casas at night

On this trip to Mexico one of the things that was really fun to do was swim in 3 cenotes in the countryside outside of Mérida. The underground cenote pools were deep, very clear, and such beautiful blue water! To get down into the first one it was just a matter of walking down some rather steep wooden steps, the second one you had to go through a hole in the ground and then down some very steep wooden steps in the dark, and the last cenote there was just a wooden ladder descending down into a hole in the ground. The blue water in all 3 was beautiful and the experience of swimming in these underground pools of crystal clear water with just some sunlight coming through holes way up in the ceiling of the caverns was wonderful and mysterious.

In Belize I was in San Ignacio and Caye Caulker. Belize has more of a Caribbean vibe than a Latin American vibe. Also, the first language is English so makes things a bit easier. :-)

photo Me deep in the totally dark Acton Tunichil Muknal cave in Belize (photo taken with flash).

I went with a spelunker (caving) guide to explore the spectacular, huge Actun Tunichil Muknal cave. The caving was fantastic!!! Although most of the time was in water that varied from up to our chests to up to our knees there was one part that was well over our heads so we had to swim carefully keeping the helmet with light out of the water. Some tight squeezes and lots of clambering over big, slippery rocks and climbing in total darkness except for our helmet lights. One place was very narrow and in water up to your chest and you had to go in sideways and then turn your head to the left, tiptoe a bit, and then carefully pass your neck (the narrowest part of your upper body) through a very narrow channel in order to pass through -- all in the dark. It was funny trying to get your head, body, and neck in just the right position in the dark and trying to keep your footing so you wouldn't hang yourself. :-) Way back in the cave there were many Mayan artifacts and some skulls that archaeologists have left in place (can't touch, of course). Then at the last point we went to there is the complete skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed there about 1200 years ago. I guess it took us about 4 hours. The entrance to the cave in the dense jungle with a clear stream of water flowing out of it was just otherworldly. It was about an hour hike through dense jungle and wading across shallow rivers to get to the cave entrance and then the same hike to get back out to the place where the van was parked. Just 5 of us plus the wonderful caving guide. Unfortunately, it was impossible to carry and use a camera while caving so I have no photos. :-(

photoFenchie in Caye Caulker, Belize during morning coffee

Caye Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize that I was at and there was no relief from the mosquitoes, heat, and humidity. It was not really worth my time to go to it. I didn't find it interesting, but others might. I was happy to leave Caye Caulker. :-) Fortunately, Frenchie, the owner of the little hotel, was a great guy and I enjoyed talking with him several times and drinking coffee together outside early in the morning.

Well, if you are interested and have a chance please take a look at my photos! The photos from the trip are in the Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala photo galleries:

Copyright Henry Richardson