Sometimes it feels as if we're letting our guidebook and the iOverlander app dictate our trip. They're both incredibly handy but they often seem to lead down an invisible predestined trail, so well trodden by the travelers before us that its deep indentations in the earth prevent us from veering off.
After Las Pozas and Aguas Calientes, it seemed right to stick with the inadvertent river theme we had developed and head to Semuc Champey. It is by far one of the highlights of Guatemala's natural beauty, one of those places that is difficult to describe, and pictures don't easily do it justice.
Oso, with his wavy blond hair and piercing brown eyes, is quite the handsome bloke. He spend's half his time with his front paws in our laps, and the other half whimpering over his unrequited love for Malta. This charming pup is one of the reasons that we stay longer than planned at this camp spot
Back in the spring we popped over to Guatemala for a few days so we could reset our visas in Mexico. That nearly ended in disaster, with us stuck between borders for several days. I hate to say it, because I want to love every country we go to, but for whatever reason we weren't all that impressed.
The Yucatan peninsula of Mexico is very flat. Most of Belize, which is pretty much part of the same landmass, is very flat. With so many new things to see and do all the time, I don't miss home all that often, but I do find myself missing mountains. Sometimes I just need something, other than a tree, to break up the horizon. Maybe it makes the world seem a little more manageable.
“Well....shit just got real”, is the thought that goes through my head as Pete, Karin and the family we've rented this cabin from begin to board up the windows. Two days ago, along with our friends Sunny and Karin, we were whiling our days away on a beach with not a worry in the world, when we start hearing reports of a tropical storm headed towards the Belizean coast.
The Hummingbird Highway is supposed to be the most scenic road in Belize, and....well, it is. It was our first foray in to the “mountains” here, and while they're small they are definitely not lacking in beauty. The area was reminiscent of the mountains near our home in Tennessee, except with palm trees.
Pastel toned houses on long, lanky stilts......clear blue water....the creole language heard around every corner....tasty, cut-rate lobster....superb snorkeling and diving....narrow, golf cart traveled streets made of sand....and fruity rum drinks all day, everyday, make the tiny island off the coast of Belize seem about as “Caribbean” as it can get.
For such a small country, there sure is a lot to do in Belize. Within just a few days you can see ancient Mayan ruins, an anachronistic Mennonite community, and a zoo full of rescued tropical animals that we'll probably never have the fortune to see in the wild.
After our somewhat disastrous first night camping in Belize, we were really hoping for a better second one. Fryjacks were a good start. After asking around about a good place for breakfast in Corozal, we were told we should try Joe Malins. When the guy that recommended the place saw us again ten minutes later, obviously lost, he offered to lead us there on his bike.
Damnable borders crossings, this whole driving through Central and South America thing would be way easier if we didn't have to deal with the bureaucracy , but without an illegal stealthy entrance on a tiny dirt road or forging a river there's no way getting around them. At least this time we'll have company.
I swear, one of these days we really will move on with our trip and stop lounging on beaches. Maybe after Belize? For now though there's just too many to choose from. The small village of Punta Allen sits at the end of a long narrow peninsula in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve south of Tulum.
The Yucatan Peninsula and its pristine, post-card-ready Caribbean beaches are the reason we extended our stay in Mexico. Shortly after we arrive our enthusiasm fades. The camping options are expensive, which we expected, but no one seems to want us. We, along with our friends, are turned away from several spots for various reasons, so the last three weeks are spent away from our camper in an apartment; time we thoroughly enjoyed, but not what we wanted our stop here to solely consist of.
Even though we are incredibly lucky and even more thrilled to be doing what we're doing, living on the road in a small camper comes with its own set of stresses and challenges. Doing it in a foreign country with an unfamiliar language and customs just adds to that. And although we have been moving at a snail's pace, we still felt like we needed to just stand still for a little while and decompress. We'd been looking forward to the Yucatan Peninsula the whole trip so it seemed a likely place to stop.
The hardest thing about this trip is being away from my family, particularly my parents. It's quite the change from my nomadic, egomaniacal twenty-year-old self that wanted nothing more than to be far away from home. I would wander for long spells only thinking to call them every couple months and gracing them with my highly annoying “I'm more worldly than you” presence once a year.
Since reading about the Mexican state of Chiapas, known for its natural beauty, I've been daydreaming about its landscapes being swathed in the blues and greens of its numerous waterfalls and lush jungles. Unfortunately because of our lengthy border crossing debacle we have less than two weeks to explore the entire region before family come to visit us in the Yucatan.
Sitting in the truck at the southern most Mexico/Guatemala border I'm staring intently at the customs building, not daring to take my eyes of its darkly tinted front doors. I'm waiting for Pete to reappear so I can read the expression on his face. Will he be smiling or wearing the same expression he's worn for days, the one that emulates despondency and frustration?
To say that we're going slower than we planned would be an understatement. In fact, we're moving so slow we think we've coined a new term; sloverlanding. We figured we had enough money to stay on the road for about a year and a half. South America is huge, and we wanted plenty of time to explore, so we gave ourselves six to seven months to get through Mexico and Central America. Five months into the trip and we're still in Mexico. And to make matters worse we still don't want to leave. We love this country.
Our seemingly insatiable search for calm, warm blue water and talcum powder sand is over. We've surprisingly found it at Playa San Augustin on the Oaxacan coast. A coast we almost skipped because, from what we'd researched, the water was more suitable for experienced surfers than beer clutching, lackadaisical swimmers.
For most of our time in Asia we traveled by public transportation. We took boats, trains, buses, tuk-tuks, the backs of motorcycles, and pedi-cabs. It wasn't until we rented a motorcycle for three weeks in Lao that we truly discovered the joy of having your own transportation to be able to explore at will. It's partially what inspired us to do the trip we're on now.