Around the World in 3300 Days
This original travel report was sent to our friends by email on April 12, 1999:
We are still in Tucson, Arizona. In the next few days, we will start our tour of the South West. As you know we were in Mexico, Belice and Guatemala from the end of November 98 through the end of February 99.We did not travel through the Central American countries as we had planned. The main reason was Mitch that had devastated Honduras in many areas. We did not feel like traveling through a desaster area. Another reason was that I had underestimated the huge distances in Mexico on roads that are partly in a very poor state. The last reason was that we did not meet anybody coming from Central America who could give us first hand information about these countries. Therefore, we decided to travel through Chiapas and spend more time in Yucatan.
We really enjoyed Chiapas (photos), mainly because we had some good encounters with the local indigenous people. Meeting people is one of the main reasons for our traveling. In the rest of Mexico, we had very little contact with Mexicans. We had the feeling that they simply ignored us. When we did have some contact (mostly due to problems with the vanagon), it turned into a nice encounter.
We enjoyed Yucatan for its many interesting ruins, temples, and pyramids (photos). The beaches were a far cry from those in Asian countries, Ursula enjoyed the fine sand and the clear waters, but I just missed the tropical feeling with palm trees and simple restaurants right by the beach side (photos). Yes, there were some palms and some restaurants, but not open to the sea, probably because this strong wind is blowing most of the year. Well, we had beautiful beach weather just three out of 14 days. So, why did we stay so long? Mainly because we met many nice travelers with campers and motorcycles along the beach of Tulum, most of them were from Canada, Germany, and Switzerland, and the atmosphere was just great. Among them were Gerald and Dagmar with their two small children who had just arrived from Guatemala, which they had enjoyed very much. So, we decided too, to travel to Guatemala via Belice.
In just two days, we crossed Belice. The people were really nice and friendly, but the tiny black flies ("no-see-ums") were just unbearable. A lot of the country was still very wet, even under water because of hurricane Mitch (photo). We nearly were stuck when we crossed a long causeway that was submerged by muddy water, and on the other side the campground was drowned in the lake.
In Guatemala, there are three fantastic campgrounds, one close to Tikal, the fabulous ruined city in the jungle. We could have stayed there for weeks easily. The second highlight was the boat trip from Rio Dulce down the river to the Caribbean coast, a trip through mangroves, passing bird colonies and houses where simple people lived. The coastal town of Livingstone was not that impressive. However, we had a delicious fish lunch in a tiny shack restaurant by the sea, which was run by a very joyful family of Garifunas (black people, from the Caribbean islands), what a delightful, Caribbean atmosphere (photos).
The highlands of Guatemala are very beautiful landscape. At Lake Atitlan, an American runs a very peaceful campground that was our base for exploring the Altiplano. Here we enjoyed the local people very much who waved at us and were eager to talk with us. We felt really welcome in every village we visited. The roads are extremely steep there and I did not dare to drive everywhere, but I will come back one day, rent a jeep and drive along the many small and steep roads to the remoter villages.
Back in Mexico we had to drive many days in a row in order to cover some distance. However, we visited the ruins of El Tajin that impressed us very much for the high concentration of pyramids in a relatively small area, and there were thousands of Mexican visitors but not a single foreign tourist.
I had to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan! They are huge! And I climbed both of them; Ursula joined me climbing the Pyramid of the Sun, without any problems.
Besides Oaxaca, we enjoyed the antique towns of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, which are really special. San Miguel has a high number of foreigners living here; this creates an interesting atmosphere with lots of cultural activities, artistic exhibitions, and unique handicrafts. The setup of Guanajuato in that narrow valley among steep hills is to be experienced, to be believed.
Forty miles outside of Durango in a national park our van lost its hydraulic fluid of the clutch. We had to be towed to a workshop through two marvelous, steep canyons - an experience in itself (photos). Our liability insurance paid for this special trip!
Baja California was supposed to be one of the highlights of our Mexico tour, but after bathing in some very nice hot springs (photos) and watching the whales I got very high fever within ten minutes. The doctor diagnosed a urinal infection that was treated with antibiotics. However, as I did not want Ursula to drive the van for the remaining 1300 miles to Tucson, we took a shortcut by taking another ferry to Guaymas and driving back to Tucson in just two days.
What we missed most in Mexico were good and friendly encounters with the locals. We had hardly to use and to improve our basic Spanish. We also missed nice campgrounds in the nature where we could have recuperated and gained fresh strength. Therefore, we had to stay in noisy, polluted towns most of the time, which is just not our way of traveling.
|Some pictures from Mexico, Belize and Guatemala||
| Forward to the third leg of our journey:
Through the Southwest of the USA
| Back to the beginning of our journey:
From Florida to Arizona
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