From Palenque, it took us two marvelous days through vivid green jungle and farmland to the border at Frontera Corozal. Turquoise rivers and waterfalls along the road for refreshment and camping - cyclists heaven! A boat brings us over the river to Bethel in Guatemala. Thats the end of paved roads it seems. And the end of good food. Only one place offers microwave rice and beans, with pretty outdated christmas decoration (in February) and little friendly staff. A young fiercly looking guy walks around with a colt in his belt. We cycle out of Bethel on the bumpy road, get our passports stamped and head on towards Flores. Two hours for 20 kilometers of the worst road I ever rode. Nothing but potholes and rocks. I have a break, wait for Kathrin. A bus stops, with Kathrins bicycle on the roof carrier and Werner waving out of the window. In no time my bike is on the roof too. Saved at last! 40 more kilometres of bumpy self torture would have still been ahead of us. However, 5 hours on worn out bus seats render me wrecked and grumpy anyway. We arrive in Santa Elena nearby Flores after nightfall, and only on the next day Werner finds us a reasonable place to stay in Flores. Finally I start to like Guatemala.
60 kilometers to Tikal, a famous ancient Maya city. We spend a night in our tent in a luxury lodge in the humid and hot National Park. Werner meets us the next morning, and together we stroll through the thick jungle to various temples and pyramids until lunch. Between 0 and 900 AD the city was build and prospered, with 200,000 people living here before it was all abandoned and reclaimed by nature. Only a fraction of the ancient buildings has been carved out of the jungle, but what has been restored is breathtaking enough to marvel upon the achievements of the Mayas. The temples, some as high as 65 meters above the ground top the canopies of the tallest trees, and provide a splendid outlook to the other temple tops. A famous Star Wars scene was taken here, and that is how extraterrestrial that place looks like in the morning mist!
Pooring rain on the way out of Tikal, a night in a bungalow in El Remate. On the next day we make it all the way to Belize. Rain after we cross the border. We reach San Ignacio and get pretty surprised by the price level for accomodation and food. Everything seems to be at least twice as much as Guatemala for no better quality or service. Cycling in Belize is great. There is hardly any traffic on the road through the farmland to Belmopan. Rain. Cycling on the Hummingbird Highway South towards Dangriga through jungle mountains and many citrus plantations. The few trucks that we meet out here are loaded with tons of oranges on their trailers, the best smelling trucks I've ever experienced. In a Amish-run bakery in a little village we meet an Canadian woman who recommends us to visit Hopkins instead of Dangriga on the way to Placencia.
Yeeha, we finally stay on the Carribean shore! Never mind that the water is brown from all the rain from the last couple of days. After three nights, we ride on to Placencia to meet Werner. He finds us a great spot on the beach a little off the touristy town, where a family lets us camp for little money between the trees on their piece of beach. Urs and Jean join us a day later. Belize beach holidays at its best: snorkeling, kanooing and fishing for free for a few days. Campfires and BBQ and fireflies in the fullmoon nights. One day we spoil us with a great snorkeling trip out to Silk Cayes, seeing corals and colorful fish and turtles and rays and so on. Afterwards we dance on a Reggea party till 1 AM. Time to say good bye, or rather 'See you in Guatemala'. Urs, Jean and Werner hitch to Lake Attitlan, where Kathrin and I hope to meet them again. The two of us cycle down to Punta Gorda, camp a night in the Tranquility Lodge and take a boat over to Livingston, Guatemala on the following morning.
On the same afternoon we arrived in Livingston, we catch a great scenic boat ride through a gorge up the river to Rio Dulce. Somewhere in between, there is a hot spring that runs directly into the river. The shoreline is forested, jungle everywhere. Plenty of sailboats anchor in El Golfete, which is a famous hurricane shelter as we learn later while talking to a skipper in our hotel in Rio Dulce. Sailing down to Panama, or even further - that would be great!