We checked out at Chaa Creek—with a fairly large bill (it’s so easy to just order those drinks at poolside!) but much happiness. We had booked a driver to the Guatemala border where our Guatemalan driver would pick us up (Belizean guides aren’t allowed to take tourists through the border.) We left CC at 10 and got to the border in about 20 minutes. Todd’s cell phone worked and told us that back in Seattle the temperature was 23 degrees F. Sorry, Seattle! It was sunny and hot in Belize! Some waiting while our CC driver (Alexi) looked for our driver. We changed some money with some old guys who were standing around with wads of Quezales (Alexi said it was OK). We thought we would have to pay the money upon entry but found out later it was for exit fees. We paid $32.50 for the two of us to exit Belize and 50 Q (about $3.50) to enter Guatemala for all 5 of us. Our new driver was Orlando and was the sweetest, gentlest person. He really wanted to chat with us but only spoke Spanish. I was sitting up front so dredged up as much of my high school Spanish as I could (remember, this is our 40th, so my high school days are even longer in the past!) Randy helped a bit, and we got along OK. It was very fun remembering words that I didn’t know I knew! Although the advertised time to Tikal is 2 hours, it actually took us 3 hours with the delays at the border and a pit stop. We got to the Jungle Lodge and met our driver Reuben. We unloaded our bags and walked with Reuben to a lunch place in the jungle nearby. We then walked a long, long way on a dirt path stopping at a small structure and some other structures that hadn’t been unearthed yet. Finally we reached the back of Pyramid #4, the tallest in the group (they think). There is a wooden staircase so you can get to the top. Everyone climbed up, meeting a ranger at the top who told us to be quiet because it is a sacred spot. The view was magnificent over the jungle with the tops of the other pyramids sticking out over the top. Reuben talked to us about Mayan culture (he is a Mayan himself; although he didn’t speak much of the language, he said his dad had.) After that experience, Sierra was finished with Mayan temples, so Reuben said that he had a friend who could help. Soon a man who was collecting trash in his pickup truck drove up and after a few words with Reuben, Sierra and I climbed in and were treated to the bumpiest but most welcome drive back to the Jungle Lodge. I held on to Sierra for dear life, but we never met another vehicle. I got a quick glimpse of the main temple complex as we drove by. When we got to the Lodge, we wanted to do some reading but it was getting dark. When we asked at the office, the nice woman there said that there is only electricity between 5:30-10:00 pm and 6:30-8:30 am because it was made by a generator. We were glad that it was cooler out because the ceiling fans wouldn’t be working! We managed to occupy ourselves happily until the others came back with tales and many pictures of the Perdido Mundo (“lost world” which was an unexcavated place), the Grand Plaza with the king’s and queen’s pyramids and the “acropolis”. They climbed Temple 2 on another sturdy but steeper wooden staircase. Reuben’s opinion of the 2012 calendar thing is that it is the end of an age, not the end of the world. The new age will be the one of the woman (!) He said that he thought that Mel Gibson’s movie “Apocolypso” was an unrealistic depiction of the Mayan civilization. We all went over to the restaurant attached to the Jungle Lodge at 6 for some drinks, waiting for dinner to start at 6:30. Most of us had a nice dinner—more chicken. Randy’s pepper steak he renamed “boot.” We were told the beef wasn’t tender in Central America and it proved to be true.
Next morning everyone except me woke up to howler monkeys roaring. I’m a heavy sleeper! We all went in to breakfast about 0800. We had arranged for Orlando to come pick us up at 10, so we had time to pack and look around at the shopping area right up the road. It took a bit over an hour to get into Flores. Orlando’s face lit up with love as we drove through his home town and saw his little girl riding her bicycle up a side road. Orlando dropped us off in front of Captain Tortuga Restaurant and said he’d be there all day with our luggage. We walked up hill to the church and got there just as the priest was locking it up for lunch (although we had asked beforehand if it was going to be closed and were told no.) The priest let us in and we took a peek at the architecture which was pretty plain. Went out a side door where we were locked in, we thought, until some people came by and opened the gate. We walked around the island (which was built by the Mayans in the lake) and saw many three-wheeled taxis, some ramshackle buildings and some very nice colorful buildings and the nice countryside on the other side of the water. We had lunch at Captain Tortuga and ice cream at the stand in the porch area. Yum. We all then wandered around shopping at the little tourist shops and had a good time. About 2:45 we gathered up Orlando and headed for the airport for our 4:15 flight. It took a bit of time to get through ticketing, luggage checking, and “migracion” which cost $33 USD per person. We kept our regular carry ons then realized how silly that was when we saw the airplane—a 10 to 12 seater Tropic Air prop. We gave the people the bags and climbed aboard for a scenic flight over the jungle, an area that just had to be the Mennonite area, and then Belize City. Changed planes to another small Tropic Air and off we went to San Pedro. We arrived and were met by Walter and his Toyota Previa van (a popular vehicle on Ambergris we noticed) and whisked off to Banyan Bay with a short tour of the downtown area of San Pedro. We just dumped the luggage because we were all hungry and walked over to Rico’s, the restaurant attached to BB. Nice food, nice drinks, fresh breeze—we finally relaxed after a long, hot, tiring day of travel.