Belize to Mexico, Amy in WA, Brian and Shelly in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala 06-29-06 to 08-01-06

Filed under: Belize, Guatemala, Mexico — Aaron and Amy at 1:44 pm on Wednesday, August 9, 2006

We left Placencia around 9:30 and started our trek north to the Mexican border.  It was Friday morning and we cross on weekdays in case there are any issues with the dogs that need to be resolved with an office that isn’t open on weekends.  Although there were still some major potholes and muddy washed out parts of the road, the dirt road leaving Placencia wasn’t as bad as we were expecting.  It’s all of about 23 miles and it took us two hours!  As soon as we hit pavement we figured we might actually make it to the border in time!  We were only about 2 hours from the border when we passed through an inspection on a key intersection turning onto the Northern Belizean Highway.  Aaron wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and the officer told him it’s required in Belize and that he was going to issue him a ticket.  Aaron handed him his license and then walked back to the roadside “office” with the officer.  The officer continued to tell Aaron that he would have to appear in front of a judge in Belize City in about a week.  Upon Aaron telling him that our tourist card expires and we are not allowed in Belize in a week, the officer asked Aaron what he suggested should happen.  Aaron told the officer, “I’m not turning around to Belize City; so I suggest you give me a warning and send me on my way.  I’m a tourist spending money in your country.  You should give me a warning and send me on my way.”  Then the officer asked, “What else do you suggest we can do to take care of this?”  Aaron repeated his statement several times as they bantered back and forth.  Aaron recognized the officer was waiting for Aaron to propose he give the officer money (a bribe) and be done with it.  Aaron was having none of it and stuck to his guns.  Finally the officer got tired of Aaron not giving in to the bribe and waived him away, handing back his license.  Another point for Mexico.  After 6 months in Mexico we never had anything but warm relations with the police and military.  After 3 weeks in Belize we were propositioned for our first bribe in 7 months.

After about 6 or 7 hours of driving, we reached the Belizean/Mexican border at 5:00 Belizean time (Mexico is one hour earlier than Belize).  We left Belize and re-entered Mexico.  We have to admit; upon crossing back into Mexico we actually felt a sigh of relief and high-fived one another!  We love Mexico, the people, speaking Spanish and feel very safe and comfortable there.  There were several aspects of Belize that were interesting to experience, but we feel much more at home in Mexico.  It’s kind of ironic since all the guidebooks have verbiage geared towards travelers who are seeking Belize as a break from Spanish speaking Mexico and road signs in kilometers.  We feel quite the opposite and were happy to be back.  In about 30 minutes we arrived at our friend’s Jimmy and Jacquie’s home on Bacalar Lake.  They were quite surprised toe see us since we weren’t planning on being back in Mexico for about another week.  That morning when we left Placencia we had decided that Amy would fly back to Washington to visit her family for a week.  Her sister Heidi had recently given birth to her first child and she was longing to see her family.  If we seized the opportunity she would be able to fly home for about a week before returning to Mexico the same date that our friends Brian and Shelly fly into Cancun.  After searching for the cheapest airfare online, Amy purchased a ticket to depart Cancun July 2 and return on the 10th.  Jimmy and Jacquie were great and welcomed Aaron to stay with them for the next week.

Amy had an amazing time in Washington visiting her family.  Her sister Heidi and her new son Logan, as well as Amy’s brother Eric all came over from Seattle to Eastern Washington to stay at their parent’s house for the week.  Heidi’s husband Xingu had to work, but he joined them in Ephrata the last weekend and took everybody back to Seattle.  It was really nice for Amy having everyone home, being able to spend time with the whole family as well as get to know her new nephew!  We had a fabulous 4th of July dinner and lit a few fireworks.  Amy was able to spend the day with her father in Wenatchee and Leavenworth, which was a wonderful time walking around enjoying the sun and reminiscing.  All the kids were able to hang out in Moses Lake one afternoon playing on jet skies that Amy’s sister Taffy and her husband Marc rented.  As always, her time at home wasn’t long enough.  After watching the World Cup on Sunday, the Seattle crew headed back over the mountains.  Amy needed to check into her flight at 3:30 a.m., so she and Heidi hung out in Bellevue having a nice dinner and a late movie.  Spending some time alone with Heidi was a great way to end the trip!  Thank you very much to Amy’s parents for making the trip possible!  We really appreciate it!  Amy’s connecting flight was via Phoenix; so it turns out that she was on the same flight as our friends Brian and Shelly that were coming down to see us!  That was supposed to make it easy for Aaron to pick us all up at the airport together!  Turns out we had issues with the plane leaving Phoenix.  Long story somewhat short; 15 minutes into the Phoenix to Cancun flight the pilot told us we had a problem with the plane and would fly around Phoenix for 45 minutes to burn some fuel before landing and fixing the problem.  After 2 hours of flying around we finally began to land in Phoenix.  At the last possible moment, the pilot informed us he was “going to officially make this an emergency landing, so if we could all please go ahead and assume the emergency landing position”.  Um . . . . what?  Yes, people looked around for a while to figure out what the heck was going on.  Then some of them bent over and put their heads between their knees.  Most people were a little clueless and probably a little in shock as they did nothing.  Then the flight attendants (who were strapped into their own seats) began shouting in rounds, “Bend over!  Head down!  Do not look up!  Bend over!  Head down!  Do not look up!”  They continued the eerie mantra until we had safely landed.  Then the pilot told us that we would be greeted with fire trucks on the runway, and a tug would pull us into a gate.  It turns out we didn’t have any hydraulics for our landing gear, so they wanted to burn as much fuel as possible so that we were less of a bomb as we landed.  Fortunately all went well and we got on another plane and made the trek to Cancun, arriving four hours late.  A loud cheer erupted from the entire plane as we landed in Cancun!  Everyone, mostly honeymooners, were very anxious to start their vacation!  What a crazy start to Brian and Shelly’s Latin American adventure!

After Aaron was finally able to pick us up at 7 pm, we drove to Playa del Carmen and got some groceries, then headed to the parking lot of the Tulum ruins.  The next morning we spent several hours touring the magnificent seaside ruins and swimming in the ocean.  After Tulum, we drove to Hidden Worlds and signed up for the same cenote tour that we took Uncle Michael on.  We enjoyed them so much that we wanted to share the experience with our friends.  It was completely new to them snorkeling in underground caves and rivers, so it was great fun for everybody.  After the cenotes we were headed for Rio Indio, which is north of Majahual on the ocean.  This is the place that Jimmy and Jacquie had taken us to go snorkeling on the beautiful off shore reef.  We found the house that Hugh and his wife Debbie are “house-sitting” (they live in their RV) and they welcomed us to stay for a couple days.  We had some marvelous days of snorkeling, kayaking, spear fishing and lounging in hammocks on the top deck of the house!  We had some rain while there which stirred up the water and the current was quite strong.  But we were still able to see lots of fish, many kinds of rays and an eel!  Both Shelly and Brian went out on the kayak with Aaron, and he spearfished for a while.  We left Rio Indio and headed back to Bacalar to hang out with Jimmy and Jacquie for a couple days before heading into Belize. We parked our RV in its same old spot and Brian and Shelly slept in J&J’s spare room that is currently their camper.  Brian, Shelly and Amy went to the fort in Bacalar and then came back to the house to go for a much-needed swim in the lake!  Aaron and Jacquie went into Chetumal for groceries and to take the dogs to the vet before crossing the Belizean border.  The next day Aaron, Brian and Jimmy went into the free trade zone that is in the no man’s land between Mexico and Belize.  With all the problems with our generator, Aaron decided that he wanted to buy a new one incase the one we have in the RV cannot be fixed.  The same day, Shelly and Amy took advantage of the time and got up very early to go see some archaeological ruins (Kohunlich and Dzibanche) near Bacalar.  Jacquie was nice enough to let us borrow her car in order to do so!  We had a great time together walking around several small interesting ruins.  Kohunlich had particularly fantastic well-preserved masks on one of its pyramids.  The following day we arrived at the Belizean border later than planned, but all the documents necessary for the dogs were there this time.  We had lunch at a great little roadside restaurant on the way to San Ignacio (chicken, rice and beans . . . apparently the national dish of Belize!).  Once we arrive in San Ignacio, Aaron had the generator looked at again while Amy, Shelly and the dogs went to an internet café in town.  We stopped by Eva’s restaurant to say hello to the owner Bob whom we hung with a lot our first trip, and set up our tour for the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave the following day.  This is the cave that both our friends Peter and Rhan-ju have worked in and it was also covered in National Geographic in April 2000 and 2001.  After swimming, wading and climbing over stalagmites until we were over 400 feet under the earth, it was quite clear we had entered Xibalba, the Maya underworld.  The Maya used the cave for ritual purposes and left a plethora of artifacts for the adventurous traveler to discover.  Unfortunately, the cave is extremely popular and not all tour companies abide by the regulations as far as how many clients can enter on a tour at one time (Mayawalk tour company).  This results in too many people walking around in a field of artifacts when the guide can’t watch their every move, and many objects have been broken.  Sadly, our guide even pointed out a skull that had some teeth broken when a tourist was standing above it for a picture and dropped their camera.  While Amy worked on the archaeological dig with Peter and Rhan-ju in Belize, the local laborers freely spoke about searching for a new cave, since Actun Tunichil Muknal is so busy now.  We suppose that may relieve some stress on the ATM cave, but the same destiny is sure to fall upon any new caves that are discovered solely for the purpose of being able to provide more tours.  We were extremely lucky to have experienced the cave with our guide Juan-Carlos from Pacz Tours, run out of Eva’s restaurant.  We were the only four on our tour, which really made it special.  There were other people in the cave at the same time, but we were usually just passing them by.  It was an adrenaline rush clambering through the cave with Juan-Carlos and our headlamps guiding us, and the artifacts were breathtaking.  There were so many large pots that were completely or mostly in tact, and there were several human remains from sacrifices.  We were also lucky enough to see a huge scorpion spider inside the cave!  Juan-Carlos said they don’t bite, but can pinch you.  After Aaron and Juan-Carlos played with it, Shelly was crazy enough to let them put it on her hand!  Amy has come a long way with her arachnophobia ever since she was a child, but watching the others play with the scorpion spider was enough for her!   That night after showering we went into town and had dinner at Erva’s, and asked our friends Pete and Casha to join us.  The last time we saw them was with their Dad (Pete) and Rhan-ju in Placencia when we went on the snorkeling trip.  They told us they were both in summer school and enjoying it.  Their mom finally called them in for the night, and after having a drink at Bob’s place, we turned in as well.  We would cross the Guatemalan border (which was only 11 miles away) in the morning.

After crossing the border shortly after lunch, we set out on a relatively rough dirt road for about twenty miles before we hit pavement.  We planned on parking in the parking lot at the ruins of Tikal, but they don’t accept pets in the national park so we had to find another place to camp.  We drove around in town (El Remate) and didn’t find anything off the main road.  We headed down a road that runs along the north shore of Lake Peten Itza and finally came upon a small park that had enough room for us to pull off the road.  We spoke to several people who worked at the park and they said it was safe and OK to park there.  Shelly made a wonderful pasta dish and we ate down on the dock, watching the hoards of fireflies buzz around us.  The following morning we had to get up very early (4:30 a.m.) in order to walk into El Remate to catch the first bus (6:00 a.m.) to Tikal.  After a 45-minute bus ride and waiting for the ticket booth to open, we had breakfast up at the site.  Then we set out to explore one of the grandest and most well known Maya archaeological sites.  Tikal is a large site that has its major ruins connected by causeways, or dirt paths that take about 15-20 minutes to walk.  Along our first causeway we were able to get ahead of a tour group and heard rustling in the trees.  Soon after we spotted some spider monkeys clambering around in the treetops!  Amy quickly switched to her zoom lens and was able to get a couple pictures of a family of spider monkeys, which included a baby.  It was really great to watch them for a while, and then we all went our different directions.  We had ruins to explore!  Tikal was just as impressive as we hoped it would be!  A brief history; the earliest buildings date from 500 BC, by the 6th century Tikal spanned 30 square kilometers and supported a population of about 100,000 people.  Around 900 AD the lowland Maya civilization collapsed and Tikal was abandoned.  We explored some of the outlying ruins first, and then headed to the Great Plaza.  Temple 1 (Temple of the Jaguar, 44 meters high) and Temple 2 (Temple of the Masks, 38 meters high) are in the Great Plaza and are the images most people associate with Tikal.  There were several pyramids that could be climbed which afforded the spine tingling view of many ruins standing majestically above the treetops.  We had packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with cheese, crackers and plenty of water.  We climbed and then picnicked on top of Temple 4, the tallest structure in Tikal at 64 meters high!  You can imagine the views!  It was a wonderful day, especially for Amy and Shelly who have dreamed of visiting Tikal for a long time! The hours spent at Tikal topped the hours spent at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan!  The guys lasted a long six hours touring the archaeological site!  Thanks Aaron and Brian!  You made it!  We toasted Tikal with a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Mon Ami that was just down the road from our RV.

The next morning we were off to southern Guatemala in the direction of Lago de Atitlan to explore some Maya villages.  We decided to skip the island town of Flores in order to get to southern Guatemala with enough time to explore before Brian and Shelly flew out of Guatemala City (July 27th).  Upon entering the city of Sayaxche we found out we had to wait in a long line of cars and semis to board a ferry to cross the river of La Pasion.  We were told it could be a 45-minute to 2-hour wait!  Aaron stayed with the RV while Brian, Shelly and Amy walked passed the line of trucks to get some lunch at a restaurant down by the ferry.  It was quite a show to watch them get the cars on and off this tiny ferry that was powered by two gasoline outboard motors with little palapa shades over the drivers!  It normally held several cars and several delivery sized trucks; but when a semi went across, it was frequently the only vehicle on the ferry.  After about 3 hours of waiting we finally got onto the ferry and made the crossing!  We got as far as Chisec before we almost lost all our light.  We parked at a truck stop that had a restaurant, showers and a mechanic to look at the generator!  We had a great dinner just before they closed and took some much-needed showers!  We passed a sign for a cave (Bombil Pek) that had rappelling and Maya pictographs that sounded interesting.  Aaron hoped the mechanic would work on the generator while we explored the cave for an hour or so.  Turns out Aaron didn’t think the mechanic would be able to do anything for the generator, but we went on the cave tour in the morning anyway.  Aaron and Brian love rappelling and Shelly was eager to try it for her first time.  When we all got to the point of rappelling into the cave and looked over the 80 meter drop, Amy decided the time she did it in Mexico a few years back was good enough for her!  It worked out well, because she stayed at the top to take pictures of everybody rappelling and then walked down some steep rickety stairs to meet the others and explore the cave.  As we clambered towards the cave art, we came upon a very tiny hole that our tiny Maya guide instructed us to climb through.  We all looked at each other, then at him, and made sure he meant that we had to crawl through the hole to see the cave art.  We let him go through first and watched him wriggle, kick and pull himself through.  Then Aaron went next, with some great effort.  While Aaron was in the middle of the hole, he called back to the rest of us and declared he wasn’t sure that Brian (who is 6’2”) would make it through.  So Brian tried his hardest to get through that hole that was only about 12” x 18”.  He gave it his best shot, but he just wasn’t going to fit.  Amy and Shelly decided they would go in with Aaron and Brian would wait for everybody to come out.  Amy went next, performing the same wriggling, kicking and pulling performance that got the first two guys through.  Shelly followed suit and we were all finally inside!  OK!  Where is the cave art?  We had to walk a bit further over some boulders and then  . . . we came to another tiny hole!  Are you kidding me?  We know we aren’t perfectly fluent in Spanish, but our guide neglected to tell us we had to crawl through ANY teeny tiny holes, much less several of them!  We’re not sure what he was thinking, having seen how tall Brian is; but we had gotten that far nonetheless and decided to go through the second hole.  This one was considerably smaller, and when we were being birthed out of the rocks, this time we came out at a downhill slope into a medium sized puddle of muddy water!  Aaron went in first; the guide spoke for a bit, then Aaron said, “Um guys?  You’re not going to be happy about this.”  The guide pointed his flashlight at two tiny little painted monkeys and what he claims to be a jaguar on the wall right by the hole.  As they sat on a ledge above a large cavern, Aaron asked if there were more cave paintings and our guide said of course.  “There are a whole bunch down there” as he pointed his flashlight down the dark cavern below them.  He eventually told Aaron that you need much more climbing equipment to get down there.  Amy figured she had already gone through one hole, she may as well see the cave paintings.  The second hole was considerably harder.  After the disappointing cave art, Shelly decided she didn’t need to suffer through another hole for what we described.  We went back out the first hole we came in and found Brian.  After squeezing through so many tiny holes, we felt like we were re-born many times in one day!  We went back to the truck stop to use their showers and try to scrub the red clay mud out of our clothes the best we could!  We finally set out in the direction of Lago de Atitlan, via the city of Coban.  We drove through lush, green mountains with palm trees and corn growing side by side!  All of a sudden we all heard a very loud pop and then a sound like gushing air and smelled propane.  Aaron stopped the RV in the middle of the road and told everyone to get out.  He and Brian crawled around the RV and couldn’t see any propane hoses or tanks out of place, nor could they find anything else wrong with the RV.  Even though we were visible to traffic coming up behind us, we knew we needed to get off the road.  Fortunately we blew out right next to a dirt side road.  Aaron was able to drive the few feet that were necessary just fine, but the transmission fluid gushed out of the RV in the process.  As the guys looked at the RV, someone in a truck on his way to Coban stopped and said he would send a tow-truck to get us.  We sat and waited for several hours, but finally decided once it got dusk that if a tow-truck did show up, we didn’t want him trying to tow us through a city in the dark.  We read until there wasn’t anymore light, chatted with some locals that were walking home, had some sandwiches for dinner and called it a day after only driving an hour and a half!  The next day Aaron went into Coban on the motorcycle to find a tow-truck and/or mechanic.  After only about an hour he came back with the mechanic in his car so they could look at the RV.  After some inspection, they determined that the RV was drivable, which is much better than towing it (not to mention cheaper!).  We got it into their shop and they determined there was nothing wrong with the propane system or the RV.  The only explanation they had was that the transmission fluid was overfilled and some kind of pressure change could have caused it to dump fluid.  After leaving Coban we were told the road we planned on taking to Lago de Atitlan was no good, and that we should head east to El Progresso, drive through the largest city in Central America, (Guatemala City) and then go towards Antigua and/or Lago de Atitlan.  Aaron did a marvelous job of driving through hectic Guatemala City.  Having stopped several times for directions we finally made it through the other side and came into the colonial city of Antigua at dusk.  We located a park, asked around for permission and safety and stayed there for the night.  We were all starving so we found a restaurant with very non-traditional Guatemalan food.  We found a restaurant across from the La Merced church called K & Ribs with excellent pork ribs and chicken wings.  Since Lago de Atitlan is roughly 4 hours from Guatemala City and Brian and Shelly were to fly out in 3 days, they decided they would rather concentrate their time in Antigua instead of trying to push it to Lago de Atitlan.  We spent our first day walking around the beautiful streets of colonial Antigua admiring its ruined churches and convents.  Antigua was the third colonial capital of Guatemala, but after an earthquake in 1773 they decided to move the capital to Guatemala City.  Because of all the seismic activity over the years, many churches and convents now lay in ruin.  Some, like the La Merced church, were remodeled after earthquakes, but they decided to leave some in their ruined condition.  We also walked around several arts and crafts markets and perused some great bookstores.  We saw another camper pulling into town and Aaron told them where we were parked. It turns out they were a couple we had communicated with via email regarding camping in Placencia, Belize!  Mark and Leisbet found another park that was bigger and a little less noisy.  Mark and Leisbet have two dogs as well, so it was great for the dogs having so much room!  That first night we returned to the main plaza for dinner from stalls that had candles as their only source of light, which were illuminating the food for sale.  Music was being played on a stage in one corner of the plaza; another corner had some music thick with a continuous drumbeat accompanying a dancer incorporating fire into his routine.  Soon the rain came and the fireworks went off like it was a war-zone!

The next morning we caught a shuttle at 6:00 a.m. in order to arrive at a nearby Volcano by 8:00.  There are several volcanoes surrounding Antigua, which is one of its charms.   We chose to climb Volcan Pacaya, which has lava flows that you can get up close and personal with!  We climbed in thick early morning mist and could only imagine the vistas that would reveal themselves on our way back down!  Once we reached the bottom of the cone it was cold and windy, then we scrambled down a hill of cinders and descended into a bowl of intense heat as we walked only feet from molten lava flowing right passed us!  Out of all the things we thought we would do on our Latin America trip, being only feet from molten lava wasn’t something we were expecting!  On several occasions Aaron played with the lava by placing sticks in the thick red goo and watching them burst into flame!  It was hotter than he expected!  We climbed a bit further and clambered around on some lava flows that had already cooled.  There were several places we climbed to in order to see different lava flows.  The sound the lava makes is unreal as it moves and melts the rocks in front of it.  It sounded like metal was folding and crumpling as the rocks were engulfed and consumed by the red-hot flow.  You could stand on top of cooled lava and hear a lava flow going right underneath your feet!  Amy was able to get very close to the lava to take close-up pictures.  It feels like you have a sunburn after your skin is exposed at such a close proximity.  After we were done playing in this place that seems to be another planet, we made our descent back to the base.

Upon returning to Antigua on our shuttle bus, we saw two other campers making the steep descent to Antigua.  They were driving trucks with a camper on the back, the same thing Mark and Leisbet have.  As we were checking out their British Colombia license plates, we saw they were our age!  After we got back to Antigua Aaron watched for them to see if he could direct them through the colonial streets to our camping spot in the park.  They eventually came by, we all introduced ourselves and they set up camp.  When you don’t see other campers driving around on the roads (especially this far south, and especially this late in the year) it’s quite a site to have four at one park!  People probably assumed we were traveling together!  Chris & Melanie and Dave and Jesse were from Vancouver, Canada and were making the same trip to Panama that we are.  We chatted for a bit while letting all our dogs play (Dave & Jesse have a 2 year old dog, Maggie) then met up with Brian and Shelly for lunch.  That evening Amy had dinner with Brian and Shelly while Aaron hung out in the park and had a few drinks with our new friends.  That night we only left the RV for about an hour, but that was enough time for the RV to be vandalized for the first time.  Amy come home from dinner and went to put the cover on the windshield (after having been home for 10 minutes), only to find that there was no passenger side window.  There was tempered glass shattered all over the seat and on the ground outside.  She immediately looked around the RV to see if anything was missing or strewn about, but everything was in its place except the window.  The dogs were there, looking happy to see Amy, but a bit like they had done something wrong.  A little in shock, Amy continued to check on things in the RV, then decided to turn off the light to monitor who was around in the park.  Amy thought it sure was strange to break the window maliciously and not steal anything at all.  Eventually Amy noticed the only thing that was missing was the faceplate to the stereo.  That’s right, not even the stereo was taken.  While it doesn’t make much sense from a thief’s point of view, we’re assuming they were able to break the window, reach in and grab the faceplate and then realized we had two dogs inside.  Fortunately it appears as if the dogs were enough to scare them away.  Good thing we had the dogs, otherwise they would have had an hour to clean out the RV.  Amazingly enough, Aaron met the owner of the internet café that was on the park and he helped him locate the appropriate window in Guatemala City.  The owner was going to the city anyway, so we went to pick up the window for us!  The morning after he delivered the window he came by with a couple friends and they helped Aaron get it properly installed.  After all that, it’s nice that the situation was able to turn out so well with the help of some really great people.

Brian and Shelly’s last day in Antigua, Brian, Shelly and Amy got massages at a cute little store called Deluka’s on 6th Avenue.  We spent several hours there and it only cost about $50 US!  The rest of the day we spent purchasing the rest of the gifts we wanted to send home with Brian and Shelly.

Thursday morning Brian and Shelly caught a 5:00 a.m. shuttle to the airport in Guatemala City.  Fortunately they made all their connections (a quick one in Flores, Guatemala and another in Cancun, Mexico) and arrived home in Flagstaff safe and sound (with no more emergency landings!).  We had a really great time with you guys, and we hope you really enjoyed your unique tour of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala!  We look forward to the next time you visit!

Aaron installed the window and Amy cleaned out the RV of unwanted books, which she was able to trade for a guidebook of Nicaragua.  Even though Aaron was feeling very ill, we drove 3 hours to Lago de Atitlan.  It was no longer safe to stay in the same spot in the park, especially since so many people saw the broken window on the RV.  It was raining as we drove through the town of Sololá, which was having their Friday market beneath a beautiful pink church.  The rainwater gushed down the steep cobblestone streets, creating a shallow river beneath us!  We made our descent to Lago de Atitlan with no brake issues!  Thankfully the rain and cool temperatures helped keep them cool.  We found the RV park that Mark and Leisbet recommended with no problems.  We rolled in at 6:30 p.m. to find the campers of our friends Chris, Mel, Dave and Jesse.  Unfortunately for us, Dave and Jesse left very early the next morning for their return trip to British Colombia.  Jesse has several job opportunities and her brother’s wedding to attend.  Chris and Mel are still here with us at the RV park in Panajachel (we are the only ones here) which is part of a hotel right on the water with a pool (albeit dirty) and beautiful view of several volcanoes standing guard on the other side of the lake.  We can even look up at the switchback road we creped down and see one of the big waterfalls that we passed!  Panajachel is an extremely touristy town that is commonly used as a jumping off point for outdoor activities and Maya villages that surround the lake.  There are several language schools in town, and we have decided to take some classes while we are here.  This week (7/31-8/4) Aaron is taking his first week of school while Amy tours some villages, updates our website and works on organizing her 10-year high school reunion.  Then the following week (8/7-8/11) Aaron will take a second week while Amy does her first week of Spanish here in Panajachel.  There are several internet cafes, and one where we can bring our laptop to use wireless.  We have paid to stay until August 12th, and will have good internet connections at least until then.

Since Aaron got sick about a month ago in Bacalar, Mexico and he just got really sick again; he went to the hospital to have them test for Dengue anti-bodies, which would let us know if he had Dengue before.  Fortunately we found out he didn’t have Dengue.  Oddly enough, Skylos also just got extremely sick.  He had a fever, his body was very hot (including his tongue), he wasn’t eating and he would occasionally shake/shiver violently as if he were freezing.  We took him to the vet for some tests here in Panajachel and are taking him back for more tests on August 2nd.  His first tests show some irregularities and wants to have more done.  The vet is going to Guatemala City on Thursday, so he will have the tests done there.  On 7/31 the vet gave Skylos some medication that reduced (almost eradicated) his shaking and his fever is gone.  He’s running and playing with Khorrah and seems to be feeling much better already.

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