Trip Start Nov 30, 2003
Trip End Jan 10, 2004

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Granada,
Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I had a really great experience in Tikal. We spent two days wandering the ruins of the Maya. The first day we did half the area and the second, most of the rest. We met up with Lucy´s friends in Flores the night before Tikal. They are friends of hers from her university days at Cambridge. Ben is a Dr, Becky an English major, and Lucy is an architect who worked in NYC the past 4 years. She was at ground zero when the first plane hit the tower, and worked on designs for the rebuilding also. She has lots of sad stories from Sep.11. Our group discussions on world politics, new medicine, etc. are interesting. Tikal was all I expected it to be. The jungle had swallowed most of the site, and since 1895 or so it has been returned to close to what it was 1500 years ago, and site reclamation continues today. Huge structures and lots of wildlife everywhere. We spent the night in mosquito netted hammocks inside the park. There were screeches from Howler monkeys, spider monkeys and assorted birds, pretty much all night. Kind of spooky, but we were in the jungle after all! We got up at 5 the next morning and did Yoga exercises on one of the temples in the Grand Plaza of Tikal. Lucy has done some instruction in Yoga, and helped the rest of us along. It is much harder than it looks. I am in decent shape, but had trouble with several of the positions. I´ll keep it up in anticipation of using it in India next year. We spent the rest of the day wandering, seeing a few Toucans, several parrots and all kinds of other animals. A really good time.After 2 days of walking around 10 miles per, it felt especially good to have a shower back in Flores. Flores is an island on lake Peten Itza, connected by an elevated roadway.Our hotel has a third floor balcony sunning area that was perfect for moonrise and sunrise over the lake. Sunsets were better viewed on a floating restaurant, sipping .50 gin and tonics or .60 beers. Flores is only an hour from Tikal, so it is full of adventure seeking travelers and locals getting away for a few days. I have an overnight bus to Guatemala City tonight. I´ll meet up with Lucy in Costa Rica before New Years, where she has rented a house with some friends on the beach outside of Puerto Viejo. She is headed to an Island off the coast of Honduras, while I am taking an opposite route to get to Costa Rica. -- Bonus story from Belize-- Belize City is hardly a city at all. Only 70,000 people, but the largest in Belize. Lucy and I were walking the town looking for a place to get a beer or two, and we ran into a local who proceeded to give us the ' insiders guide to Belize City' The first stop was a bar where all the tables were filled with men playing a very aggressive form of Dominoes! Yelling, shouting, near fisticuffs, and much table pounding occurred here.There were spectators at the tables, and much money was being wagered on the outcome of these ´friendly´ matches. After a few rounds, we moved on to a 'quieter' establishment that had loud music and dancing. On our way back to the hotel we saw a shooting star that was the largest I have ever seen. I was orange, yellow and white, and pieces of it broke off the main part before it fell from view. A fun night. Our hotel overlooked the ocean, and was staffed by large women who by the looks of them, ate more food than they sold in the restaurant for the guests at the hotel! End of bonus story........
I took a night bus to Guatemala City to try and catch an early morning connection to El Salvador. The bus had everything including a hostess who served drinks and played videos until around midnight. Once in the city bus station, I found a cab to my connection and headed to El Salvador. However, my cabbie tried to rip me off for the fare. We argued and he threw the money I offered him for the short ride on the ground. (about three dollars) He wanted six, and I said no way. They don´t use meters, so it is all up in the air. He stormed about and refused to take the money. I boarded the bus and he was still ranting in the parking lot. About ten minutes later the bus was pulled over by the police. They asked me to step off, and there was the taxi driver! He claimed I never paid him. Being the only English speaking person there, the bus driver (in broken English) told me to pay the driver what he wanted and get back on the bus. What could I do? Argue my case to the two policeman who just stared at me saying nothing? Lesson learned. Always ask before, and make sure you agree on a price.
 El Salvador is a beautiful country, but is very dirty once you get to San Salvador. Trash everywhere and there is so much traffic, the trees that line the streets in the city are literally black with soot from the exhaust. I stayed in a dangerous section, (read cheap) and was inside my room well before dark. Not much to do but hang in the lounge and drink a few local brews and watch Spanish soccer. The ride to Honduras was scenic as there were several volcanoes and lots of mountains in the distance. Border crossings were uneventful, but being dropped off my bus on the side of the road was not. The hostess pointed me towards town and said. "Taxi" Okay, I can take a hint, and I started walking to the fourth largest town in Honduras. Choluteca is hot. It was at least 90 when I got off the bus, and after walking half a mile or so with my pack, it felt closer to 100. I flagged down a cab, and for $1 got a ride to the hotel I had picked out of my travel guide. I almost always use the "Let´s Go" guide. I have had good luck with it over the years. After settling in my room I explored the town. I´m sure I am the only ´Gringo´ within 100 miles of this place. It´s not the first time I have been the only one, and it feels kind of good to get off the beaten path. I was surprised the book even had Choluteca in it, as there is nothing to do here. I did find an internet cafe. They are everywhere now, and I spent some time there downloading pictures from my camera to CD. Did I mention HOT? This part of the Honduran lowlands is very humid also. Brutal. The fan in my room saves the night. I walk around in shorts and sandals, while the locals are dressed in jeans and boots. Go figure. I was walking around trying to find the bus station to get out of this hell hole as soon as possible, and asked a military policeman for directions. When I approached him, two armed military men came forward and eyed me menacingly. He pointed the way, and off we walked, me, the policeman and our two weapon carrying escorts! I felt a little safer than normal. We tried to talk, but lacked basic knowledge of each others language, so we made hand gestures and smiled a lot. At the end I got a photo of the three of them, and I also found the bus depot. It´s nice when things work out the way you want. I took the morning bus to the border, and entered Nicaragua.
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