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Day 5: Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico to Corozal, Belize
It was 7am and time to leave when we discovered that Camel’s battery was dead. The onboard ARB fridge was left on all night on deep freeze, in hopes of freezing a bucket of margaritas we had brought with us. Unfortunately, the amperage was too much for the deep cycle battery and it drained completely. No matter though, it was a calculated risk but the potential payoff was frozen margaritas. A quick jump start from one of the other vehicles and we were on our way.
We didn’t eat breakfast before leaving in the morning, because we had heard there was a beachside restaurant about 20 miles outside of town. The selection consisted of either an omelet with ham, or an omelet without ham. No matter because the food was good and the location couldn’t be beat: our table was set up literally on the beach, so we ate breakfast with the sand between our toes and the ocean crashing ashore ten feet away. If not for our itinerary, we probably would have stayed there all day. But today is another full day: lots of driving, our first day of visiting Mayan ruins and a border crossing. Tonight we’ll be resting our heads in Belize.
After our breakfast on the beach we began our trek inland, across the Yucatan Peninsula. We have three Mayan ruins to visit today. Although we passed many sites along our route, we stopped at three ruins which were in varying stages of restoration and discovery. The first ruin was the most recently discovered. Balamku (Jaguar Temple) got its name from a large facade found on one of the ruins which carvings of many jaguars on it. Only a handful of the structures had been excavated. We met a young local girl, Lucia, who was nice enough to show us around with the help of Dorothy Donaldson translating for the non-Spanish speaking gringos.
The second Mayan site, Becan, had seen more extensive excavation, and as a result was much more impressive. Once a regional capital of the Mayan cities in its day, the site was very extensive with numerous temples and examples of Mayan writing found throughout the site. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the site historically, is that the entire city was once surrounded by a defensive moat. The remains of which were still easily visible in some places. Many structures still contained covered walkways and inner rooms within the temples that you could crawl into. Stuart, Carey and Nathan explored the inner labyrinths of one of the temples and discovered bat and cockroach filled rooms that used to be used for Mayan religious ceremonies. It felt like something straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
We made it to Xpuhil, the last ruin of the day, 15 minutes before they were scheduled to close. Luckily the caretakers were understanding and told us they would give us another half hour to enjoy the ruins.
After leaving Xpuhil, it was time to make a beeline for the Mexico/Belize border. The group was traveling quite fast to make it across the border and to check into our hotel in Corozal before they closed for the night. While speeding, the Federales saw us and pulled a u-turn. On came the lights and moments later they had Sam pulled off to the side of the road. Now Sam subscribes to the theory that it isn’t necessary to speak any Spanish, and sometimes the less Spanish you speak, the better off you are. This time, the theory worked. As the police officer started speaking to Sam, he realized it was like talking to a brick wall. After a couple of minutes, he gave up and let Sam go with a just a verbal warning (we think).
Fifteen minutes later we were at the Mexican/Belize border and it was time for more paperwork. The Mexican side went quite smoothly, partly from the help of a border guard who was a fellow Rover enthusiast. He was excited to see all of us coming through and talked about his Series III 109. After giving him phone numbers and web addresses of where he could acquire parts in the US, he promised to bring his 109 to work the day we were crossing back into Mexico.
Our hotel for the night, the Hotel Maya, was about fifteen minutes into Belize, right next to the ocean. We arrived just before 9 pm and the hotel’s restaurant had already closed down for the night. But rather than miss out on eighteen paying customers they re-opened for us with a limited menu. The joke was that their menu choices were “beans, rice and chicken” “rice, chicken and beans” or “chicken, rice and beans.” Despite the lack of selection, the carribean-style food they cooked was delicious.
After dinner, it was time to lock down the vehicles and go to bed. Sam chose a rather interesting form of security for his D90. He ran the winch cable around the sign in front of Hotel Maya and he was secure for the night.
Tomorrow we head for the legendary Tikal ruins.