The jungle canopy of Guatemala
is covered in a dense blanket of pre-dawn
Despite earlier interests from members
of our expedition, only Craig and Nathan awoke early
to hike up and see the sunrise from the top of Temple
IV. According to the GPS, sunrise was supposed to
happen at 5:30 am. Taking into account about a half
hour hike to the temple, we left the lodge just
after 4:45 am in complete darkness. By the time
we made it to the trail to the ruins, the eastern
horizon was just starting to light up. By 5:20 we
were sitting on top of the temple waiting for the
sun to come up. The jungle all around the temple
was covered with a blanket of fog, with ruins and
hills occasionally peeking through the top of the
dense fog. As the sun came up, we began to hear
the haunting calls of the howler monkeys echoing
across the valleys. A few minutes later the sun
eerily crept its way above the clouds and bathed
everything in a soft warm glow. It was truly one
of the most incredible experiences of my life.
The rising sun
beings to burn off the morning fog.
of Tikal tower above the jungle canopy.
oscillated turkey roams the grounds of the
We walked back into the lodge about
7 am, just as everyone else was waking up and heading
to the restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast,
the group packed up and headed out to meet up with
the Nances and Bibbs who had gone on a jungle canopy
tour. This tour took them through the upper canopy
of the trees via zip line. After reuniting, we took
the obligatory photos at the impressive Tikal National
Park entrance gate. We had had to forego the official
entrance photos when we arrived, because it was
well after sunset at the time.
Big Bird and
Camel pose for a photo at the entrance to
Tikal National Park.
outside the entrance to Tikal National Park.
Just as we were about to put away
our cameras, load back into the vehicles and drive
away, a spider monkey clamored out of the jungle
and played around in the trees by the side of the
road. He didn't seem to be scared of us at all,
and took almost as much of an interest in us and
our cooing as we did in it. We had seen a few monkeys
in the park the previous day high above our heads
but this was the first close up encounter we'd had.
The locals at the entrance station probably thought
we were crazy; 18 people snapping photos and talking
to a monkey.
A spider monkey
plays int he trees outside the entrance to
Tikal National Park.
The spider monkey
hangs by its tail, taking an interest in all
of the commotion a bunch of gringos are creating
over him (or her).
Back on the road, we made a beeline
for the Guatemalan border to cross back into Belize.
Driving along in the daylight, we saw all of the
interesting sites that we missed in the darkness
two days ago. Just outside of Tikal we passed through
the town of Peten on the shores of Lake Peten. It
was amazing to see the townspeople out in the lake
bathing and doing their laundry in the lake water.
You see images like this in National Geographic,
but never really envision people living their daily
lives like this.
Locals wash their laundry along
the shores of Lake Peten.
On the road to the border, progress
was slowed down considerably as we got caught behind
a large crowd of people blocking both sides of the
road. Before we got the chance to push our way through
someone noticed a coffin being carried at the forefront
of the crowd-a funeral procession to the village
cemetery. We respectfully followed the group at
a moderate distance marveling at the culture similarities
and differences. Someone in our group quoted over
the CB from Don Quixote, "and his funeral
was followed by kings from foreign lands."
We couldn't help but ponder what a strange thing
that must have been for these villagers to have
their procession attended by a strange group of
nine Land Rovers from thousands of miles away.
Disco Stu and Camel stop at
the Belize/Guatemala border.
Our border crossing back into Belize
was uneventful, in fact, it was the smoothest border
crossing we'd had so far. After four border crossings,
we were becoming seasoned pros. In San Ignacio,
we turned off the Western Highway of Belize. Leaving
the paved road, we started our trek into the Mayan
mountains of western Belize. Thirty minutes later,
we were pulling into the Mountain Pine Ridge forest
reserve, home to Blancaneaux Lodge. Although we
had only climbed to about 1,200 feet above sea level
(low by Colorado standards) the fauna changed considerably
as the palm trees gave way to tall pines. It was
ironic for us- we had traveled 3,000 miles to find
that our destination reminded us very much of home.
The sad thing was that, like home,
the Mountain Pine Ridge area has a big problem with
pine beetles destroying the pine forest. Huge patches
of pine trees had already died, the brown trees,
a visible reminder of the beetle's path of destruction. Sadly,
we later learned that the government doesn't have
any real course of action for containing the pine
Entering Blancaneaux was like walking
into paradise. The lodge consists of cabanas and
villas nestled along a river with semi natural pools
you can swim in. All of the rooms are thatched roof
huts with stucco walls. The living room has no doors,
but instead opens up straight onto the porch with
palm trees growing up through the deck. The bathroom
is exquisite - the tile shower opens up to the heavens
and you literally shower with the sun or stars gazing
down upon you and the breeze tickling your bare
After unloading the vehicles we traipsed
around the grounds, checking out our home for the
next few days. We could play croquet on the lawn,
visit the horses at the stables, get a cool drink
or a bite to eat at the bar/restaurant, take a dip
in the river, take a hike, or just relax in the
hammock at the cabana.
That night we were greeted with a
large buffet and native drummers and singers from
the area. After eight days on the road, this lodge
is close to heaven and the miles we've driven to
get here seem to melt right off of us.
The open living
room of our cabana at Blancaneaux lodge. The
hammocks and deck overlook the swimming areas
of the stream.
The stairs from
the deck lead straight down to the river.