Category: Belize

Goodbye Belize, Hola Guatemala: Tikal Ruins

After our adventures in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve we made our way down the mountain into the town of San Ignacio and the Clarissa Falls Resort and Campground.  We used the raft on the river as a launchpad to cool down and clean off the sweat and dust from the mountain roads before our border crossing the next day.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-17 DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPRO

The following morning, and on our way to the Belize-Guatemalan border, we hit a tope that came out of nowhere (as they do…).  Richard had hammered on the brakes… and noticed we weren’t slowing down at our normal rate.  Shit.  Foot to the floor and not stopping isn’t best feeling in the world.  Richard stomped down a little more and we slowed enough to stop, checked for fluid leaks and other obvious brake issues.  No obvious problems, pumping the brakes made no difference… hmmm.  Since we were 2km from the border we figured it was best to deal with our brake issue in Guatemala.

For our border crossing into Guatemala we followed Life Remotely‘s information in Don’t Go There.  It’s Not Safe.  You’ll Die.  to a tee and rolled through the border in 45 minutes.

After the border we checked the local autopart stores for a backup master cylinder since that was one of the only part of the braking system we didn’t originally replace and figured it’d be good to have a spare… when they didn’t have any we made our way on the short 100km trek to Tikal without touching the middle pedal except for complete stops.  After weeks the problem hasn’t presented itself again… it felt like something was wrong with the brake booster, but it’s hard to diagnose when the symptoms are gone.

The ruins of Tikal were worth the unnerving drive.  We visited them with Martin, Trix, and Wilson at sunrise the following morning.  The monkeys howled in the distance, the coati mundis dropped by to mooch some food, and the ruins broke through the tree tops and fog.  We camped at the grassy Tikal National Park Campground, which is a 5 minute walk to the entrance of the ruins.  Make sure you arrive after 4 p.m. on your arrival date if you don’t want to be charged for an extra day’s entrance fee to the park.

140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-1 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-2140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-4 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-5140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-7140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-9 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-10 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-11 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-12 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-13After Tikal we rolled down the hill to El Muelle in El Remate and camped on the lake.  This restaurant/campground/hotel is a good option for those traveling with a dog, as you can easily catch some transportation to the ruins site (there are no dogs allowed in Tikal).  The Suisse joined us and our pair of trucks turned into a convoy.  This little spot on the lake had a pool, great views, and easy access to cheap food and awesome ice cream.  Oh, and puppies.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-14 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-15Dinner in El Remate.  140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-16


Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

What do Canadians do after spending some good quality time at the beach?  Head into the mountains, of course!  From Hopkins Village we took the gorgeous Hummingbird Highway across Belize with a slight detour through the fascinating area called Spanish Lookout, otherwise known as “Little America.”  All of a sudden we came through the jungle and into what looked like a town in Middle America.  There were tractors, rolling hills, and Steves’s Diner.  (It may actually be something like The Sunset Diner, but it starts with an ‘S’ and we called it Steve’s Diner).  A classic American-style diner in the middle of Belize?  Okay, it’s more like a food cart with a lean-to and picnic tables, but we had to stop there.  We learned that many North Americans are buying up land in Belize due to its very reasonable price (approx $1000US/acre).  Often the properties have very fertile land, perfect for growing orange trees and raising cattle.

After our detour through Little America, we headed into the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve to scope out the Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, and 1,000 Foot Falls.  We found camping at Douglas da Silva, but the facilities were non-existent and overgrown with grass.  The caretaker of the area offered to let us to camp next to one of the old abandoned forestry buildings.  Once darkness hit it felt like the scene of a horror movie: abandoned buildings, out in the middle of nowhere, random strangers with machetes… luckily we made it through the night, and felt relatively safe thanks to the night watchman.  The following night we set up camp in a parking area above the Rio On Pools, which had a great view of the pools and sunset… plus there weren’t any abandoned buildings available for zombies to come out of and attack us.

It was a nice change from the Yucatan.  We were used to paying big coin to see natural (or ancient) wonders with hundreds of other tourists.  Almost anything worth seeing along the Yucatan peninsula was fenced in so the gringos would have to pay at the gate.  Spending time virtually alone at these pools, waterfall, and caves was an amazing experience and something we had been missing since Baja.

This is the novelty tourist map of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve we used.  Don’t believe Lonely Planet, the Chiquibul road is significantly better than Cristo Rey.

map-of-mountain-pine-ridge-district-belize-n3-san-antonio

For the first time since the US we made it to a Shell gas station.  Adios Pemex!140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-1We stopped on the Hummingbird Highway at the mennonite-run Country Barn for yogurt and ice cream.  Ice cream every day keeps the doctor away… or something like that.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-2 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-3 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-4Steve’s Diner in Spanish Lookout has wicked burgers.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-5The Rio Frio caves.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-1 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-2140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-7 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-8“Hammer Down” Edgar decided to take the road less travelled.  He made it down the path with a little (a lot of) throttle, but needed a couple tugs from the recovery strap for the way back up.  Note the three-wheeler action below.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-9 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-10Our camp at Douglas Da Silva.  Once again the pine tree reminded us of home… but the abandoned buildings in the forest reminded us of The Blair Witch Project.  140322_DeskToGlory_MtnPineRidge-1140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-11 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-12The Rio On pools.  Great for cooling off in the afternoon and a great alternative to a shower in the morning.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-13 140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-14The 1000ft falls from about 1000ft away.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-15Our campground above the Rio On pools.140319_DeskToGlory_PineRidge-16


The Road to Hopkins Village

We (Richard, Ashley, Wilson, Sarah) were sitting down to dinner at Backpacker’s Paradise when Wilson proposed the unpaved Coastal Highway as a route to get to Hopkins Village the following day.  After a teeny bit of hesitation, and some Google imaging, we decided to go for it.  Boy are we glad we did.  Apparently words like “worst road ever,” “lots of rocks,” “vehicle damage” and “regret” did not discourage us from choosing this road less travelled on.  In reality, it is dry season in Belize right now so the roads are very dusty and without massive pools of water and mud (knocking on wood as we are writing this…).

Before taking the Coastal Highway we rolled through Orange Walk for lunch, which is known for its epic street food.  We had some tasty pupusas, freshly squeezed fruit juice, and loaded up on gas before reaching the Coastal Highway.  Richard made sure to air the tires down significantly before we raced down the orange-colored dirt road surrounded by alternating jungle and pine-like trees and shrub knowing that we’d be pushing the truck a bit to keep up with Wilson “Hammer Down” Edgar.  One section took us through a grove of orange trees.  The dust billowed behind us, wind whipped our hair, and music blasted as we maneuvered over sand, dirt, rocks, bridges, and gravel.  What an epic ride… this supposed “2 hour drive” took us 60 minutes… and we even had time for Ace to take a break in the tall grass along the way.

140319_DeskToGlory-1 140319_DeskToGlory-2 140319_DeskToGlory-3 140319_DeskToGlory-4 140319_DeskToGlory-5 140319_DeskToGlory-6 140319_DeskToGlory-7140319_DeskToGlory-8 140319_DeskToGlory-9Hopkins Village presented a bit of a camping challenge for us, but we happily ended up at the Funky Dodo Hostel in a dorm room.  There is room out on the side road for a camper or vertical pop up tent with access to the facilities ($12 USD).  Our vehicle/tent was too wide for the side street so we bunked together in the hostel for an identical camping price.  Another option is by the beach close to the pizza place on the north side of town… all you need to do is buy some food or drinks there and they’re happy to host you right beside the beach volleyball courts.

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Speaking of food… Hopkins has the cutest kiddos that offer sinfully delicious baked and fried goods for a small fee.  We were happy to oblige these smiling little ones with some cash for cinnamon buns, coconut bread, conch fritters, and donuts.  Damn, Belize.  You have amazing baked goods.  No offense to Mexico, but we were getting used to the day old and sometimes dry stale baked goods until we came to Belize.  Early jog tomorrow, anyone?

We must mention the people of Hopkins Village.  You know when you walk to work, take transit, go for a hike, or go to the super market/mall, etc. and everyone ignores your existence and they generally don’t seem to care about your well being?  Well, Hopkins is the most friendly town we have been to, period.  We walked into the grocery store and EVERY SINGLE person made direct eye contact, said hello, then asked how we were.  You may think this was a grocery store thing.  Nope.  As we drove by, people waved.  As we walked by, people said hello.  Amazing.

After a couple of days cabin fever set in, and we headed to the mountains.  For more information on activities to do while in Hopkins Village, head over to Mike and Tiffany’s blog, You Me and the Dogs.


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