March 17th, 2000

emu

Gerbie on tour 8

Gerbie on tour (8)

Since day 103, day that I sent the previous travel report I have traveled a lot. Did I stop for a few days before that in some cities, the last 23 days it has been arrival, look around and continue. I have arrived in El Salvador by now, having seen several countries the last couple of weeks.

From Oaxaca I did a nice daytrip to the water wells in Hierve el Agua and the ruins of Mitla, where looking back at it the trip itself, with some breathtaking views was the best value for money. In San Cristobal de las Casas, the spirit of the Zapatistas, who started their revolution there, is still somewhat present, while in Palenque the ruins where the best I have seen in Mexico. The waterfalls in Agua Azul were most impressive as well. Where the town Palenque itself was not much at all, I did have a good time there though, especially at nighttime sitting outside the pension on the street with some fellow travelers and the pension-staff, whilst enjoying a cold beverage and the nice temperature in the evening.

In Merida, a big city that disappointed me, I did see a carnival parade that was fun to see. Obviously it wasn’t Rio, but I did enjoy watching it. From Valladolid I went to see the ruins of Chichen Itza (too busy, shiploads of tourists dumped at the same time) and the city of Cancun (hoping to get my prejudice confirmed, found it even worse than I thought), after which I took a day and a half of rest in Tulum, just interrupted for a visit of, you guessed it, the ruins there. I stayed there in a cabaña, a sort of shelter in the dunes, the sand even inside, just a mattress on a pile of bricks serving as a bed and a candle to get some light at night.

The country Belize was nice, unfortunately I didn’t see much of it. Sometimes you’ve got to make a decision and I decided to continue to Guatemala. I did see the city with the name of the country, which is the former capitol. Even though it is the biggest in the country, it is still fairly small and there’s not much worth visiting. The atmosphere is nice though, even though life is very expensive there. From there I visited Caye Caulker for a day, a small island in front of the coast, where one can get by taking a sort of speedboat ferry, that fits 25 and rushes you there. But seeing that I am not much of a water sport fan, I decided to return the same day.

In Guatemala the first aim were the ruins of Tikal. And even though I did see quite a few Maya-ruins already, this one was unique for it’s position in the middle of the jungle and it’s size. It is a weird experience to walk on your own over some jungle track, on your way to some remote pyramid, whereas above your head the monkeys are flying from tree to tree. Quote of the week there was from some American teenager, who, on arrival saw the parking lot and realized he wasn’t going to be driven past the ruins: “Do we actually have to WALK to the ruins?”. Tikal was unique and beautiful, but for now I have seen enough piles of stones, eventually all ruins are going to look the same.

I was surprised to realize how many travelers take more or less the same routes. That way you end up bumping into the same people in different places in Central America. Useful, as you can exchange experiences and tips, a bit annoying when you think that you are doing a trip that is unique, and at the same point in time dozens off others are doing exactly the same!

Antigua was a very nice city, recommended by several travelers. The only disadvantage being that the town is being inhabited by several foreigners, especially Americans, who claim to do a language course, using that as an excuse for several weeks of partying. English is the common language in the city. The capitol was very interesting. A lot of people somehow dislike it, but I found it worth a visit. Especially the central park was brilliant. Sitting there while on my left a preacher was spreading god’s word, whereas on my other side some guy tries to sell some sort of aphrodisiac was fun. Shoe polishers, Maya Indians, street artists and people selling everything possible, there’s never a dull moment in that place.

Before going to El Salvador I took a day rest at the beach in Monterrico. With the temperature being very high I stayed in the shade of some palm trees most of the day, the black sand on the beach made it even hotter. The road getting there was another highlight. 2 ‘chicken buses’ and a ferry over a river for the last half hour of the journey make the place very remote.

Anyway, in Central America distances are not as huge as in Mexico, so I haven’t got a clue from where my next letter will come, you’ll find out though! ´till mail,

Gerben