Or I should say, the last hurrah for my left hip, such as it is. 😉
What can I say? Truls is the ultimate travel planner. After hours of research, he knows just where to go, where to stay and what to do. And just because we have young kids doesn’t mean we can’t take these sorts of trips…even if it is over a single week-long break from school. While many families would shy away from a relatively long trip for just a week, Truls’ mindset is quite different. How much can we get into a single week? After all, once you count the weekends before and after the school’s Spring Break, why that’s practically another 1/2 week! hahaha
Sunrise breakfast in South Beach, Miami. Lunch in Belize City, Belize. Dinner in Tikal, Guatemala. Day One of Spring Break. It was busy. The red eye flight from SFO to Miami landed us in Miami around 5am – long before sunrise. And with 5 hours to kill, we took a taxi down to South Beach to visit the beach, watch the sun come up and have a little breakfast at a sidewalk cafe before heading down to Belize.
We got into Belize City a little earlier than planned so we took an unguided tour of the town…which was, to be honest, not so easy to figure out. Many of the stores were closed and the eating establishments seemed few and far between. We eventually settled on the waterside restaurant at the Radisson Hotel, only to have to wait far longer for our food than we anticipated. We found ourselves in a hurry after that meal and rushed out of town.
The distances aren’t that great but when going through a border crossing into a third world country, things may not go as quickly or smoothly as desired. Truls had read up on other traveler’s experiences and gathered several hints and tips on what to expect and what to do. Hence, our concern about getting through the border and down to Tikal before evening descended.
The most informative review from a traveler, however, was about 4 years old. A lot can happen in a country in 4 years – particularly the condition of the roads. We had been warned about the long stretches of dirt roads and very few paved ones. We were lucky to find that was not the case. In fact, most of the roads we traveled were paved and smooth. One would think that should have allowed us to speed along…except for those speed
bumps mountains in every town. These were officially called “pedestrian ramps.” They were higher and wider than any speed bump we’ve ever seen. Warning signs usually preceded them and if you missed one, well it couldn’t be pretty.
The border crossing was relatively straightforward, particularly because we had an interpreter that helped us on the Guatemala side. (By the way, did you know that Belize is the only official English-speaking country in Central America?) My use of Spanish is rare and thus my vocabulary somewhat spotty. Thank goodness for that interpreter. Once I got my mind wrapped around the fact that I should dust off old Spanish-speaking brain cells, I was having some fun translating our menu orders and asking for information on this and that. As always, I’m somewhat surprised at how quickly it comes back.
We sped as quickly as we dared to Tikal. The recommendations all said we should arrive before nightfall. Road signs were not plentiful and if you did find one, distances were usually absent. We made it just in time. The park itself closes at 6:00 p.m. We arrived just after and because we were staying at the Tikal Inn, we were allowed beyond the main gate into the jungle. The hotel was about 16 km inside the park. Signs along the road warned of snakes, birds and black panther crossings. Certainly not a place to go for a nighttime stroll.
We stayed at the Tikal Inn – basic accommodations, gorgeous grounds, friendly and responsive staff, large swimming pool and a location you can’t beat. It is situated right next to the entrance to Tikal National Park. I think that we were the beneficiaries of a 4-year-old less-than-stellar review of the hotel because I was a little surprised it wasn’t as full as it should have been. The service, in particular, has certainly improved from the last evaluation of the place. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone who intends to visit Tikal.
And with that, I will end this particular post. More photos and details on our trip inside the Mayan ruins to follow in the next post. Stay tuned….
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