Time-Travel Guatemala 1977, Coban to Tikal to Belize: So Old-fashioned…

continued from previous…

February 1977


From Coban north the road gets rough, north and south-bound traffic alternating days (the road is narrow, get it?), as the road winds gradually downhill.  It’s a lonely stretch, and by now I’m starting to feel a bit isolated, and lonely, wishing I could speak English with some fellow travelers.  There are a few at the junction to to Lanquin caves, but they’re going the other direction.  The locals have a very basic existence, the tourist enclaves of Atitlan relatively luxurious by comparison.

If the rough road from Coban to Sebol is long and lonely, from there it gets even sketchier.  There the road stops altogether, almost anyway, and you have to take a boat north to Sayaxche on the Rio de la Pasion.  Sebol itself is not much either, men playing cards at night by generator-generated light, so when the two German girls show up, I’m quite happy to have someone to speak English with.  The room costs fifty cents a night and has a dirt floor, albeit hard-packed.  We finally get a canoe out of Sebol after a day or two…

me & stelaEL PATO   2/19-24

Getting a canoe out of Sebol is not the problem.  The problem is that it doesn’t go all the way to Sayaxche, from where a road continues on to Flores and Tikal.  The problem is that it only goes to a tiny little village called El Pato (‘the duck’) from which you have to await another boat… and wait… and wait.  It doesn’t cost much to hang a hammock fortunately, and there are basic eats available, but… five days?  That’s a long time to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere (‘up a creek,’ perhaps?).

The two German girls and I get there first, but by the time we finally get a boat on down the river there are maybe a dozen of us Gringoes from almost all the European and American countries, including Dave the Canadian, the Canadian ‘older man’ who provides great comic relief, and Francois from you-know-where, and Conrad, with wife and guitar, likewise American, just one big happy family.

If I weren’t already so entangled emotionally with Abby as a lover and Shannon as a friend, I might even move closer to Kristiana, one of the German girls, blonde and beautiful, since I sense some mutual attraction, but… she’s with a girl friend, too… and there’s absolutely no privacy… and we’re in the middle of a jungle.  ‘Tangled up in green,’ maybe?  Oh, what I’d give to be twenty-two forever—NOT.

SAYAXCHE’   2/24

But our big-ass canoe finally leaves and the trip up the Rio de la Pasion is quite nice, even if the town of Sayaxche is nothing special.  By this time, of course, we’re all pretty close friends, me and the Europeans, so even when we get to Sayaxche we still stay together as a group.  Okay, I guess that’s not too surprising, considering that accommodation here is limited, and there’s nothing to do but catch the first bus to Flores.

IMG_0473FLORES   2/25-27

Once in Flores my group is still talking about making joint plans to go to Tikal.  This is starting to get a little weird, but not unpleasant.  Flores itself is a nice enough place in its own right, too, on an island in a lake in the heart of classic Maya country.  It ain’t Lake Atitlan, but it ain’t bad.  Ironically here in the classic Maya heartland, there are few remaining tribal people, and any you might find would hardly be recognizable as such, mostly assimilated, even though they were only conquered finally in 1697; go figure.

TIKAL   2/27- 3/3

There are direct flights to Tikal, and once you see the road from Flores, you understand why.  It’s ALWAYS the rainy season here, it seems, and a dirt road gets pretty muddy.  I don’t know how many times we males all get out and push, but it’s at least a few.  It’s worth it, of course.  The ruins at Tikal are outstanding, good enough to make the final cut of ‘Star Wars’ even. But when others in the group start talking about all going to another point up the road, Uaxactun, I beg off.

It’s been fun, but large groups are cumbersome, and I’m really not much of a ‘joiner’ (and it’s not a good way to learn a language, either).  There isn’t much of a town around Tikal, but there’s at least something, and that’s better than nothing.  There is even an evening social dance, all invited.  So I finally say my good-byes to all the guys, and start all over… all alone.  It won’t last long.  I catch a bus to the border with Belize.  Adios, Guatemala…

To be continued…