Livingston. With shrimps like that I don't need meat
â€¦ supersized shrimps for dinner, jump-diving in waterfall pools, playing soccer with locals on a Caribbean beach, intellectual debates with Russians, practicing guitar for hours, taking my first steps in entomology. I somehow managed to stuff my last 10 days in Guatemala with all of that. Livingston, the only â€śblackâ€ť Guatemalan town was the perfect spot to put my thoughts in order while slowing down after the 7 weeks of adrenaline rush. That place got no road connection to the rest of the country and boats are the only way to reach it. US$3 a night - isnâ€™t it great for your own room in a rustic hotel right on the water? Just in case you are interested, the place is called â€śEl Viajeroâ€ť - â€śThe Travelerâ€ť.
Thatâ€™s where I made friends with Richard, the chef in El Viajeroâ€™s restaurant, who would treat me with his ingenious culinary masterpieces, including catch of the day tuna and emperor-size shrimps.
All for US$5-8 including beer. One day I had to interrupt one of those fiestas when I heard two people speaking modern Russian with a very distinctive Moscow accent. I couldnâ€™t believe my ears! Russians donâ€™t go to Guatemala. Period. Iâ€™m glad was wrong. Kira and Sasha took a month long vacation to travel all across Guatemala. They inspired me to postpone my highbrow activity like writing notes and playing music. For two days we had been exploring the Caribbean coast and selva. My compatriots happened to be biologists whose hobby is monitoring the deforestation in different regions of our planet. They patiently shared their perspective with me, which let me see the big picture and sense the urgency of the issue.
Livingston. Kira and Sasha came straight from Moscow
I stayed in Guatemala until the very last day of my visa - thatâ€™s how much I liked the country, its people, its nature, its very affordable price level, its convenience and its super-positive mood.
My next country to conquest was Belize. I got their on October 8, the half-year anniversary of my LIVING AROUND THE WORLD! My goal was to see the three major ruins of Belize on my way to Yucatan, Mexico. Xunantunich, Caracol and Lamanai are unique Mayan sites worth visiting if you are really curious about Mayan civilization. I was and I paid for that dearly. That country focuses its tourism industry on the top tier of wealthy vacationers from the first world, and does not support the idea of "backpackers' Belize". I think this is due to the simple reason of its very scarce population. Belize only gets 280,000 inhabitants, a mere 2% of Guatemalan population, living on 23,000 sq. km, nearly a fifth of Guatemalan territory. Of course, all of them are busy catering to rich Americans who dominate tourist scene there. Belize, unless one is OK with just sitting on a beach and snorkeling occasionally, is backpackersâ€™ hell.
Belize. Getting to Caracol ruins is a real challenge
Due to population scarcity all the beautiful spots are very expensive to reach - one has to rent a car or take a tour. I was superfast with my Belizean agenda. The 3 ruins, the capital Belmopan, and the only countryâ€™s â€śmetropolisâ€ť Belize-city took me 5 days. By the way, Belmopan is one of the youngest capitals in the world. They built it from scratch in 1961, which makes it even younger than Brasilia! 5 days was not enough - I havenâ€™t seen the south and I have yet to climb Belizeâ€™s tallest mountain, so I will be back soon.
Belize City. You have to look for nice spots in that rough place
I had a good reason to rush to Mexico. It was my birthday gift to myself.
Campeche, the capital of Campeche state, is one of the best modern Mexican cities I have seen over my 4 months in the country. Perfect setting on Caribbean coast with dramatic sunsets, highly educated and beautiful locals, excellent cultural life, delicious seafood, and, the most important, virtually NO tourists! Campeche is one of the host cities for the International Festival Cervantino www.festivalcervantino.gob.mx , which is happening throughout the whole country in October. And now, for the first time in my â€śnewâ€ť life Iâ€™m really splurging for over a week. Forgetting about budget constraints is actually very refreshing and even mentally and psychologically curingJ.
Campeche. One of the cities where I would live for a year or two
I eat in white cloth establishments daily, I took a 2-day trip to remote Mayan sites, I am going to concerts (have you heard of Tanghetto? No? Click here www.tanghetto.com), I even resumed my dance practices!!! Wow! What a life! Well, soon it will be over as Iâ€™m getting back to basics. Spartan dorms, cooking for myself, local buses and â€¦ more of Mayan sites!!!
Campeche. My birthday sunset ;)
As to the Mayan sites, the Rio Bec area in Campeche, where they opened 6 sites for visitors, is a unique opportunity to sense how Classical Mayans were actually arranging their habitat. Normally, the ruins that we see are the religious and ceremonial centers of ancient cities with all other ruins (civil elite residencies, roads, market plazas, steam baths, middle class quarters, etc.) being covered by selva and not easy to reach. Rio Bec area, with Becan as its center, features not only central plazas of Becan with gigantic pyramids and observatories.
The elite residential sites like Chicanna and Xpujil, the ceremonial cites in Rio Bec and Hormiguero are also cleaned up and opened for touring. Those satellites of Becan are all located within 8-10 km from the dominion. They all used to be connected to Becan by sakbe, the ancient roads, which are not restored yet. The elaborate decorations and architectural designs of residential buildings are astonishing - way more artistic than what one can see in Palenque, Tikal, Caracol or Calacmul.
Chicanna. In the mouth of Iguana - the Creator God in Mayan pantheon
On Monday, October 22, I'm taking off for the state of Yucatan, where ruins of Uxmal, Ruta Puuk sites and marvelous Chichen Itza are waiting for me...