Palenque to Tulum via many many places...

Belize Travel Blog

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Caye Caulker

The journey from San Cristobal to Palenque was a nausea inducing nightmare along a long windy road. Thankfully we had been prewarned and managed to secure a seat at the front of the bus. I won´t even begin to express the problems involved in trying to make use of the toilet at the back of the bus though!

Upon arrival at Palenque town we headed into the jungle to "Margarita and Ed´s" Cabañas, on the advice of Lonely Planet. Unfortunately Margarita and Ed were on vacation in America and the guy in charge was work shy and rude. We (I) accidentally locked us out of the bathroom on the last morning, which we figured served him right (it also made Tim mad though as he was desperate for the loo). I wouldn´t necessarily recommend staying in the jungle, you pay a lot more for the privalege of more insects in your room, and a cheap and efficient collectivo runs to the ruins from town.


The ruins themselves were fantastic. It was incredibly hot and we took great pleasure in watching many unfit toursits struggling to reach the top of the pyramids. Once again, we opted not to take a guided tour as guides are often overpriced and talk too much. But we don´t think this made our experience any less enjoyable, in fact Mayan history is a whole lot more interesting if you make it up yourself. i.e. The Mayans didn´t die out from overpopulation. In fact it was quite the opposite, it was far too hot for them to procreate.
Anyone planning a trip to Mexico, Palenque is a definite must. I can´t really do it justice with words, "yeah there are lots of pyramids and it´s cool". You just have to go to appreciate it.

On the advice of Lonely Planet once again, we organised a tour to make the border crossing from Palenque to Flores (Guatemala) more "efficient".

Granted I don´t know just how hard it is to cross the border without assistance, but I find it hard to believe it´s more of a shambles thant the organised tour, on the Mexican side at least. The company evidentally expected backpackers to travel without backpacks and resorted to slinging our luggage on top of the minivan and strapping it down less than sufficiently. They then crammed more people than was advisable into the minivan and on our merry way we went... with Tim in relative luxury whilst I was sandwiched between an annoying German lady and fat, sweaty man from Chile. Thankfully, after about an hour, some sweet talking on Tim´s part sent the guy sitting next to him to the back of the van and me up front to luxury.
Our first stop of the day was the ruins of Yaxchilan, which are reached by boat.
These ruins are awesome as they haven´t been fully restored. You get the impression that you are the first person to discover the site, I think Tim thought he was Indiana Jones that day! Tim and I took a minor hike through the jungle to avoid the crowd and got the majority of the pyramids to ourselves. As we were hiking towards one remote pyramid we were greeted by the incredible cries of the howler monkey, which grew more and more angry as we neared the pyramid. Figuring they were sacrificing their young to the Mayan Gods or involved in a wierd mating ritual, and fearing for our lives/faces, we retreated back into the jungle towards the main Plaza.
The second stop of the day was the site of Bonampak, which were unspectacular and there´s not much more to say.
Palenque, Mexico
From Bonampak the four of us who were travelling on to Flores were crammed into a taxi with our 8 bags and taken to our jungle accommodation. Once there we were told that there was no record of our booking but they had space for us to stay, how kind! We were then shown to what was effectively a garden shed with beds in. The beds were covered in dead bugs which had fallen from the old palapa roof; I have never been so thankful for my sleeping bag liner! After a terrible nights sleep fearing spiders and scorpions joining me in bed, we were crammed back into the taxi with our two travelling companions and 8 bags, taken to a minibus with no luggage storage and taken to the boat crossing to enter Guatemala.
Once across the border and into the care of the Guatemalan tour company things could not have run more smoothly.
We were greeted by a friendly guide who spoke fluent English and happily recommended accommodation in Flores. The bus also stopped for food and toilet breaks, as well as stopping at an ATM so everyone could get Guatemalan Quetzels at a decent rate.

Our stay in Flores was brief but pleasant. We went so we could visit the ruins of Tikal and it was definitely worth the hassle. As we were both still recovering from our various ailments we decided not to book onto the 05.00 tour. Instead we got the one hour bus service that left our hotel at 08.00 and arrived at Tikal at 10.30.
Once again, to avoid the crowd Tim and I followed the road less travelled and had most of the smaller ruins to ourselves. The larger pyramids were slightly busier, but by no means unbearable.


First we climbed the second highest pyramid, at 51m. As the original staircase was in a state of disrepair we were forced to take the rickety, wooden ladder style staircase with hand rails that were, in places, quite literally falling apart. We made it to the top without drama and shimmied along the edge to sit and admire the view. Something we did for longer than was strictly necessary as we were both reluctant to stare death in the face again on the climb down. The other pyramids offered some spectacular views and luckily had more structurally sound wooden staircases.
On our way back to the bus we were caught in an incredible downpour. We were soaked to the skin within seconds but it was a welcome relief to the stifling jungle heat.

The following day we got a minibus across the border to Belize City and a water taxi to Caye Caulker.

After checking out the hostels recommended by Lonely Planet and deciding they weren´t suitable as dog kenells, we checked into China Town Hotel. A hotel that on the surface looked fantastic on first inspection, but after one night of sleeping in a bed apparently made of wood, showering in water that smelt like a sewer and enduring the songs of the least tuneful gospel church ever encountered, we quickly realised it was terrible. We scoured the island for decent accommodation and found a cheap, private cabin. With some TLC it would have been lovely, in reality it had a kitchen with no utensils and a small curtain separating the toilet and the bedroom (pleasant). It was cheap for Caye Caulker though and we have definitely stayed in worse places.
Caye Caulker is not somewhere I would recommend.
It appears to be a Marmite island, and it just so happens I hate Marmite. We were expecting stunning white beaches and crystal clear water and found no beaches and water with rubbish in it.
We had booked a 3 day island hopping tour with Raggamuffin which was going to cost a lot of money, so decided to check the company out first. Thank God we did! We went on a one day snorkelling tour with the most obnoxious captain I have ever had the misfortune to meet. When we were snorkelling he spent the entire time "impressing" us by showing us how deep he could free dive and in doing so scared away a turtle. He also found it acceptable to grab a nurse shark and hold it against its will. To top it off when Tim and I snorkelled off to get away from the fatties who couldn´t snorkel, we missed a manatee.
Needless to say we cancelled the 3 day tour.
The saving grace of Caye Caulker was the diving. After discussions with various companies we decided against diving the blue hole and booked two days diving with Belize Dive Services. The first day had two incredibly boring sites, but it was good to be back in the water. The second day was two dives at Hol Chan, which were incredible. On the first dive we were surrounded by large nurse sharks, which made the descent somewhat scary. On the second dive we swam through a very tight tunnel (we don´t know how the woman who needs 24lbs managed it) and were greeted by four dolphins at the end. Both dives were great and we can´t wait to be back in the water again.

From Caye Caulker we back tracked and headed to San Ignacio for two days.

On the first day we went cave tubing, which was amusing. It was perhaps made more amusing by my inability to paddle properly and Tim being beached as I disappeared on small rapids. The cave tubing would have been better had the water been fast moving, but it was a very enjoyable day.
On the second day we visited ATM (for short) caves, the site of Mayan skeletons and artefacts. We were on tour with Ted, 28 from Sweden. Ted couldn´t swim, which was a slight issue as the cave had a river running through it. To enter the cave Tim and I plunged into freezing cold water for a brief swim to the ledge, whilst Ted and the guide walked round. We then scrambled, squeezed and waded our way though the cave and as reluctant as I was to start with, it was amazing! At one point our guide made us turn off our head lamps and walk through in pitch black, I wasn´t at all scared.
The skeletons and artefacts were really interesting, but it still would have been amazing without them.

The following morning we had a 04.00 start to begin our 13 hour journey back to Mexico. This involved an old school 50s bus with 50s gospel music and an abusive man, as far as Belize City. From here we caught another old, packed chicken bus to Chetumal, then a more pleasnt Mayab bus to Limones. Finally we caught a taxi and we were back in Mahahual, woo! But Mahahual has changed so much. A Hard Rock Cafe is due to open in November, and everyone suddenly speaks English.
Unfortunately there were cruise ships both days we were there, so the beach was busy and geared for toursits. It was raining on the first day anyway, so we managed to get everything organised for our trip to Cuba (so excited).

On the second day we hit the sunny beach. I joined the cruise ship crowd and got a massage on the beach, which taught me a very important life lesson... dont´t get massages when you´re covered in sand and salt.
We didn´t visit base as we weren´t sure how welcome we would be. We did eat at Fernando´s though, which was as amazing as ever. Oh, and a new pizza place has opened, run by a lovely lady who made me pizza on corn torilla base. Yummy!!

We´re now in Tulum so I´ll update again soon. Photos will come whenever there is good internet. x

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Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker
Palenque, Mexico
Palenque, Mexico
San Ignacio, Belize
San Ignacio, Belize
Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker, Belize
Flores, Guatemala
Flores, Guatemala
Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal, Guatemala
Monkey warning sign.
Monkey warning sign.
modelling again.
modelling again.
Yaxchilan, Mexico
Yaxchilan, Mexico
the mozzie dance
"the mozzie dance"