richard alan photography
Architectural & Interior Photographer
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  • 2020-07-24T13:17:22.623-04:00

    360 VT

  • 2011-02-26T22:38:58.972-05:00

    Into Belize
    Have been in Belize for the past week. First stop was San Ignacio, about 30 minutes from the border.  It was raining the day we arrived and only spent one night. Not much to see in this town, only stopped to do a cave tour the next day. Called the ATM caves, they are according to Mayan  legend the entrance to the underworld.  More on the cave tour and photos later.

    From there moved to Belmopan, capital city of Belize, again spending one night before moving on to Hopkins on the Caribbean coast. What to do at the coast....not much of anything. First night checked in to Jeanie's Jungle Lodge a mile or so down the road from the village.  Next day moved on again and spent two nights on Tobacco Caye Island in a Cabana over the water. Tobacco Caye is a small island, 200x100 yards long and sits right on top of the reef that extends for 80 miles North to South along the Belize coastline.  There was some great snorkeling right off the beach and finished off the day at the bar at the beach watching the sunset. 

    Currently back at Jungle Jeanies for three nights before moving up for the final stop at Caye Caulker, just outside Belize City. 

  • 2011-02-24T15:11:52.268-05:00

    Lanquin - Semuc Champey
    February 7th we headed north to Lanquin.  Mode of transport micro-bus, filled to capacity with 15 travelers packed in like sardines, with our gear on top adding an extra few feet to the height of the bus.  Our minds were taken off the danger of the narrow, twisting road by the scenery as we made our way deeper into the mountains.

    After about 5 hours, the van pulled into El Retiro Jungle Lodge and we all tumbled out to claim our cabanas, the lucky ones getting room with bathroom and their own bed.  After settling in, hurried down to the river for a quick dip while the sun was still around to dry us off.

    There are only a few things to do in Lanquin, with the two most popular being the bat cave tour and seeing the river and falls at Semuc Champey National park.  Laura and I opted to stay away from the next days tour that covered both of these and would have included the same group of people that had just gotten out of the micro bus. Aside from that, spending the morning walking through bat shit didn't appeal to me.  After all, I had been using enough latrines for the past month.

    So the next day we walked to Lanquins only intersection, one road going left the other to the right, and waited for a ride.  Before too long a large truck came by loaded with bags of corn and workers and picked us up and after 45 minutes of standing, holding on for life or being thrown from front to back we landed at the gates of the national park.

    What makes Semuc Champey an attraction is the river. Starting somewhere back in the mountains, it makes it's way into a valley and the area we paid a visit. At one point the main part of the river ducks underground for about 1/2 mile before exiting to a wider river. The rest of the water makes it's way across the top of the limestone roof.  The limestone has formed into a series of steps that form pools of aqua blue clear water that makes for ideal swimming.  We spent the afternoon hanging out here, enjoying the sun and warm water, shaking off the dust of Guatemala.

    I have some cool videos, but internet connection is too slow to post them right now. Here are a few photos for those that want to see me with my shirt off. haha! Photos
  • 2011-02-19T16:50:21.513-05:00

    Acatenango Volcano hike
    Bit of catching up to do as I haven't had a chance to edit photos or update blog.

    On February 5th Laura and I did an overnight hike to the top of Acatenango Volcano.  There are three volcanoes surrounding Antigua, Acatenango, Fuego and Anitgua.  While they all have a recent history of eruptions, only Fuego is active and puts on a daily show of poofing smoke or the really awesome show of shooting red hot rocks into the air before the cascade down the side of the mountain.   At 13,044 feet, Acatenango is no walk in the park, with altitude sickness being a real possibility. Navigating is quite easy, you only need to look up to see where to go.

    There were 12 people in our group, along with Ben our guide and a security guard.  There were a few smart  people in our group that hired porters to carry their stuff up, while we strapped to our backs all the food, water, clothing and shelter needed for the overnight stay.  After yet another fabulous cramped micro bus ride through washboard country roads, we started hiking at 9:00 AM.  We started out walking up through agricultural fields of Peas, Lilly's and of course Maize, continuing on through the "cloud forest' before breaking through the treeline where stopped for lunch before the final few hours to the top.

    Acatenango offers a special deal, two for one craters at the top, meaning there are two cones at the top where lava has spilled out in the past. The downside to this is the brief feeling of relief when finally cresting the top of the first cone is quickly diminished when you look across about 200 yards and realize the actual top of the mountain is another 1000 feet up. Oye ve!

    Nonetheless, made it to the top successfully and were greeted with a spectacular 360 degree view that made it feel like I was on top of the world.  After quickly setting up camp in the center of the cone, everyone made their way towards the top edge to watch the Fuego fireworks.  At 13,000 feet it was cold and windy and when the sun went down, it got very cold but again were treated to great views of the stars.



    And that was it really, after watching some good explosions of Fuego, went to sleep in the center of a volcano on a bed of lava rocks.   The creature comforts of home are not a priority on this trek. 

    Photos

  • 2011-02-18T20:42:56.051-05:00

    Updated Antigua Photos
    Not everyone had access to these photos so please try this link. Photos
  • 2011-02-10T22:22:08.038-05:00

    Antigua
    7:00 AM shuttle to Guatemala City to pick Laura up from the airport. We would be spending the week in Antigua, an old Spanish colonial town located hour away from Guatemala City.  There is not much to see in G.C.  Located in a valley, it is spread out and full of pollution and crime.
    Shuttle brought us right to Hotel Dionisio. Small, cute little place with only 8 rooms, a kitchen, open courtyard and balcony area to hang out. The view from the balcony was really nice.  Most mornings were clear and we could view the three volcanoes, Antigua, Acatenango and Fuego surrounding the city.  The last, Fuego is an active volcano and regularly shoots up puffs ash and hot rocks.

    Antigua used to be the capital during Spanish Colonial times.  Many Churches, Monasteries, Convents and other Colonial building were built and subsequently destroyed by earthquakes.  Each time they would rebuild, but finally around 1763 a huge earthquake destroyed the city.  Antigua was abandoned, Capital moved to G.C and forgotten for many years. Eventually people started moving back, reoccupying the single level buildings that were still standing, but did not rebuild any of the churches. So as you walk around the cobblestone streets of Antigua, there are many churches that are beautiful example Spanish Colonial architecture, gated off, still in ruins with the arches that once held the building together lying in a pile in the center of the church.  Antigua has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its colonial style and history.

    The first couple of days we just walked around Antigua, taking lots of pictures, doing some dry runs through the market (i.e checking out the prices)  We did visit a museum that displayed the history of Guatemala’s 30 year civil war, albeit it was all in Spanish so it was tough to get the details, but the pictures spoke volumes about the conflict. We also went through a Franciscan monastery that had been destroyed by an earthquake that was equally interesting. It was founded by Friar Hermano San Pedro who was renowned for his healing powers.  Pope John Paul II made him a Saint, a designation the Antiguans are quite proud of.  Walking around the monastery was interesting, but unfortunately there were no signs indicating what the different rooms were used for, leaving it to the imagination of what it must have been like.   They did have on display Saint Pedro’s robes and underwear.  The latter woven together by thick wool cords and looked most uncomfortable.  The next couple of days we spent in the mercantile market, bargaining for scarves, jewelry, shirts etc. all of which can be quite exhausting.

    We stayed in Antigua a couple of days longer than expected, because we wanted to do an overnight hike to the top of Acatenango and the only guided trip was leaving on Saturday.  Detail on the hike coming up in my next post. 



  • 2011-02-10T12:48:25.343-05:00

    Volcano de San Pedro
    Updated with Photos  

    San Pedro, the town is located at the base of San Pedro the Volcano, one of three surrounding Lake Atitlan. I had arranged a guide through Delfino, my guide for the Las Cristinlinas hike and School Gardener, to lead me up San Pedro. Throughout the week I had been trying to recruit others students to do the hike with me, but got no takers until Sunday Morning when Monika, a fellow student from Poland showed up at the 6:00 AM rendezvous. Not unexpectedly, the guide did not show, probably because he was told there would only be one person and for 100Q or $12.00 staying in bed on a Sunday morning probably felt like a better option than climbing a 10,000 hill.

    Realizing the guide wasn’t showing, we set off on our own, first flagging down a Tuk Tuk to take us up to the park entrance. Entrance fee for the hike was 100Q and offer of a guide to take us up for additional 100Q. Knowing that we were in a National Park and being told it was regularly patrolled by Police, we opted out of hiring a guide.

    However, Miguel did take us 15 minutes up the trail for which I was grateful, because the trail split off in two directions and being unmarked, it would have been difficult to know which way was up. Interesting guy, Miguel. He had lived in Queens, NY working in the city as a dishwasher. Being an illegal, he had been deported and was saving his money to make his way back up to New York. As he proudly displayed his Metro Subway Card, he told me how in 21 days he would be making his way back to the States. To get to the U.S border he would jump on a freight train and ride on top of the cars, through Guatemala and Mexico. This is quite common and very dangerous. There are frequent deaths from people falling in between cars and hence underneath the train or they are targeted by gangs that know where they are going and know they have lots of cash on them. From the Mexican/ U.S border, a Coyote would take them across the Rio Grande, hike for three days, avoiding the U.S border patrol before meeting up with a bus that would take them into Houston. From Houston, he was on his own to get to NYC, mostly likely by Greyhound. Danger aside, he was very excited to leave for New York again and get back to dishwashing. From my perspective, it was interesting to see reality in action. One of the news stories I had heard at one time or another come to life.

    Pointed in the right direction, we headed up and up and up. There are two ways to get to the top of a volcano. The first hope is that since this was a designated park, the trail may have been groomed with switchbacks or at least some form of stairs built into the trail. The other, not so fun option is that the trail is the same that has been there for the past 3000 years and has been molded into a trail by a combination of human traffic, erosion, rainfall runoff etc. These two options averaged out, straight up for the most part, but stairs built into the ground on the most difficult vertical parts. Another nice thing is that there was tree cover the whole way, blocking out the hot sun.

    To the top in what felt like maybe three hours, don’t know because haven’t been wearing a watch in Guatemala and I wasn’t’ trying to set any speed records. Weather was on our side and at the top there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, giving a beautiful full view of the lake below and across to the other Volcanic peaks. After photos, taking in the view with a bite to eat, found a nice comfortable rock to lay back on and soak up the sun. Hour later, rested and newly sunburned face head back down where barbecue and cold beer would be in front of me by late afternoon.

    Photos later, bad internet connection.
  • 2011-02-03T17:51:07.094-05:00

    Coopertiva Spanish School
    I spent two weeks at the Coopertiva Spanish school to catch up on my Spanish and to make traveling around a little easier. I did four hours a day, from 8:00-12:00.  

    My teacher or Maestro as they refer to themselves was 28 year old Jose.  Jose grew up in San Pedro and has been teaching at the school for 4 years.  He had dreams of becoming a graffiti artist, but lacked the funds to go to school in either Antigua or Guatemala City.  His biggest dream was to go to school in NYC or Buenos Aires. I credit Jose with having the patience to sit with an adult speaking at the 5 year old level everyday, as I struggled through remembering the definitions and conjugating verbs and getting the masculine and feminine in the right order. 

    After break we would go walk about San Pedro so I could practice Spanish with him and the locals.  Trips included walks to the market, bank, the soccer field and up to a viewpoint overlooking San Pedro.  I also helped him create a new group on Facebook for the activities youth program ICE he organized. We also went to a Coffee Plantation to learn about the process of how the bean was picked and prepared for market. 

    The Coopertiva as the name suggest is a cooperative that serves several purposes. First the tuition money is shared with all of the teachers. Tuition money is also used to build homes for families in need.  One day every student and the teachers went to the housing project to help pour cement onto the roof.  There were regular workers responsible for mixing the cement and making sure it was poured correctly on the roof.  The students helped carrying bags of cement, sand and stone to the mixing area and pouring buckets of water into the mix.  When the cement was ready, we formed a chain gang about 10 yards long, passing buckets of cement along the line and up to the roof.  The empty buckets were passed back down along the other side of the line to be refilled.  Somehow I ended up in the spot where I had to pass the full bucket down the line while simultaneously receiving the empty bucket for refill. It all ran very smoothly, albeit more labor intensive than how cement is mixed and poured in the U.S. 

    The house was small, maybe 400 square feet, smaller than many of our closets and 8 people would be living in the single level.  When funds become available there are plans to add a second story. 

    The school also had nightly activities which included a lecture pertaining to life in Guatemala, movie night, Salsa night and finally Saturday's activity.  I went on both of the Saturday activities; hiking Las Cristilinas and Zip lining. One other event was to visit a selected poor family and drop off food for them. 

    It was a great two weeks, I met lots of people from several different countries and ended up hanging out with them most nights for the two weeks. Travelers tend to bond rather quickly while sharing travel stories and we all became fast friends.

    Photo Gallery
  • 2011-02-01T18:16:41.421-05:00

    In and around San Pedro
    Spent two weeks in San Pedro La Laguna, taking Spanish classes at the Coopertiva Spanish School. Classes filled my mornings during the week from 8:00 - 12:00. Afternoon off, I would diligently do my home work, :) and then off to do other activities or just lounging about in the hammock on my balcony.
    Met lots of great people.  First week hung out with Nick and Rosa from Australia and Laura and Jerry from UK.  Second week, met up with Phil and Ruth, also from UK as well as other students at the school. Phil and Ruth were a very interesting couple. Both teachers, they spent their summers off traveling the world, in some of the most far off distant places.
    Spent time watching movies, visiting some of the other villages around the lake, Coffee Plantation tour, hot tub, took far too many photographs, meandered through the market, zip lining, hiking a San Pedro volcano, watched a local soccer match and learned a bit about Mayan culture.
    San Pedro was a good place to hang and relax. Met lots of great people and was one of the most scenic places I have ever visited.  Photos in and around San Pedro




  • 2011-01-24T19:51:29.808-05:00

    Hiking Las Cristilinas
    The school organized a guided hike up Las Cristilinas or the Broken nose mountain.  When you look at the mountain, you can see a face looking up towards the sky. Mayan legend says it is an ancient chief.  There were 5 of us in the group; Phillip from California and Jared from Pennsylvania, Jennifer and My, from Sweden.

    There are many ways of getting around Guatemala and one of the most interesting is in the back of a pickup truck.  There are designated pickup spots or you can flag one down along the road. They are always small pickups and there is no limit to the number of people, supplies and animals that will climb in back.  So this was our mode of transportation for the trip over to San Juan. Being early in the AM, it was a comfortable ride over. 


    Dropped off in the the center of town we made our way towards the trail head. Small entrance fee for tourists to use the trails paid we set off. Trails are also used by the Mayans to move from village to village, but I suspect they don't pay.

    Hike up was good, not too difficult. Was hazy out so photos from the various vistas were not so great.  Made it up in about 2.5 hours, with plenty of stops along the way. Overall trail was good, but was always narrow and in lots of places if you went over the edge, it would be a quick trip back down to San Juan.  Also walked through lots of coffee plants, planted on the side of the mountain.  Poor buggers that had to pick those beans, so steep.

    Santa Juan is on the South side of the mountain and charges a fee to use the trail. And on the North side is Santa Clara. Apparently there is a bit of dispute which village owns the top and is entitled to the collected fees.  So when we were going down another fee was paid to the village of Santa Clara.  Whose pocket it all ends up in would never know, but it is only a buck or two.

    Santa Clara is a nice little village, with a great practical Saturday market. Lots of really good looking fresh fruit and other food. Just about anything else can be purchased for the house as well. We spent an hour there wandering around the market.

    Our first mode of transport back to San Pedro was again by pickup. This was going to be a bit different than the mornings ride. We jumped on first, but 15 minutes later there were 20 people loaded, two hanging off the back a few 20 lb bags of corn, several other bags, but thankfully no animals.

    In researching trips to Central America there are lots of stories about transportation and rides like this in particular, some ending tragically. Keep in mind, we are still high up in the mountains and we have to go down...down curvy roads. Not curvy as in, please slow down from 55 to 45, which no one ever does. Curvy as in come to a near stop as the truck basically makes a U-turn. Maybe the driver was just being nice because the view as we approached the S curve was so great. In fact the view was great because there was no railing, no fence, no trees obstructing the view, just a sheer drop off to the bottom.  Having never experienced anything like this I began to consider "when is the best time to jump" out of the truck if there is one as the breaks go out and starts over the edge.

    Ah well, just nervous thoughts as we pull into another village. From here we transfer to a Tuk Tuk to take us the rest of the way to San Pedro.  Tuk Tuk's may look cute, a novelty to be tried once, but not when the ride is 25 mintues long. A Tuk Tuk is a three wheeled transport with a moped motor and wrapped in a shell. I fit comfortably in the back, with the driver in front, going a short distance....not today. Three of us in the back, including bigger Jared who thankfully elected to hang one leg out the side and two in front. So 5 of us in a Tuk Tuk on roads with plenty of holes, bumps, stream crossings and one on one encounters with the buses. I can only say that if we were going down more curvy roads,  I would have walked.

    Well that's it, up and down, a strange way to have fun.  Next weekend, I hope to climb the volcano San Pedro, with I am sure more payoffs, interesting rides and possible Bandits hiding in the bush.

    "Room for the whole family" tuk tuk, putt putt          Hiking photos




  • 2011-01-21T21:14:10.035-05:00

    San Pedro La Laguna - Arrival and settling
    Arrived in San Pedro de La Laguna last Friday night, January 14th.  It was late and as we got off the launch, Mikhel and I were immediately surrounding by people asking to take us to a Hostel or Tuk Tuk drivers asking to drive us somewhere.  Even if you know where you will be staying, the people want to take you there because they will then tell the owner of Hostel that they delivered us there and will extract a tip.  We met a German girl, who suggested we try Casa Domingo, a cheap Hostel close by. As we started off, Pedro of San Pedro tagged along with us, trying to make conversation, asking us basic questions of where we are from etc. We reached the end of the road and had to make a right down a dark dirt path. This was of a little concern because Pedro was hot on our heals and I had to prepare myself for a little encounter.  I noticed that Mikhel took out a knife that he carried and wrapped it into his fist. We only went about 50 yards until we found Casa Domingo.

    The rooms were as basic as can be, a prison cell being one step up.  We decided to go for it as it was only one night and we just needed a place to throw our bags and crash for the night. And at 30 Quetzsals a night it was a bad deal. 30 Quetzales being just under $4.00.  I saw Pedro get his tip from the lady who owned the place. When I got my key and was putting my stuff down, Pedro of San Pedro kindly offered to sell me some drugs.  He had it all, Pot, Mushrooms, XTC and some other stuff I didn't understand.  Bags in place, we headed back down towards the dock for some street food and beers at Alegre, a local Irish Pub.

    Next morning, I was up early, took some pictures of the chickens getting fed and headed up the Coopertiva Spanish School to sign up for classes and hopefully rent an apartment they offered. I was the first one there, signed up for classes and was able to rent the apartment. Apartment was nice, big room with bed and desk, a kitchen, bathroom, with tiled floors and painted walls. Best part is that is has a balcony with a great view of Lake Atitlan. With all of that in place I spent, the better part of the day familiarizing myself with San Pedro.

    San Pedro de La Laguna is one of 13 villages around Lake Atitlan. It has a population of about 13,000 and is basically divided into two parts; the tourists and hippies down towards edge of the lake and the center of town with the locals further in the hills. Overall pretty small, but it does offer a great view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes; San Pedro, Toliman and Atitlan.

    Photos in and around San Pedro.






  • 2011-01-19T18:25:00.473-05:00

    Guatemala bound
    12 hour trip from San Cristobal de Las Casas to San Pedro de La Laguna in a clean Mercedes Sprinter van.   Left at 7:00, on Mexican time, 8 people in the van.  Mike from St. Paul, MN sits next to me and we have a good chat about back home. It is a beautiful drive through a mountain valley pass with a river running through most of the way.

    Also met a couple from Guatemala/Sweden, Marcos from Georgia who was working for Habitat for Humanity, Mikhel from Italy and a Canadien Mother and Daughter.

    At the Mexican/Guatemalan border we have to switch vans to a Guatemalan driver for the final leg to San Pedro.  Before getting to San Pedro we are dropped off in Panajachel and have to take a "launch" or boat across Lake Atitlan to San Pedro.  Trip across the lake is about 45 minutes with a few stops in between.

  • 2011-01-18T14:15:54.226-05:00

    Chiapas - tourist stopover
    Chiapas – On the way back the tour van made an obligatory tourist stop in Chiapas so we could walk around the market.  The town itself is nothing spectacular, just rows of merchant stall selling the normal tourist trinkets. I did walk around an old convent and church, Santo Domingo de Guzman.  Pretty neat stone building with a an arched courtyard. 
    I purchased an orange juice drink, which they have an interesting way of serving “to go”.  The juice is poured into a plastic bag, straw inserted and rubber band wrapped around to seal it shut.   It’s great buying juice drinks off the street vendors because everything is freshly squeezed. 
    Photos of Chiapas


  • 2011-01-18T14:17:51.542-05:00

    Canyon del Sumidero - River Trip
    Canyon del Sumidero – This is a deep canyon with a river running through the canyon.  River has been dammed up, making it a very tranquil river.  Before the dam it was a rough river full of rapids, that would not have been passable by boat.  Overall the canyon is impressive, but not as impressive as say the Grand Canyon or even Hell’s Canyon in Eastern Oregon.  The highlight of the trip is seeing crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbanks on the way back.  Photos of Canyon del Sumidero. Photos of Canyon del Sumidero

  • 2011-01-16T11:43:52.417-05:00

    San Cristobal de las Casas - Onward and Upward
    Other than 5 long hours of narrow, twisting, winding roads, through the cloudy Sierra Mountains, the bus ride from Paleneque to San Cristobal was uneventful.  A brief cab ride to the center of town and I am at the Hostel Casa Real. A couple at the Palenque bus station had just come from San Cristobal and spent a couple of nights here. Taking other travelers recommendations is much easier than going from hostel to hostel, checking each room or avoiding any surprises if booking in advance.

    San Cristobal de Las Casas is a Spanish Colonial was first established in 1528 by the Spanish Conquistador Diego de Mazariegos and was renamed San Cristobal in 1535 by the Spanish Crown.  It is 6900 feet above sea level and was kind of chilly.  Although I did hear it spoken a few times that, “it is never this cold here.” It is typical of a Spanish Colonial town, with the plaza in the middle being the center of activity.  On the four sides of a plaza you will find; the City Hall, a Catholic Church and two other buildings with hotel, restaurant and shops.  Center of this plaza had a pavilion where a market is held, bands playing nightly and was surrounded by benches, trees and gardens.

    I spent the better part the days there exploring the streets, seeing the Churches and a University.  My intention was to only stay there for a day and leave the next morning.  On the second night I was in a café and spoke with two guys from Mexico City.  They suggested I do a river tour of the Canyon del Sumidero.  Easily convinced, I delayed leaving San Cristobal for another day.  Pictures of the tour in next post. San Cristobal photos
  • 2011-01-13T18:41:22.951-05:00

    Tulum to Palenque
    12 hours!  Bus departs Tulum at 6:30 and in the morning I should be having breakfast in the jungle.  I am headed for Palenque Mayan ruins in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Anyone interested can read all about the ruins here . When I purchased my ticket, thought I had selected a seat in front of the bathroom. Well, that seating chart was wrong and seat number 44 was in the last row right next to the bathroom. It smelled and the bus was full, so no change of seats. Two dudes in front of me immediately put their seats in the recliner position, leaving me with one seating position. Thankfully there was no sitting next to me, but two bus seats still does not allow for any comfortable positions.

    Found that if I positioned my head just right, there was a direct flow of fresh air that I could breathe in to take away the smell. Unfortunately that vent could not be closed so it was a chilly night. I had a jacket, but was still wearing shorts and used a travel towel that my co-workers at JAOtech gave me to cover my legs.

    We stopped once in the night, somewhere, sometime, but I have no idea. Wasn't sure if it was a quick stop or what, so hesitated before getting off.  Apparently it was dinner hour because the driver(s) there are two, were seated at the roadside tables eating.  I bought a couple of Tacos from the cart and had just enough time to eat, grab a water and head back to my corner of hell.

    Restless sleep between dreaming how warm I had been just a short time ago and my head bouncing off the window as the bus went over bumps, natural and man made. Occasionally I would open my eyes and find myself staring at a group of police armed with machine guns as we passed through a Police checkpoint.

    The bus arrived on time in Palenque and I took a 5 minute cab ride to El Pancha, a jungle Hostel just outside the park entrance. Park opens at 8:00 so I have breakfast and made a reservation for a Cabana that night.

    At the entrance to the park, I am waiting for a collectivo (public transport) to take me the 3 kilometers into the park.  An American couple pulls up and asks if I wanted a ride.  They were from California and were driving around Mexico. Interesting couple, they met in Spain and had traveled to over 95 countries in their lifetime.

    I spent the next 5 hours wandering around the ruins, taking lots of pictures and taking it all in.  Posted pictures are of all the buildings they have uncovered so far, but it is estimated there are thousands more still covered by the jungle. Photos of Palenque Ruins

    After touring the ruins, I decide I didn't want to hang around for the night, so I head to the bus station. I hear good things about San Cristobal de las Casas, so going to head there and spend the night. Another 4 hour bus ride....yikes!

    That's all for now. Next post from San Cristobal de las Casas.

    P.S if anyone wants to chat, you can find me online through Skype or MSN at rich_purcell.
  • 2011-01-13T17:33:53.223-05:00

    First things First
    After 3 weeks of icy cold Minnesota weather over the holidays, I had to take care of the basics.  Spend a few days at the beach, soaking up the sun, swimming in the Caribbean Sea and adjusting my attitude and patience to Latin American. Tulum is the perfect place to make that adjustment.  Just south of Cancun, Tulum is quite the opposite of the mega resort, party time all night Mayan Riviera.  I stayed at Copal which offers cobanas with cement floors, a bathroom, walls made out of sticks with plenty of gaps for jungle critters (yes spiders, cockroaches, snakes) a thatched roof, no electricity (candles are free) and bed with mosquito net.  

    Anticipating at least a couple of hours at the beach on my first day, I was quite happy to move through customs, baggage claim and bus ticket rather quickly.  Mexican tourists board is all too familiar with impatient American beach travelers, so their is system is pretty efficient.  But the sheer number of people still made it a timely process.  I was happy to see they were still using the red light, green light system for randomly selecting people for baggage search. Thankfully the lady that gave me a look and cut in front of me was the lucky one to get the red light for herself, husband and three kids. 

    First stop, Playa del Carmen for bus transfer to Tulum. Bus is an hour late, buy no problem will still make a couple hours beach time. I kill the hour at the Taco Stand watching the tanned, happy beach goers of Playa del Carmen wander the streets, while I sit there in long pants, a stinky shirt and two heavy bags that I guard with my life. 

    Finally the bus arrives, we are on the way and my chances for a swim in the Sea before sundown look promising.  About 40 minutes into the trip, the bus blows a rear tire!  Oh no!  No more delays, onward driver, three tires remain. And so he does, without so much as even tapping the breaks, the shredded tire works its way free of the rim and we motor on. Cars pass, honking, pointing at the tire, no matter  there is a schedule to keep. Moving along nicely, about 20 minutes away from Tulum, I am sure to be swimming soon and then.....Pow! The bus lists to the right, people grab hold, luggage shifts, dust in the air and the sweet smell of burning rubber and loud clap of a second shredded rear tire hitting bottom of the bus. Why me? This sounded bad enough to cause driver to pull over and take a look, so I am already planning a strategy. Grab my bag and stick my thumb out or jump on a Collectivo (small public van that transports people) whichever comes first. In the 30 seconds it takes for this strategy to materialize, the driver is already seated and pulling onto the road. I praise this man for doing the right thing, after all there are still two good tires on each side. However, not so fast. I mean not so fast as in we only go about 25 MPH, which is utter torture as other buses pass us at the speed of light. What should have been 15 minutes, turned into an hour. Beach time has been jeopardized and I resolve myself to getting there by dark and enjoying happy hour by the Sea.

    Not even the most creative writer could entertain by writing about laying on the beach in a vegetative state, so I won't bore you with the next few days. However, I did take some photos of where I stayed and the beach. 

    Next up, a 12 hour bus ride the Palenque, Mexico in the state of Chiapas. My first time on an international flight to Santiago, Chile I couldn't imagine my reaction to spending that many hours on an airplane. 12 hours on a bus....I am just hoping there aren't more flat tires. 
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