E: Our last day in Belize we had stayed in a small border town called San Ignacio. There wasn’t much here except a very old church and a really good burrito stand in the main square. I had a hard time finding accommodation that wasn’t a fortune and settled on a campsite a few blocks out of town which had some cabanas for rent. The broken down cabin still ran us $25 for the night without internet or hot water. Yikes! There was also the matter of the scorpion we found scurrying along the floor of the cabin when we returned from our burritos. I quickly dispatched the pesky anthropod with the bottom of Tanya’s sandal. It died pretty easily and I was surprised at the amount of sticky goo that emanated forth from its smooshed body. It was brown in colour so I wasn’t too bothered by it. We were told by locals that the translucent yellow scorpions were the ones to watch out for. However, after doing some research I learned that there are only 25 species out of 1500 which have enough venom to kill a human being.
At breakfast the next morning, through the door of the restaurant, I saw a white girl taking a rain cover off her motorcycle. As I looked closer, I saw that her bike was an old model KLR and she had panniers and a rear box installed. Wow! She was on an overland trip like me. Tanya paid the bill as I ran outside to say hi. “Are you travelling alone?” I asked because I was both excited and shocked to think of a female doing this trip solo. “No,” she responded, “I’m travelling with my brother,” she gestured down the street with her head. I saw a tall bloke with a massive beard in full riding gear jumping aboard his old model KLR. She handed me a personalized business card which told me her name was Jayne and her brother was Phil, both Canadians, and they were riding from Alaska to Ushuaia. “Awesome,” I exclaimed. I told them I was Canadian and was riding a KLR too! We chatted for a few minutes but her brother looked ready to get going, which I of course can relate too. Your sweating your ass off all trussed up in your gear and somebody wants to have an easy peasy conversation with you as you bake in the sun. We said our good byes and Jayne said they were also on their way to Guatemala. I was stoked to meet two other Canadian riders but didn’t think much more about it.
T: Just over the Belizean/Guatemala border on the eastern side of Lago Peten Itza sleeps the tiny rural town of El Remate. We selected it as a place to hang for a week or two as it is noted in our guide book for its tranquil aura, calm blue lake, dock-lined shores and friendly inhabitants. As luck would have it, I spotted Erik searching for accommodations on the main street as my bus lumbered through town and yelled at the driver to pull over and let me off! It was a pretty effortless border crossing from Belize and the day seemed to be continuing with ease. We found the best deal in town: a two bedroom house, with kitchen, parking, cable, couches and a lockable driveway for $15 a night! Since the house had two bedrooms, Erik suggested we send an email to the two Canadian KLR riders whom we’d briefly met in Belize earlier that day an invite them to split the house. It’s the kind of place we figured having friends would help ward off boredom. Hours later they emailed back and accepted our offer, intrigued at this little place they hadn’t heard of and like us, we guessed, always up for new friends and adventure. We immediately hit it off and not only because of our common nationality and almost identical heights. (It was awesome for me to spend time with a female traveler as I was starting to miss time with my lady friends at home.) Erik and Phil also jumped right into a friendship that would grow into a serious bond in the coming days while taking their motorbikes into the jungle to find the lost city of Mirador. In the first couple days in our new house we swam, drank and ate like royalty. I was very excited to have a kitchen and new friends to cook for. Shopping is made easy as fresh food lay upon little tables in front of nearly every house- harvested that day from each family’s small backyard gardens. We toured the island of Flores, the common tourist stop, an adorable round chunk of land that sits in Lago Peten Itza, accessible by small bridge. Flores’ one major street starts along waters’ edge and winds like the swirl on a lollipop until it reaches the centre, dotted with rickety docks and bright restaurants along the way. We indulged in some cheap, sugary and ridiculously massive ice-cream treats with all the toppings you could want. Jayne and I hunted for the best Frappe’s and other sweets, Phil and Erik searched for beer at local prices.
We took a trip to Tikal. It is large and it was very hot out that day. Ruins seem less thrilling after you’ve seen those in Mexico. (Palenque, Chichen Itza). When Phil and Erik went off to El Mirador, Jayne and I caught up on girl type things, like, sun-tanning, gossiping over coffee, gentle hikes and sleeping in. We loved it. We walked all around town determined to find a masseuse and when we couldn’t, we hopped on Jayne’s bike “Cricket” and headed to Santa Anna (the closest city) to find one. It was one of the hottest days yet and Cricket decided to take a rest, spitting out coolant to show her disgust. We had already visited several massage spas, none eager to help us, every one of them doubling the cost. So we chilled out with an iced coffee and Jayne showed some incredible mechanic skills (with help of her I-phone), which brought Cricket back to life. We continued on our quest, stopping to ask any women we saw and poking our heads into every nail or hair salon. We would not give up. After each inquiry we were certain of the massage facility location, but we got more and more lost. Finally, about to throw in the towel, we asked a group of ladies getting into a tuk tuk. They asked us to follow them and they’d swing by and point it out on their way. So nice! To our relief, there was a sign out front and it looked like a fairly legitimate establishment, so we walked in to check it out. We were greeted by a sweet woman in her seventies who we realized had gotten up from a family lunch. With apologizes, she said they are closed on Saturdays (we didn’t even realize it was the weekend) but when she saw the utter disappointment on Jayne’s face, she relinquished and offered a quick half hour neck and shoulder massage. Jayne accepted and I sat down to wait for her, when the ladies even older husband appeared from the dining room and offered me a massage as well. Of course I first asked the price, but they both shook their heads and said there would be no cost. Although hard to believe, the couple seemed lovely and totally trustworthy, so we accepted gleefully. Let me tell you- that was the best massage I’ve had in my entire life. I love massages. I averaged two a week when I was in Thailand for three months. This seventy-something Guatemalan man, standing barely 5 feet tall, managed to relax and un-knot my travel-weary muscles with techniques I have never known before. He told me tales of studying massage in Germany for fifteen years; his strange moves and fluent German corroborated his story. I was utterly relaxed when I met up with Jayne in the lobby an hour later. We tried to force money upon them but they graciously declined. A truly spectacular experience in more ways than one, I was blown away once again by the generosity of people in such an impoverished country.