Thoroughly relaxed and recovered from our hangovers we pushed towards La Ceiba, Honduras and Pico Bonito National Park.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) was rapidly approaching. During Semana Santa the entire latin american populace takes the week off and heads to the coastline to party it up. On the beaches of Tela we were sitting at ground-zero for the madness. The hotel owners all said we should get the hell out of dodge before Monday, every single hotel room was booked up for the next 8 days and people were flocking in by the thousands when we hit the road.
We headed for the hills! Specifically Pico Bonito national park located outside the town of La Ceiba, Honduras. We stopped by the grocery and stocked up on supplies. We were planning to be gone for at least a week up in the mountain, vowing only to come out once the madness had ended.
Before our trip we researched all the countries we would be visiting on the PanAm. Overwhelmingly, overlanders reported the most issues with border crossings, corrupt cops, bribery, and theft in Honduras. From what we read the cops seem to like to play it fast and loose in Honduras with “official laws” changing daily or even in between car checkpoints…
We came prepared with our “Anti-Bribery toolkit”. 3 reflective triangles, 1 fire extinguisher, roll of reflective tape, crappy porn mags and cheap cigarettes.
We mentally prepped ourselves for chaos and headed towards “El Florido”. We reached the border, nestled in a small valley between some large green hills.
What we found was not quite the insanity we expected. In fact it was actually a pretty sleepy frontera with just a few trucks idling about. Not a single scamming tramidor or corrupt official to be seen.
We made some friends off the internet (surprise, surprise) who offered up their place for us to crash in Guatemala City while we got some 4runner repairs done (by another friend from the internet!). We pushed into Guat City with no real idea where we were going. Guatemala City is a crazy town, traffic is horrible, the streets are a maze, and the signage slim. After driving around in circles for a while, making a few payphone calls, and being lost for about 2 hours we finally found our way to our friend Julio’s place. Probably the nicest home we have seen so far in Central America.
We spent 4 weeks in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala taking spanish school. It was a great learning experience and we really enjoyed slowing down our pace and getting to know one location intimately. However, after a month in one spot our brains were burned out on spanish and we were ready to move on.
Our last night at school they threw a big bash for all the students. We cooked up a traditional meal of Chuchitos and Jicacma tea. Laurens teacher loaned her a traditional mayan outfit for the event.
Carly spent the rest of the week hanging out with us and touring around San Pedro. One thing she wanted to do while in Guatemala was to visit some Mayan ruins. In a country where over 50% of the population is indigenous Mayan it would be sacrilege to not visit one of their ancient sites.
We got to googling and did tons of research searching for nearby ruins to check out but came up bupkis. During our search however, we did find the Iximché ruins just outside the town of Tecpan. I knew we passed Tecpan on the way to the airport in Guatemala City. We figured we could head out the night before Carly left, drive to Tecpan, wake up early, tour the ruins, and get Carly on a plane around noon. Sounds like a plan to me!
During our spanish class we told our teachers about our plans to drive to Tecpan that night.
“Oh, you picked a very special night to go to Iximche.”
“Tonight is the Mayan new year!, of course”
… Of course? Our teachers explained about the Mayan Haab calendar, the long count-calendar, Tzoltin, equinoxes etc etc. The Mayans expounded upon 5th century BC knowledge of time and came up with a system to track/predict important events long before they ever heard of a Roman/Julian/Gregorian calendar. It is actually a series of several different calendars combined into one all-encompassing date keeping system.Pretty cool and complicated stuff.