Trip Notes From Reader
The following was received from Frank and Anne Cartwright, a couple we met in the spring of 2003. Since then they have been traveling in Guatemala and countries to the south. In addition to the following take a look at their website: www.nextmillionmiles.com.
Dear Mike & Terri,
You probably donít remember us, but we met you at the 2003 Spring Escapade in Lancaster. We had the Xcursion built by Xplorer on the Ford F550 truck chassis.
We wanted to thank you for posting the ďNotes from Reader Ė GuatemalaĒ on your website. We are traveling in Guatemala and Central America and found the posting to be very helpful. In return we thought we would send an update to the posting and some additional places we found to camp in Guatemala.
The roads are a lot better than Mexico with much fewer potholes and wide shoulders. Gas was cheap and plentiful. Propane was a little harder to find, you need to find a ĎPropane Plantí to fill the tanks attached to the rig as they are the only places that have the right connections. They, the plants, are found outside the larger towns. Sometimes hard to spot but ask around everyone knows where there is one.
They donít allow pets into Tikal and are very strict about. So if you are traveling with a pet you need to make appropriate plans. The hotel in Santa Elena has expanded and no longer allows camping in its parking lot. We didnít find any alternate place to camp, and nor did anyone else we met. We camped at a wonderful place about an hour and half south of Santa Elena on the road to Rio Dulce outside the town of Poptun called Finca Ixobel. There is water and electricity, hot showers and toilets. They serve a wonderful all you can eat dinner buffet, family style each night and the restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch. Everything from beer, lunch and dinner is on the honor system, you fill in what you buy in a ledger and then settle-up at the end of your stay. There is a swimming hole, table-tennis and it is a great place to just hang-out and meet fellow travelers. They also organize float-trips on the river, hiking and horseback treks into the forest and river cave tours. This place is written up in all the guide books.
The road to Rio Dulce is now finished and is in excellent condition. The hotel in Rio Dulce still allows camping and it has a nice pool and a great restaurant for dinner and you can watch the sunset over the bridge. We didnít go to Livingston (heard about 2 different robberies of tourists in a 2 week period, so thought it best to avoid) nor did we go to Puerto Barrios. But, we did enjoy the hot spring waterfall and the Spanish Fort.
We visited Quirigua, which we thought was great. Very peaceful and the tall Stellaís were spectacular. We camped in the town of Rio Hondo at the Hotel Nuevo Pasabien, they have a real large pool with multiple water slides. This hotel is not set up for camping but they allowed us to park in their large parking lot with water and electricity near by. A little expensive at $15.00, but convenient. You can visit Copan in Honduras from here on a long day trip and there is also a great free anthropology museum nearby in Estanzuela where they have reconstructed the skeletal remains of a giant sloth and a giant armadillo. Fascinating!
The Country Delight outside Coban is still open and the couple that run it are very helpful and are delight to talk with.
We had difficulty finding the hotel in Panajachel, but if you cross the small bridge at the bottom of the mountain you have passed it. Just turn around at the 1st gas station, before the municipal toll and take your 1st left (dirt driveway). The hotel is called Hotel Tzanjuyu. Keep your receipt as when the men working the reception change shifts they will come around and ask if you have paid!!! Very nice and quiet with a great view of Lake Atitlan. . At $6.00 a night it is the best bargain in town. Lake Atitlan is said to be the most beautiful lake in the world, I donít know about that, but it sure is terrific with the three volcanoes surrounding it.
I think the reader, when he mentioned the largest market in Central America, was referring to the market at Chichi. This is about 50 miles from Pana. We took a ďChicken BusĒ from Pana on a Sunday (market day). It cost about $1.50 each way and was great fun. We were glad we didnít try and drive there as parking would have been a nightmare. You can also take a tourist bus for about $14.00 round trip and travel in luxury. The market should not be missed and the authentic Mayan ceremony on top of the hill is something we will always remember.
We, like the reader, also couldnít find a place to camp in Antigua, but stayed at La Red Trailer Park (Full Hook-ups) at Km 34.5 outside Guatemala City on the road to Palin. We used this as our base for visiting Antigua. Drive the toll road to Palin and then the brand new road to Antigua. Antigua is not too missed. Great fun, terrific architecture and the best restaurants in Guatemala.
We visited Monterrico by taking the 1 car ferry from Larlna. This was great fun but donít recommend it for a rig over 27 ft or a rig with low clearance. We didnít find a hotel, or restaurant to camp in Monterrico, but landed up paying a local $5.00 to park in their yard. Certainly a different experience! Lots of loose pigs and stray dogs. Only stayed 1 night. Sunset over the Pacific was spectacular.
We couldnít find Restaurant Vermont in Zaculeu, but landed up staying at Hotel San Francisco in Huehue. The hotel is on the right on the main road leading to town. They charged us $2.50 and we dry camped in their gated parking lot. Lots a traffic noise until 9 pm and then the traffic started up again at 5 am. But it was worth it. We know of people that boondocked just beyond the Zaculeu Ruins alongside the river (large parking area) but as we were travelling alone we didnít feel safe enough do it by ourselves. Great place to boondock, if you feel comfortable.
Well thatís it. We spent just over 2 months in this great country and enjoyed it immensely. I would suggest that if you go exploring around the countryside that you use tow vehicle, if you have one, as the smaller villages have roof eaves that extended beyond the sidewalk, so if you use your rig, you not only have to keep your eye out for small children, chicken buses and pigs, you need to keep looking up for overhanging eaves.
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