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Batty bus to Belize


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Wednesday 18th September 1985

To the embassy, grumpy official, Guatemala visa 10$, receipt in Quetzals though. No tourist card. No explanation forthcoming.

1pm bus to Belize City from Batty Bus tout in bus station precinct. 7B$ or 1100 P.

Instant change of atmosphere over the border. Mennonite german in straw hat and dungarees tries to sell me ze best peanuts in ze world. Big boobed black mama, her breasts rolling like proverbial melons in a sack and her hair still in curlers tells me the boss wants me. Change 5500P to 30B$ with man waiting on steps of custom house.

Arrive in Belize City at dusk. First two hotels are closed down. Third is full. Fourth too expensive. Fifth cheap but full. Sixth 10B$ with loo. But over dingey bar whose reggae music keeps me awake all night. The streets after dark have a certain atmosphere. Soft greetings from shadowy corners and a flash of white teeth 'what u lookin for?' and 'take it easy white boy'. Caribbean lady has strong local accent but irish idioms at all at all. Tumble down old place with weather beaten weather boarded houses, the whole city no more than 6 inches above sea level. Long list of names already chosen in anticipation of this years hurricanes. Remarkable any buildings are standing at all, to look a t them you would think the first sea breeze would knock them flat.

Posted by 1985 trip 02:31 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

imminent emesis

on bus back to Merida


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Tuesday 17th september 1985

Up with the misty dawn. A buzzard came on low over the backyard chickens. My room is in the backyard.

Two hours standing room only on bus back to Merida. Sardines in a tin have nothing on this and waves of nausea don't help.

Successful trip to post office and comply with all their trivia and forms and manage to post a couple of parcels and some letters. Bank, lunch and las Uno bus to Chetumal. Arrive at dusk and check into Hotel Brasilea 1000 con bano opposite the bus station. Lively international high street in this border town. Locate nearest bank and Guatemala embassy. Good hassle free business like day.

Posted by 1985 trip 02:24 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

busy day at the ruins


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Monday 16th September 1985

Busy day at the ruins - enormous ball court: 6 friezes show 12 teams, the winners head is held by the losers captain, the winners kneeling body spurts seven serpents of blood from his neck, one for each member of the team. The central stone disc (the goal) has a skull speaking, with blood dripping as maize leaves to the ground. Peculiar acoustics.

A hot humid claustrophobic climb up inside the main pyramid to an ugly red jaguar seat set with a few pieces of jade. Shafts lead up to the temple on the top so the high priest could be heard from his den. Up the outside there are 91 stairs, then 4 on the top and then the altar = 365. The large steps of the pyramid cast a moving serpentine shadow apon the side walls of the stairs at the equinox sunset.

Steam baths, many carvings, Toltec Mayan mix, observatory, palaces, more ball courts, sacrificail cenote 70 feet across and 100 deep. Lots of pillars, fine corbelled vaults, better than in Palenque, and sinister chaac mols.

There was quite a crowd at the nearby Templo Evangelico Eben- Ezer. Several people standing, loudly calling god into their lives. Lets hope Chaac does not answer them.

Posted by 1985 trip 02:12 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

washing sewing reading

and son et lumière


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Sunday 15th September 1985

What with all the washing sewing reading and a thunderstorm didn't make it to the ruins during the day.

However made it to the Son et Lumiere show in the evening with a few others. Ruins impressive lit up at night. Quadraphonic hifi good too, but the music was repetitive and boring and ponderous and the lighting effects repetitive too. The voice overs spoilt it all. Thre breathless voices raised mirth rather than respect with chaotically mis stressed sentences 'where they here or did they come form...' A yorkshire tool fitter who has been wandering the globe for two years accompanied me to a beer afterwards. He regrets didn't get to Tibet, and looks like lack of money will stop him reaching south america too. He got a standby ticket out of singapore.

Dinner with the man of the house. he is as round as his wife, but drunk hence long conversation, although our respective language skills are not up to much actual communication. Spoke proudly of the virtues of the Yucatan and the Maya I think, the locals all look very indigenous and not spanish. We shared endless home made tortillas which were very tasty with pollo pibil. Yum. Muy bueno gusto. He had a very large piece section of chicken which was brutally rendered into tiny pieces by a heavy handed assault with knife and fork. ±Plenty of saliva and sharp intake of breath and smacking lips as he bit into a red chilli or a lime laden with salt. All washed down with three beers and a coke. I think my cash has prompted a feast. The chillies n this household are the very devils balls, but they make a marvellous colonic antiseptic so I managed a small one, poco piquant.

In the village square a large number of people were milling around, with a few vendors, as if something was going to happen. I hang around till 11pm and nothing much happened. Toddlers ran about bumping into everybody, children played marbles, youths smoked cheap cigarettes, older and fatter wiser gossiped on benches and grew fatter still.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:53 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

sling my hammock in small homestay near Chichenitza


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Saturday 14th September 1985

to the Post Office with my purchases. No is possible internationale parcels until Tuesday !?! Wretched independance day celebrations have paralysed the place.

5pm bus to Chichen. I'm overloaded and so is the bus.

Arrive well after dark in the small village of Pista 2km form the ruins. The lady at The Pasakan Maya Restaurant asks me about cuarto economics as I pass. Turns out I can sling my own hammock in their spare room for 1000P! Brilliant. She helps me untangle the hammock strings, there's an art to rolling it up and Senor Rodrigues made it look very easy. Tie up mosquito net over it all and it looks like a ghostly four poster bed. Cosy inside, very comfy, very pleased at the way events have turned out.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:42 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

hammock deals


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Friday 13th September 1985


Bus to Tixkokol where I wander around nonchalantly even though everyone knows you just come here to buy hamacas. But no one asks me to buy as its pouring with rain and all traders are sheltering under the town hall arches. I end up buying three from Senor Rodrugues, 80, 120 and 170 strings 14000P after gentle bargaining. Al 3+ ply. You can get hammocks for 1000P each but more like a string bag for the shopping. The ones I have are like the locals use at home, they use really big ones stretched from wall to wall, tied up in the day as there may only be one room in the house, and they sleep sideways in them. Plan to send the largest "matrimonial' to Tony and Lyndsey and the middle one home and keep the smaller one to travel in, it is still big enougto be comfortable. The smallest is not coloured, plain sizal a local fibre I think (but looks like cotton). Also find some silver for Elaine, a cheap hat and tie for me with a bright indian weave.

Fireworks at midday. Independance day.

Posted by 1985 trip 13:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

the Chaac mools of Uxmal

Puuc style


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Thursday 12th September 1985

Check out of the Mucuy hotel and hope to find something a bit cheaper later. Used their ancient typewriter to type up a filler piece for the BritishMedical Journal about the Temples of Pagan, Burma. Spend lunch time talking to a young student in the zocalo and therefore late leaving for Uxmal. Rush around ruins at closing time. Grand and elaborate broad friezes, mosaics, serpents and stylised Chaac heads.

Check into Hotel Le Paz, not as nice and not much cheaper 1400P.

The errors of the day were redeemed by a splendid affair in the evening. Plaza St Lucia was the setting for a performance of Las Serenadias Yucatanas. The link group was a 26 piece band of old men dressed in white. The drummer was ancient, and looked unlikely to last many more performances. He was small and hairless, except for the middle of each eyebrow which were preserved. His scalp tissues had shrunk so that his panama hat rested on his ears which had bent with the weight. Once plump jowls now sagged, dragging the cheek and lower eyelid with them. The fat saxophonist couldn't keep awake. I fact they all looked as disinterested as zocalo waiters. Two female singers in elaborate white huipils graced the stage. The soprano was splendid, and of considerable weight. She choose her chair carefully. The trombonists had lost their hats, whereas the clarinetists in front of them both had theirs, which seemed contrary. Fine guitar strumming, Spanish type barber shop singing, black moustaches and black dinner jackets set of by blood red carnation. Some yodelling, a stirring poem, shuffle and stamp dance group to finish. Some visiting medics from central america were guests of honour and introduced. An entertaining batty old lady in the front row elucidated the whole show with expressive waving of hands. Her sign language helped make up for my poor spanish. I followed the medics as far as their hotel and carry on to mine.

Posted by 1985 trip 12:12 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

whistles and stares


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Wednesday 11th September 1985

Surprise surprise the Palacio Gobierno is covered in murals. This time by a local artist. The history of the Yucatan. Bold brazen stuff, rough hewn people struggling through a splurge of colour. Particularly good feet.

Mexican do a lot of whistling. Its a male pastime directed at their fellow men. They seek an acknowledgement. They also stare long and hard at any retreating pair of female legs. The gaze is deliberate and prolonged. catholic frustration or mere macho show?

Merida has colonial cafe culture. Old men in Panama hats drink small black coffees in the cafes. Bet their gossip is as sour as their beverage.

Posted by 1985 trip 12:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

night on a park bench


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Tuesday 10th September 1985


rather unexpectedly arrive in Merida bus station at 2am. I need to seriously improve my Spanish. Spend the rest of a warm night on a park bench. At 9am I break a 10,000 P note in the bank and buy breakfast, then check into Hotel Mucuy at 1500P for a rather nice room, there is a seat on the lavatory, and there is paper in the holder. Helpful staff. Sleep eat write.

Posted by 1985 trip 11:52 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

up early and to the ruins

of Mayan Palenque


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Monday 9th September 1985

Up early and to the ruins. No entrance charge. The mists are still clinging to the jungle canopy. Howler monkeys make loud growling barking noises further up the slopes. Grand views over the plains. Ornate detailed bas reliefs, friezes and calligraphy decorate the ruins and stelae. Secret tomb down two long steep flights of steps under the main pyramid. The copy in Mexico city is easier to view but the setting and descent add great atmosphere.

The palace is riddled with high corbelled vaults, roofs supported by false arches, which because of the technique are high and heavy, trilobate spaces lighten the load. T shaped windows, the symbol for the wind god, expressing a wish for aircon perhaps. Baths, aqueduct from nearby stream and unusual tower. Missed the septic tank. What remains of the stonework is very fine and beautifully embellished. Tiny ball court. Many more ruins in surrounding jungle. Armies of men keep the vegetation cut back on this little bit. Many french people visiting the site today.

Back to hotel for lunch. Small village close to the ruins, but locals seem totally fed up. Chat to a grubby american from New York who has been travelling latin america 2nd class, and it shows. Wonder if I look as bad. He enthuses about the Brazillians: open hearted, proud, optimistic.

5pm bus to Merida. Several other foreign travellers on board for a change. Mother and wriggling brat sit next to me, but mercifully get off fairly soon.

Posted by 1985 trip 10:27 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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