February 4-8, 2004
We started the morning in Belize City and stopped for lunch and a quick self-guided walking tour of the architectural disaster area that is called Belmopan. Then we continued on another 20 miles (okay — it was 22 miles) to the twin towns San Ignacio and Santa Elena, separated by the quiet and charming Macal River. Santa Elena is the working side; San Ignacio is the tourist side.
After finding the Lonely Planet recommended Martha's Guest house both full and above budget we tried across the street at the Hi-Et Guesthouse. Here we found our best lodging deal in months, a nice two-bed room with fan, private bath, hot water, and morning coffee for the princely sum of $US20, in a newly built extension. Our enthusiasm waned a bit when we learned that the wall facing the inside hall was open a foot at the top: light and sound could easily come in. The owner explained that it was the best way to cool the rooms without air-conditioning. We soon adapted and remained delighted with our luck.
Because we liked the place we stayed and stayed. For our first two days Gerry was content to do as Jan did: sit on one of the balconies and read in the breeze or work in the room on email and other computer things. San Ignacio, at about 3000 ft above sea level, enjoys cooler and drier air than humid Belize City. Sitting in the shade anywhere guarantees you a cool breeze.
Jan's books of choice were Frank McCourt's auto-biography volume "'Tis", and "Negocio de la Libertad", a book about the struggle waged by the Aznar government to break up the pay-TV monopoly in Spain run by Jesus Polanco and his Prisa Group. "Tis" was an easy read because in English, and while good, did not match "Angela's Ashes." "Negocio" was not at all what was expected: a story of the ins-and-outs of recent Spanish governments. But it was and is a fascinating read. Gerry read "Mexico en Los Angeles", a history of Mexicans in the Los Angeles area from its founding in 1781 to 1985. Having grown up in L.A. Gerry found it very interesting but wished it was less loaded with criticism about how gringos and anglo-Americans have consistently mistreated Mexicans.
When we got tired of reading we would head to one of the two lobbies -- front room would be a better name for one of them, as it is in the older part, converted from a house -- and watch BBC World, BBC America, CNN, or - you won't believe this — New York Cities NBC affilitate, Channel 4. We saw faces from the past: Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons. It was like being in a time warp. When she could Jan got ER and her other favorite soaps, but that seemed to be a hit and miss deal.
When hunger struck we would go out to a meal. San Ignacio is among the few places since Texas where there are several places in town we like to go and eat at. As in Texas, one of our favorite places was Maxim's, a Chinese restaurant that served consistently good food with plenty of properly cooked vegetables. (We'd found such a place in Orange Walk and then regretted our move to Belize City when the Chinese food at the restaurant which we tried was only so-so). It should be no surprise learn that our other favorite restaurant was Indian (East Indian, that is). The British took Indian and Chinese workers with them wherever they set up colonies.
After two days of relaxing in San Ignacio, Gerry, as in Orange Walk, wanted some exercise. So over the next three days he went to the three most important/closest Mayan Sites: Cahal Pech, Xunantunich (Soo-nahn-too-neech), and El Pilar.