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《Kia Dental Mission to Guatemala_4》__Vincent Lee (65)

Yesterday (Feb.21) was a very hot day, no clouds, little wind. We decided we would sleep in a bit, have late breakfast at 9am.

We are staying in a family run hotel, owned and run by a young German fellow (~mid 30s) from Munich, who has been here for 9 years, married a local wife, with a boy almost 6, second daughter ~3.5, and an infant girl probably less than 6 months old. Very friendly & chatty fellow. Speaks perfect English and Spanish, helpful in answering our questions. He used to be a restaurant manager before he started this little hotel on his own. Has his own restaurant. He supervises the kitchen - I think his mother in law also cooks; great dishes they have. Many walk-ins (non-hotel guests) come to eat and drink; interesting place.

In the early afternoon, some clouds started to gather. It was cooling off slightly, with a light breeze blowing over the lake (the proper name of which is Lake Peten Itza, not Lake Flores).

We rented 3 kayaks and did 3 solid hours of kayaking and swimming. Once we were in the water, the surface winds kept us cool, water was warm....., but we still get a little sunburn, and quite tired upper arms and shoulders. Very good exercise overall.
I was so tired, went back to my room with a/c, rested a bit, did some reading. Did some walking along the lake side busy strip after supper, went to bed early for today's early activity.
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Feb.22: Tour of Yaxha National Park & Ruins

A much better day, only 32, 33 degrees, with lots of cloud cover, and gentle winds.

The 3 of us were picked up by our English speaking driver and guide at 8am. Went to the airport - only ~20mins away - to pick up his 4th passenger sharing our tour. So happened his flight got delayed, a lot. The guide checked with his company boss, decided not to wait, so we ended up having a private guided tour instead of a shared tour.

Yaxha is about a 2-hour drive from Flores. It's a smaller ruin with less pyramids, but still have the complete set of typical Mayan Ruins components: central squares, royal palaces, burial sites, pyramids for worship and sacrifices to the Mayan gods, ball fields for their sports........ In fact it turns out to be a gem in many ways. It's far less crowded compared to Tikal. Much less walking, only 2.5 hours to do the whole site. Much more wild life you can observe because of the much less pedestrian traffic: families of the hauling monkeys and the quiet smaller type hanging around as if they were watching us! Beautiful birds, saw a pecan in the wild, our first time ever, very colourful and noisy. Song birds all over.

We climb about half of the 6 or 7 pyramids, including one that is on top of a steep hill. At the top, you can see a beautiful panoramic view of the tree tops of the entire jungle's canopy, truly amazing vintage point.

The terrain still has a lot of ups and downs, steps and trails with lots of big roots sticking out; couple of times I almost tripped on the exposed roots. The girls are nice to me, slowed down and helped me out coming down the steep steps. The ancient Mayans must be a tall race, their pyramid steps are between 14 to 16 inches high, tough for this tired old man. I sure had my share of exercise this trip!

Our driver-guide was excellent in explaining things to us in detail; relaxed with no time pressure during the entire 2.5 hours in the junction ruins. Lots of shade, much less hot sun because of the clouds. Learned a lot about the local forest trees and animals from him.

Because of the late lunch, we are having supper late; will try the local lake fish tonight. Have to head to bed early again. Tomorrow's pick up for the airport will be at 6:15am to fly to Guatemala City, then to Antiqua for a couple of days. Was there in 2012, like it a lot, will do things not done last time. My roommate (Dr Dave) and his office staff will be heading that way as well, so we may have more travel company in addition to our group of 5.
Soon after we settle into our hotel in Antigua, we will have a tour to a coffee plantation in the afternoon. Just hope our flight won't get cancelled!

Cont'd in Antigua, an old Spanish city.
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