Search This Blog

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Fall: Part Four

As we leave I support her as much as allowed.  We pause for a photo opt at large tree near the entrance that is now a people free tree .  We go back to the main area, near the area where the tour van is picking us up in an hour.  My current plan of action is to find some ice for her ankle, maybe have something to eat to distract us and wait it out.

The poison of the jaguar is setting in.

Nicole exposes the other leg, not the leg where initial pain was felt, and holy hell!  No seriously, holy hell!  The mysteries of the jaguar will never cease.  Her calf has doubled in size and all of it on the shin bone.  By the power of greyskull, it is not natural.  I am convinced the cat has bit and snapped both of her lower leg bones in half, but how did she walk out of the park if that is the case?  

Obviously she feels the same way and tells me to fix it.  Well that is her first mistake.  I have no idea.  I wasn't there for the epic battle between light and dark, between twilight and dusk, where the jaguar lives.  I only saw a gleam of the cat as it solidly thrust my wife to the ground after she wittingly twisted it's dewclaw - I presume.   I had got us this far.  We are in the restaurant next to the pick up point.  I figure I can get some ice for the leg, I know it looks bad, but she just walked out of the jungle and even posed for pictures in bad sort of way, and maybe some food could distract us for an hour. In other words I am sticking with my original plan despite the new visitor resting underneath Nicole's tights in her shin.  

Next, I ask what I think is sensible: "You are the nurse, what would to do if you were your patient?" I immediately realize this is no where close to sensible.

After an unfruitful search for ice, I leave her again searching for first aide.  Right around the corner is the information center which I hit up.  

Lets step back a bit. Guatemala, Spanish, American, English; I piece my words together: "Doctora, mi esposoa, pierna, fractura."  I hear: "No No doctora, es domingo, auxiliar de infermeria."  I follow the information booth man to the first aide hut.  The information guy explains the situation to the nursing assistant.  Half way through the explanation the nursing assistant looks up from his book and sort of shrugs.  This is when I know Nicole, not in shock mode, knows way more than this guy.  

I am sweating and super grateful that either of these guys are even listening to me.  The token Sunday staff nursing assistant grabs a roll of bandage and follows me.  The information booth fella waves and wishes me, maybe us, good luck.  I lead the nursing assistant to Nicole.  She is there leg elevated on a stool, still without ice.  Assistant is there with his wrap, and Nicole raised her skirt to expose her shin and the assistant visibly shirks away and says "No no Solo soy us asistente de enfermería No puedo ayudarte".  Honestly that means nothing to me, but Nicole's reaction is a sure sign to me that I have not found an answer.

I thank the nursing assistant and Nicole, despite the pure jaguar venom running through her veins and the sheer terror, also thanked the man as he walked away carrying his unused bandage. 

So where does that leave us?  Thirty minutes before the tour goes back.  Nicole reeling from fighting off the Mayan curse as a casual passerby, and me trying to mediate.  O.K. no ice to be found, no first aide, what is the next step?  

Back to the information booth - they are familiar with my case.  I approach the man and he is slightly perplexed asking me what I am asking for.  I clearly state "fastest way to the hospital"… well in my Spanish, "Yo lo neccestio hospital ahora". I think that worked.  

We walk out to the parking lot together.  Information booth man taps on the driver side window of a taxi.  The taxi driver stirs, cigarette half lit and the other half burnt falling into his chest.  The info guy and taxi driver speak words. The newly waken guy starts talking money. This part I understand.  The assistant talks some more, the number from the newly awaken guy doesn't change, I say "Vamonos!" as I jump into the cigarette burned back seat, seat belt barren car.

We pull out of the parking lot where our man was sleeping next to the restaurant and I jump out.  I rush and and explain the current plan of action to Nicole.  Fighting the jaguar blood she agrees.  She topples into the front seat and rests the injured leg on the dashboard and I glue myself into the backseat.  We are off.

The trip is about 30 minutes.  The local Mayan cab driver recognizes the jaguar's curse.  It is a thing of myths.  He has never seen it himself, but he recognizes it from his ancestors stories. He knows it's dire and also knows the jaguar/snake venom mixture of lore should not be shaken.  

We power through the jungle, the controlled jungle, where speed limits are posted and generally heeded.  Once out of the park the cab roars through villages.  I notice an extra engine belt in the back window and a bottle of oil in the console.  Some villages have speed bumps, where we come to an almost complete stop.  One time I am opening the car door to offer a push over the bump.  No, not necessary, he is just being considerate of the poison that is the papaya on Nicole's shin.  He understands.  

Past the bumps, which he so considerably crosses, we are full throttle again.  The transition is worst than just hitting the bump.

After about 30 minutes of intermittent hump bumps we veer into Flores' emergency room. 

Unlike the cab driver, the Accident and Emergency (A&E) folks don't appreciate the gravity of a tussle with a jaguar; maybe it is the city folk attitude, maybe it is the Sunday afternoon quality of staff.  Nicole hobbles into a bed, and we attempt to relay the events in our Spanish.  

If anyone has traveled abroad in a foreign speaking country you quickly realize there are 'levels' to language.  Ask directions, order from a menu, navigate a grocery story, cash traveller cheques at a bank, all increasing in capability.  Toward the top of the lingual pyramid is talking to the police and hospital staff.  Personally, I am still in the grocery store. Nicole is well above that, but no where near the hospital zenith.  

As often is the case, the words do not convey the situation, but the papaya growing on top of Nicole's tibia says more than any words we cobble together.  They see but still are surprisingly non-plussed.  They start making calls to get the right technicians around to take some pictures, but the majority of the people stay fixated on their phones.  It isn't until I mentioned 'hielo' that icing the bump is a consideration.  I mean really, I have burned into my head from age 16, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Rest, and Stretch (ICERS) as immediate first aid starting with ICE.  At any rate an insta-ice bag shows up and we begin icing the papaya while waiting. 

We wait for a bit until the X-Ray technician arrives responding to the on-call request.  Minutes later, X-Rays are taken and a doctor is in-house and diagnosis provided.  

Despite the epic celestial battle on the timeless battlefield, there were no jaguar teeth punctures, no claw scratches, and no fractures.  What is left is the papaya sized hematoma.  The prescription is Ice, Compression, Elevation, Rest, and Stretch and Advil at regular intervals.  

I am presented with a bill that can only be paid in cash.  The bill isn't outrageous despite it including an emergency room visit, an x-ray and doctor consultation, but it is more than I have in my pocket.  I ask for directions to the nearest ATM.  After the response, I ask for directions to the nearest ATM.  After the response, I try to repeat what I think I heard to ensure I understand.  The doctor walks up and in broken English says, "Me taxi doctor" walks off and waves me along.  I ride a few blocks with the doctor to an ATM and back. I settle up the bill and coordinate a taxi.

We wait for the taxi as the instant ice bag warms up.

I check with the clerk regarding our taxi and I am assured it is arranged and now given a 15 minute estimate.

Now that the instant ice bag is room temperature, I check in on the taxi only to receive the same response.

Loosing hope I confer with Nicole to discuss a less appealing option.  Outside I had been staring at a couple of three wheeled red tuc tucs. I tell the hospital staff not to bother with the taxi, and we gingerly load into a tuc-tuc.  The red three wheeler only fits the driver and two others through a small side door.  My concern beyond the in and out procedure is the comfort of the ride.

Surprisingly the ride isn't the the worst feared despite the cobblestone roads.  We arrive and it is clear we were not leaving in the morning.  I request ice and extend the stay.

Fracture Free - Best Picture of the Day

Corporeal Frog

Seeing all these headless statues In Cambodia Frog is trying out different rock hard bodies.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Fall: Part Three

We follow the guide with the tour group through Tikal.  Unlike Chichén Itzá we have multiple opportunities to climb some of the five excavated pyramids and many other structures.  The first thing I notice on the first pyramid is the rise over run ratio of the steps.  These things are steep.  One subconsciously notices on the way up but it is in your face on the way down - take care not to be on your face on the way down.  

Being a fan of sand dunes for the mere pleasure of jumping off them and flying world breaking long jumping distances I immediately think, 'I could totally make it to the bottom in one running leap'.  Of course the prohibiting factor for such an action is the stone versus sand landing pit.  I walk down the first pyramid, but many other people were actually sitting and shimmying down the steps due to the incline.  It is intimidating.  

The tour ends at pyramid IV at which point the guide gives us a meeting point and time for the return to Flores.  Until then we are free to wonder about the grounds.  As such we wonder.  Again, unlike Chichén Itzá there are many ruins and many that are free and open to climb, pose for pictures, revel in the casted shade whatever, just a free and open playground with no adult supervision.

I summit yet another pyramid while Nicole lies in the shade like a lamb enjoying the summer weather.  I wave eagerly down to the ant sized Nicole, take some snaps and skip back to her.  When I arrive she was happily resting (no longer ant shape sized, because that would be weird) but willing to explorer on.  We traipse up the common square poking our heads into dead ends, and wrapping around unmarked areas with little hesitation.  It is hot.  It is really hot.  

We march on up and down stairs.  Sometimes I am in front exploring my own adventure and other times she is calling me her way to what she sees. Sometimes she is ahead of me doing Rocky type moves at the top of stairs or other times just looking exhausted and cute.  I run up to meet her and rest and then we wonder around and down.    

Heavy footed, I am tromping down the last flight only to hear a skirmish.  Before my empty water bottle hit seven steps below me, I am up three stairs to the next flight to meet Nicole on the landing.  All in a split moment I see a jaguar leap off of Nicole's back to sun bleached stone and into the shadows but the damage of inertia is already set in motion.  I cannot attest to the battle that I did not see prior to me wimpily throwing that empty water bottle, but I can tell you the tumble I saw.  In all honesty, without the landing between stairs, the jaguar would have won today.  

Things are what they are, I immediately throw my stinky sweat soaked hat on Nicole's face as the first thing I think I see on her face is heat exhaustion.  This is not the right answer. The hat stench is not helpful and the acute pain is in her leg.  I ask what happened and she spirals off into some story about a cat, a very big cat, (which she is very allergic to, all cats for that matter not just big cats) and if I had not seen it myself I would call her story out as false.  There was a jaguar in the clear light of day pouncing off her back as she tumbled the last three stairs.

Let's not beleaguer the big cat fact, we are never catching that cat.  Even if we did, I am pretty sure we would lose.   The fact is, we are here in the middle of the great civilization of Tikal, surrounded by hundreds of people and with a tour group yet somehow alone.

Nicole unzips one of her healed boots rubbing her ankle.   In relief, I am glad it is not lung puncturing claws in her back, nor a big ol' conk on her head that is the immediate pain.  It is her ankle.   We look at it and nothing seems obviously wrong.  After some negotiations she insists on walking out. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Fall: Part Two

Isla de Flores is a small island in the middle of Lago Petén Itzá.  After checking in, we walk around to explore and meet some fellow travelers; an American couple that collectively go by the moniker Dasher, and a couple of Brits, and the Serbians from our Belize City to Flores ride.  It is a small island.

Despite being told that "If you have seen Chichén Itzá, there is no real need to go to Tikal" I contact the Tourist Office-to-Hotel guide about a tour to Tikal - the city of ancient Mayan ruins.  After a bit of negotiation and frustration around presented cost and actual cost I have two tickets in my hand for the next morning.  Having recently seen the Aztec ruins in Chichén Itzá, it will be interesting to see the difference if any between these two ancient civilizations.  We are ready for what's next.

We wait early in the morning for our ride and, 15 minutes late, someone plows through the hotel lobby looking for passengers.  We meet and immediately exit to walk around the corner to get into a van with others already aboard.  We make another stop or two and we are off to Tikal.  Mind you it is not the sunrise tour, because well, we are not early risers, and we heard the odds of getting a clear sunrise is very low and the weather forecasts made it look closer to zero.  So we had a relatively reasonable early start and ride quietly into Tikal.  The driver was silent and the guide gives us updates increasing in frequency as we get closer.  The guide manages all the entrance fees and logistics:  Easy-peasy - that is nice.  

Chichén Itzá is entirely centered around a single well defined broad based pyramid.  There are multiple ancient ruins shooting off like spokes away from the pyramid, but the star of the show is the pyramid.  The spokes are lined with vendor after vendor all vying for the tourist attention to purchase hand-made masks, noise makers, calendars etc.  

Tikal is a vast expanse with no trinket and trash vendors in sight, only the occasional food and beverage hut.  Tikal includes five excavated pyramids along with acropolises, temples, plazas and many other structures.  It is a full on city starting back in the 4th century B.C. lasting until 900 A.D.  

That's right Sumerians have nothing on these guys.  They are as ancient, grew to sizes that compete or dwarf early Mesopotamia estimates and are as sophisticated.  These guys figured out solar cycles, venetian cycles and had three calendars (solar 365 days, venetian 260 days and the long count which is days since 11-August-3114 BC similar to how the Julian date starts counting from 1-January-4713 BC) to pinpoint exact dates literally written in stone.  They figured out the concept of zero all on their own.  

I always assumed Mesoamerica and Native Americans were nomads, never really settling and lived entirely within an oral history.  Reading "1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" by Charles C. Mann really sets those assumptions on their heads.  The sophistication of early American ancestors (pre-Columbian) is pretty mind blowing.  It represents an entirely independent rise of civilization from anything I had been taught or conceived.  The city sizes would easily compete with European or Asian cities for many given time periods.  They excelled in areas of farming and genetics that made the rest of the world look backwards, while at the same time relegating the wheel to childhood trinkets never thinking to use them for hauling heavy objects or milling maze that they genetically managed from season to season to match very specific climates and desirable traits.  The use of the wheel by the Mayans is easily on par with the Chinese not figuring out glass.  

Despite the expanse that Tikal is today, according to the guide, it is only 15% excavated.  85% is still sitting underneath a layer of trees and jungle waiting to be seen, and that is just the Tikal site.  The guide also explains that the flora growth in that area is so rapid that in a mere century an entire temple or pyramid is covered by fully mature, hundreds of feet tall trees and accompanying undergrowth.  We walk past several mounds that with a bit of time and investment would surely show more steps and ancient writings.  

If you cannot tell I am dumbfounded. US Americans are taught so much more about all the other wellsprings of human civilizations such Mesopotamia, the Egyptian Nile Delta and, to a lesser extent, east central China and all the interactions which each of these civilizations moved forward via relative proximity and cooperation such as the spice route and the silk road.  It is mind blowing how little we know about the history of the Americas and it amazes me how they grew up and formed in isolation compared to the rest of the world to compete on every level (land management, agriculture, population, urban population centers, politics and society), when it comes to measures of civilization.  It seems we have dug up every pharaoh's tomb in Egypt and yet Tikal alone, a single site in the Americas, sits 85% un-excavated.   

Sorry for the tangent, I have been reading 1491 by Charles C. Mann and it is eye-opening and a must if you ever plan on trekking through the Americas.  My only regret is not reading it sooner.
Also, Tikal doubles as Yavin 4 in "Star Wars IV: A New Hope", a point of interest the guide likes to reiterate.  
Picture from


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Fall: Part One

After our extended in San Pedro stay we take the water taxi into Belize City.  All the Belizean's on San Pedro said "miss Belize City".  The rest of Belize is beautiful, but Belize City is something to avoid.  Given how the water taxi and bus schedule align we cannot avoid one night in Belize City.  We pick from a rather short list of accommodations.   The best feature is the proximity to the ferry drop off in the evening and the bus pick up in the morning. 

After settling into the undecorated concrete cube and asking the hotel clerk to exterminate the ants in the room we hop-scotch across the patchwork of holes and concrete we would call a sidewalk, and the Brits call pavement, to investigate bus tickets.  It is reminiscent of Mexico City sidewalks, but slightly different.  Mexico City sidewalks mostly go up and down with an occasional and random hole. In Belize city about every fourth panel of concrete is missing dropping straight into the city drainage system or possibly the ocean.  It is not wise to 'walk and gawk' here.   

We are back to the water taxi port and approached by several people at once asking if we need a taxi, a water taxi, or a bus ticket.  We randomly pick one of the offering parties and purchase two tickets to Flores, Guatemala and confirm the time and pick up location.  In our heads we purchased tickets on a scenic cruiser similar to what we rode in Mexico; air conditioning, movies, and an overall comfortable ride.

The next morning we arrive a bit early grab some breakfast and chat with the purveyor of bus tickets.  He assures us our bus will be here soon.  The 8 a.m. departure time came and went.  We are assured once again the bus is coming.  Eventually someone grabs our luggage and wheels it over to a van.  Initial concerns are registered by Nicole:  "They are going to put our luggage on top.  This isn't a bus, we have no idea who these people are.  We are going to be riding with chickens."  I am jolted also, but hey what are we to do at this point?  We have paid for the tickets, there is no bus in sight, and they are walking off with our luggage.  We are on our way.  

The initial panic subsides once we get in a people mover van.  It has a maximum capacity of 14 or 15 and currently there are seven people in it.  All the luggage fits in the back and there is not one chicken on board.  On second evaluation, this may be an upgrade.  Plenty of room, air conditioning and a smaller group which should make crossing the border easier.

We move out of the bus terminal and rumble around Belize City for a couple of minutes  only to park at a near by parking lot.  The van driver gets out and comes back with a few more people.  O.K. the comfort level is going down.  We are leaving much later than expected.  We had hoped to be in Flores well before night and we have no idea if we are making any more stops and picking up more people or leaving anytime soon.  Ultimately we didn't make anymore stops, we are not overly crowded and have a nice international mix of companions: British, Serbians, Argentines, Brazilians and us - no one speaks.

The ride is fairly uneventful and beautiful.  As we leave Belize City passing cemeteries on the outskirts the views open up to lush mountains and country side. Much of it seemingly untouched with scattered houses of various opulence or lack there of.  The road is mostly smooth pavement, sometimes narrow, and rarely it breaks into stretches of dirt.  

We started out late, the dirt roads are slowing us down even more, and then there is the border crossing.  The crossing seems more or less like complete chaos.  We are all escorted out of the van and immediately offered currency exchange by men holding giant wads of colorful cash.  I know it isn't going to be the best exchange rate, but I have a fistful of Belizean money that is worthless in Guatemala so I take the hit and exchange whatever I have in my pocket.  

Next is the Belizean exit gate where they charge some sort of eco tax.  Once through that line we are confused as to how to get a stamp into Guatemala.  A little boy is attempting to help us to the next port.  At first, I try to ignore the child as there is a mob of them accosting everyone as we wandered around.  Eventually we find the next line and the child is standing right there smiling as if to say "I was trying to help".  

Once we get our stamp he is still standing there smiling. It makes me laugh.  I give him a few quetzal for his assistance and understanding of the overly cautious Americans. Our van is on the Guatemalan side of the border waiting for us.  Nothing doing with our luggage, it never left the van.  We all piled back into the people mover and we are off.  Again, I think the smaller vehicle probably made the border crossing more expeditious.  

We roll into the edge of a city during the daylight.  The driver stops on a corner and says, "If you need to get cash, there are ATM's inside the grocery store across the street." Everyone is a bit confused as no one asked for an ATM.  The driver and his companion see the perplexed faces and eventually explain that we are in Flores and asks everyone where they are staying.  Some are just around the corner and opt to call it the end of the trip, others, like us, are on the island.  The driver asserts that most places on the island do not take credit card and there is a severe lack of ATM's on the island, so if you are staying on the island this is the time to get some cash.  I get some cash.  

We are off, and within minutes we are on Isle de Flores in front of a travel shop.  It is made abundantly clear that if we need any tours this is the place to go and then pointed in our respective directions.  One of the gentlemen from the tour shop offers to walk us to our hotel.  As the guide from the tourist shop leaves us he leaves his card with me just in case we need a tour. We easily find our accommodations and they are very nice.  

The outside of the building is well presented, with colored and pressed concrete sidewalks, the exterior walls are painted with a large floral design.  Hotel Isla de Flores is top notch and the transition from Belize to Guatemala is a success.  

Lago Petén Itzá

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Small updates

Hello to all my readers, which I can probably count on one hand,

I am currently in Laos without blank passport pages to move on, so I will be spending up to three weeks here as I order a new passport.  I have a meeting at the US Embassy on Thursday to get some definitive answers.  

With the unplanned extended stay I hope to do a couple things in regards to this blog.

1.) I am giving the blog a bit of a face lift.  I realize the white on red is a nightmare to read so the color pallet has changed.  

2.) I will be introducing adds (boo I know) with the small hope of making a few pennies off the site. 

2.) Write up a back log of stories to keep the content coming at fairly regular intervals.  I have a series of stories lined up that should take us through the last half of the year in various states of written up, half written, and memories quickly fading from my brain.  Of course, interspersed with the stories will be snapshots from current events.  Frog loves seeing himself on the internet.

Stay tuned,