Log #54o Leaving Veleda for Toronto

July 17, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 54, The Logs

Grande Cache, Alberta

July 17, 2012

Hi Folks,

We are in a NAPA auto repair yard for the night as a wheel bearing on the trailer fractured. Fortunately we were aware of it before it damaged the axle. We had just pulled into a “pull out” off the highway for a washroom break, and noticed smoke from the right forward wheel  which had grease spattered all over the rim,  the covering cap was not there, and the bearing was exposed.
We called the CAA to find out that Judy’s card had an expired date of July 15, 2012, and today was the 17th! Murphy’s Law! That would have been OK, as the CAA would have recognized a grace period, BUT, It was the card that expired on the 15th. Our membership had expired in 2010! Oh well, at least we caught it in time and the wheel did not fall off. They gave us the number of a towing service in Grande Cache, and after we phoned a truck arrived an hour later.

Log_54o_Trailer_being_winched_on_to_flatbed_truck                              Log_54o_Trailer_on_flatbed_truck

So we are here for the night, and the bearings should arrive in the morning and we should be off to Grande Prairie by the afternoon. (Which we were.) In a couple of days we will be in B.C. then into the Yukon.

This log gets us back to Toronto from the Rio Dulce , via Tikal one of the best Mayan cities, and via Belize and Mexico to Cancun where we boarded an Air Canada plane for Toronto.

Don’t forget, I am making up new address lists, one for those of you who wish to keep getting my logs as I write them, and a second one for those who do not wish to get the logs by E-mail, but wish to be informed as to when I have put a new log on my website. Incidentally, my website has many more pictures than I include in my E-mail logs. If you haven’t visited my site www.veledaiv.ca for a while, I have included many more pictures into my last few logs #54l,m, and n, and would invite you to see them. On the website I can insert the pictures in the relevant text and can add many more than I can in the E-mailed logs. I have many more pictures I will add to this log of the Mayan ruins we visited at Tikal. Please give me some feedback about the website.

All the best,


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Log #54o Leaving Veleda for Toronto

Edmonton, Alberta

July 11, 2012

We had Veleda prepared for our departure, having taken down the sails, the sun shades, all the jerry cans moved ashore, and the spinnaker bag put below deck to reduce windage. Picture below is Veleda with her sun shades up.

Jennifer and her crew will take care of the dinghy and outboard motor, storing them ashore. At 0800 on April 1we with, all our luggage, boarded a lancha with Jean Pierre, another Canadian leaving his boat, Taj Mahal, and took a fast 30 minute ride up to Bruno’s Marina in Fronteras. There we walked up the steps to the nearby bus station on the busy main street. We purchased tickets to Flores, an island town near the Mayan site of Tikal, one of the most important ruins in the Yucatan. As Jean Pierre speaks some Spanish he was able to identify when the bus was coming. The first bus was too crowded, and we waited another hour in the hot sun along this dusty crowded street for a second bus. It too was crowded and we were advised to wait for the next bus which would be along in another fifteen minutes. Fortunately Jean Pierre had arranged reserved seats for us. It was appreciated, but as the bus was full, three passengers already seated were asked to stand, giving us their seats. We felt a little guilty, but appreciated them as it was a long 10 hour bus ride, with no extra seats available until the last few hours.

I had a very chubby woman and her six year old daughter in the seat beside me. When we finally took off, the wind blowing through the open windows was greatly appreciated as there was no air conditioning. Fortunately I had a window seat. The aisle was crowded, and at each of the many stops people had to shuffle about to let passengers on and off. As we approached several towns, the bus took on one or two vendors who jostled through the crowded aisle selling refreshments. One time it was coconut water in plastic bags, another fruit dishes packed in an ice basket, and a few other stops selling I’m not sure what. The lady beside me offered one of her bags of coconut water, but I declined. The unfortunate aspect about this service was that people just threw out the windows their emptied bags and containers. The vendors would get on near the outskirts of the towns, and be let off at the far side of each to go back and get ready for the next bus through.

We arrived in Flores in the late afternoon, but not in the area we thought we were going to. The bus emptied out in a small bus station, remote from the main tourist town which is on an island linked by a causeway. We weren’t sure of just where we were. Jean Pierre again came to the rescue and indicated a tourist bureau the next street up. There we were able to arrange an economical hotel for two nights, a guided tour from Flores to Tikal to pick us up and return us to our hotel, and a bus to take us to Chetumal in Mexico in two days time. We took a cab to the Hotel Casablanca and got settled in.

The room was quite adequate with a clean double bed and bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower. No air conditioning, but the room fan was quite sufficient. For less than $25.00 a night, it was convenient for a walking tour of the small tourist town on the island. We had supper with Jean Pierre at a nearby restaurant, at which we were the only patrons. Several of the small restaurants used open wood stoves to cook their meat and vegetables. The meals were adequate, not gourmet.


Next morning we were in the lobby waiting for the minivan to pick us up. Unfortunately it was given the wrong information and we waited for almost an hour before it arrived. It took us to the travel bureau where we boarded a larger air conditioned bus for the 45 minute trip to Tikal (see attached picture of entrance poster with sacred jaguar).


Our guide is Mayan and actually lived in some of the ruins of Tikal when he was a child. The site covers over ten square miles with many pyramids, palaces, colonnaded market places, and ball courts. Many ruins have still not been excavated, and the mounds of many of these ruins were covered with heavy tropical foliage (see attached picture).


Some of the pyramids were still covered in foliage at their lower levels, but the cleared upper reaches stretched high above the forest canopy. At several of the pyramids people were allowed to climb to the tops, some up the original stone staircases, and others with wooden walkways for safety reasons.

Log_54o_People_climbing_a_smaller_pyramid                   Log_54o_people_on_pyramid

Log_54o_partially_excavated_Mayan_pyramid                          Log_54o_Pyramids_above_jungle_foliage

 I took the stairs to the upper level of the highest pyramid with a fantastic view over the tropical forest, and the tops of a few pyramids rearing above the foliage to proclaim like Ozymandias that once there was a great civilization in this vast stretch of forest (see the attached picture of me on top of this pyramid).


The main pyramid (see attached picture) had the same resonating architecture as those we saw in Mexico, whereby the high priests could address the crowds of hundreds from the top of the altar platform and still be heard. The trick of clapping our hands 100 feet from the base would result in a clear echo testifying to the acoustic quality of the ancient building skills.

Log_54o_Pyramid_in_main_plaza                Log_54o_Main_Pyramid_overlooking_the_plaza

The Mayans did not use the wheel, nor did they use animals of burden. All the construction was with human labour (see attached pictures of rolling stones for the pyramids and one of erecting a stella, a memorial to a Mayan king).

Log_54o_Mayan_technology-no_draught_animals_or_wheels                 Log_54o_Erecting_a_stella

We went through one “palace” (see attached picture) which housed several hundred upper class priests, builders, astronomers, and scribes, but was used by the guide’s family when he was a child.


These ruins were considered lost civilizations by the Spaniards and other Europeans. They were not “discovered” until the mid 19th century, but the Mayans had been living in proximity to these ancient cities since their desertion in and before the 1500’s. The immensity of these ruins, which at one time formed a city of 100,000 to 200,000 people, is impressive. This was an advanced civilization, with a hieroglyph form of writing, and an advanced knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, knowledge held guardedly by the priests and a few upper class scribes to maintain their power. Unfortunately the Spanish destroyed all the written codices (“books”) for religious reasons, so most of their historical, religious, mathematical and astronomical records are lost. The hieroglyphs that remained were found in the only three codices not destroyed, from which archeologists have been trying to understand the entire Mayan empire of the Yucatan and Central America.

Our return at the end of the day was frustrating. We were directed to a location to get a minivan back to the hotel at 15 minutes past the hour. We were there at 1615, but no van. When we enquired we were told it had already left, but from a different location in the large parking lot. So after another hour waiting around in the heat we finally caught a battered van that then was late in leaving. The driver was something else. He had to talk to every driver we encountered, stopping numerous times on the highway to socialize. He started with a beer in his hand and stopped twice more to talk to others along the road and get another beer. He was talking and smoking with two other friends crammed in the front seat. For the first time in our travels I was very nervous at his erratic driving. Normally I am a fatalist and do not bother about the driving of others (except for Judy), but this guy had me on the edge of my seat. He stopped several times for no apparent reason other than to talk to someone, to get out to urinate, or to get yet another beer. I was actually relieved when BAM, we had a flat tire. We got out and hailed another minivan to take us into town. It was a relief to be rid of that driver who had to stay with his vehicle. The van was not one of the tourist vans but a collectivo (minibus)  which dropped us off at the bus terminal and charged us the fare for the trip. We then caught one of the motorized tricycle cabs (see attached picture) to the hotel, but at least we made it safely.


Next morning we were picked up around the corner from the hotel as the larger air-conditioned midsized bus could not negotiate the corners of the narrow streets. Our suitcases were packed on the roof and covered with a blue tarp. We had two large bags, one strapped to a dolly with a couple of hammock chairs we bought for gifts. These were heavy awkward things to heave up to the roof of the bus, as we subsequently had to do several times.

We had arranged flights on Air Canada from Cancun in Mexico. This bus with its roof top luggage was to take us to Chetumal in Mexico just beyond the northern border of Belize. We then had to catch another bus from Chetumal to the airport at Cancun. It was to be another ten hour long ride!

The first bus took us from Flores in the north of Guatemala into Belize, where we had to get off the bus at the border, take off our suitcases and walk through customs and immigration, meet the bus on the Belize side, load everything again onto the roof before resuming our journey. (See the attached picture of Judy in front of the bus in her Mayan outfit {full pleated skirt and loose fitting light blouse} . The wheels on top of the bus are on the dolly of our luggage) We went through the same procedure when we approached the Mexican border at Chetumal.


Then we got to the Chetumal bus station. This was bigger, very crowded and busy. This was the beginning of Holy Week before Easter, and everybody was travelling to their home areas. We had to wait about six hours for our midnight departure for another seven hour bus ride to Cancun. At least this last bus was a large air conditioned modern bus that made only a couple of stops (no vendors on board) before its early morning arrival in Cancun.  We were able to catch a few hours of sleep on the way. It was a relief to board our Air Canada flight to Toronto where we were picked up by our good friend Doug Caldwell (he of the scalded hand when crewing for us a few years earlier) and had a pleasant meal and evening with him before returning to our trailer at the Mission for Seafarers in the Port area of Toronto next morning. Thanks Doug.

The trailer was still covered with the tarp and was in good condition. We got the batteries for the Yukon and the trailer from the basement of the Mission and everything started up quite well. It was far easier getting the trailer ready after a period of storage than getting a boat ready after a winter on the hard.  

It was now April 3. We had been living on Veleda since May 31st of 2011 and set sail from Baddeck, Nova Scotia, in mid June. In those nine months we sailed down the east coast of Canada and the U.S., Mexico, Belize and into Guatemala for a distance of 3984 miles (including a stop in South Carolina for six weeks when we went to England on the Queen Mary 2, visited friends and family in England and France, and returned to Toronto  for a couple of weeks to get medical checkups, bring the trailer and all our worldly goods from my son’s place in Sudbury to Toronto, and store the trailer and Yukon at the mission (see attached picture) before returning to Veleda – a busy time!).


Below are a few other pictures of pyramids and Mayan ruins. The specific histories of these structures is lost because of the destruction of the codices eliminating most of the written works of the Mayan civilization.

log_54o_Pyramid_above_the_tropical_forest            Log_54o_another_tall_pyramid                    Log_54o_Myan_pyramid_above_tropical_foliage