Back in Tulum I was discussing land acquisition with Yannicke, the co-owner of Las Ranitas.
The story he had to tell sounded fairly familiar - the coastal strip around Tulum has been subject to a multi-layered land scam dating back to the late eighties at least. Nobody has clear title to their property and every few years a wave of intimidation and other unpleasantness rolls in.
His wife also told me how Cancun aiport was shut for a month after the hurricane last year which hit Tulum pretty hard. Ottie also described how hundreds of tourists had to sling their bags onto the back of local trucks and head across the peninsula to Merida to make their escape.
In Cayo (San Igancio) it was obvious that the Macal river isn't quite the pristine rainforest waterway that it once was. Locals blame the swirling dirt on the Canadian dam project. Oddly enough there are also crocodiles in the river now. Luckily there weren't any when Surfer and I did our little canoe trip to the Black Rock falls in '89. Thanks to a heavy storm over the Maya Mountains there was a flash flood on the Macal and we ended up having to carry the canoe over our shoulders for a good part of the distance as we waded up river against a raging current.
There are apparently only around one thousand British troops left in Belize, all camped up in the Mountain Pine Ridge.
Having made it across the border into Guatemala I decided to escape the backpackers and make up some time, so I made a deal with a local driver called William (originally from El Salvador) to take me from Melchor to Santa Elena. His pitch to me when we first met was that it had been drizzling steadily in the Petén for about a month and the colectivos were struggling with the road. It wasn't exactly unpassable, but he hadn't been exaggerating completely.
There aren't many attractions on this route other than excessively large potholes, but the Kaibiles base is still there just outside the township of La Polvora (Gunpowder), so called because of the many confrontations that the special forces unit had there with the guerrillas during the civil war. When I passed in '88 the military zone was marked off with signs featuring grinning skulls and other hostile motifs, and we were forced to get down from the bus twice, once on each side of the town, first by the troops and then by the insurgents (Mostly teenagers). The Kaibiles base seemed fairly deserted on Wednesday morning. They must all be on tour up in the northern states of Mexico!
William also pointed out a salt-water lake next to the village of Macanche and claimed that every year all the fish die off due to a strange underwater eruption of a sulphurous nature. If you didn't know it was a natural phenomenon you'd have to think some local Guatemalan official was responsible.
Yesterday V cooked our eggs with cilantro, freshly ground nutmeg and melted cheese fresh from the Finca. Now, without question Las Ranitas was a great discovery - perfect, near-deserted beaches, great hospitality and genuine French chic, not the manufactured glossy magazine sort. Yet if it had one fault worth reporting it would be the quality of the breakfast. There wasn't anything wrong with it as such, I just think it's such an important meal in the tropical day, and for any guest house there's perhaps no better opportunity to make a lasting impression. The breakfast at Lunata is more memorably presented, though I didn't stop for it this time.
Las Ranitas wasn't the sort of place to have a TV in the bedroom. When I got to San Ignacio and turned on CNN, I discovered that the most important piece of news I had missed was the fact that Miss America was not going to be sacked by Donald Trump for under-age drinking after all.