The Barley/Greenfield family is close friends with Jim Jackson (president of ARB USA, an arm of ARB, the renowned Australian Air Locker and off-road suspension manufacturer) and his family. When the opportunity to see Vanderbilt University archaeologists put ARB products to use getting to a remote Mayan dig site in the Guatemalan jungles, an extreme eco-tourism vacation was afoot.
The two families made their travel arrangements with Tikal Travel in Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala, a company specializing in tour packages to the Mayan ruins in the region.
After a short three-hour flight from Houston to Belize City, Belize, the Tikal Travel van took us on a 11/2-hour van ride to the Mopan Lodge Hotel in the rugged border town of Melchor located on the Mopan River, which separates Guatemala from Belize.
Early the next morning, everyone squeezed into two four-wheel-drive Toyota pickups owned by the Tennessee archaeologists (and the lodge's old Montero) for the trip to the jungle base camp.
The road to the Holmul archaeological dig site--located about 20 miles north of Melchor and covering some 20 square miles of jungle--is nothing more than a single-lane logging road cut into the jungle in the late 1970s. Since then, the tropical growth has done its best to reclaim the narrow trail, so machetes and power saws are in constant demand, keeping the way clear for passage.