Thursday, April 7, 2011

trip report: belize, part one

We chose Belize for our vacation mostly because we had enough Delta miles to go there for free and in general wanted to avoid touristy, resorty, snotty islands.

After the three hour flight from Atlanta to Belize City, we met our driver, William, who took us on the two hour drive to San Ignacio in the Cayo district. San Ignacio is only about 15 minutes from the Guatemala border.

We stayed at the Cahal Pech Village Resort, which means "place of ticks." Despite that, we saw none. What we did notice was the blistering heat pushing 110 degrees. Luckily our cabana was equipped with a fairly effective window air conditioner and a hammock that dipped dangerously close to the ground (and no, not because I am getting that fat).

We did most of our adventuring here with a trip to Jaguar Paw for cave tubing (awesome but pictures are still on an underwater camera) and then a trip to Guatemala to see the Tikal ruins. I'm a sucker for history/anthropology type activities so this was by far my favorite day despite the fact it was HOT. Tikal is the largest Mayan ruin site in Central America complete with temples, pyramids and palaces, which we can now tell you the difference between the structures. Our guide, Jose, was a 18-year-old Guatemalan who used to live in Pennsylvania and is as close to an expert of Mayan culture as I have ever met. I am convinced that because our guide was a teenager, I got to do a lot more climbing than if we'd had an older guide who was much more aware of my pregnant belly. For example, when you are in Belize and cave tubing pregnant, you will not carry your own 5-pound intertube.

We first climbed Temple IV, where the warning held "the wall is your friend." It's 230 feet high, the tallest pre-Columbian structure.

That's it. Little ledge, large cliff. Shea ended up climbing Temple V which Jose tagged as "the dangerous one."  I stayed at the bottom with another guide who told me pregnancy was no excuse for laziness and the reason I was having a boy was because I ate too many oranges.

Shea's waving (to the right of Jose in the yellow shirt)
Jose was great about taking us behind the scenes where the other visitors weren't going as well as showing us the wildlife - like these monkeys! Just chilling with their babies.

monkey! monkey!
He showed us the all spice tree (smells just like your spice drawer) which when crushed and placed on your tongue alarmingly resembles Novocaine. He kicked a tarantula web which we were definitely NOT interested in seeing.

On the way back, we got a little delayed because of about 100 of these:

Our driver dropped us off at the border where we ambled through really big guns and scary immigration guards only to find ourselves alone on the other side hassled by a cashew salesman until our driver showed up. Guatemala is a very different place from Belize, and many Guatemalans don't recognize Belize as a country since at one point back in the British ruling the world days they were one territory. Plus, they've got really big guns there.

The rest of our time in San Ignacio was spent hanging out at the pool, wandering into town for food, drinking a lot of watermelon juice (best.thing.ever.) and playing a lot of Bananagrams. The town was about a mile down a very large gravel hill, which we comfortably walked until a couple got robbed a gunpoint. Then we sprung for the $2.50 cab ride. Still, we found the people of San Ignacio to be very accommodating and taking great pride in their culture. We took long naps every afternoon and found that eating was second to drinking liters and liters of water each day.

Mid-week we headed to Placencia on the east coast with our favorite driver Mr. Chan. Stay tuned!


  1. Please tell me you got to ride in William's purple dodge caravan. I too once owned such a beauty!

  2. Looks like you're having a great trip so far. I've been to Belize too but we stayed on Ambergris Cay so I feel like you're having a 180-degree different trip. I do wish we would have seen all the ruins and temples and things though too.