Awesome day with river cruise to the Maya ruins at Lamanai!
Awesome day with river cruise to the Maya ruins at Lamanai!
Early departure from Caye Caulker and a boat, taxi and public bus later we arrive at San Ignacio.
Not much to the town but it is a base to explore nearby ruins, caves, waterfalls and reserves.
We have lunch at the town's market - $2 for a quasadia and 10 cents for 2 bananas.
Then we catch a bus to the Xunantunjch ruins. And I am pretty sure the bus driver had his foot flat to the ground - at one stage I thought we were going to take off! After crossing the river on a barge its a 15 minute walk we are told. A 15 minute walk uphill in the sun! You can see the photo of my view at the back of the pack!
The ruins are in a lovely quiet setting with few tourists.
You can see the pyramid I didn't climb!! You can also see my red face! I lay under a tree in the shade minding the bags! But as there was no one around it was lovely and peaceful.
Bus back to town early dinner and bed! The hotel doesn't have air conditioning included in the price and its $20US extra a night. There are two fans though so they should blow any mosquitos away!
Usually I crank the air conditioning up to artic temperatures and sleep in long soaks, long pants and a long sleeved top. Pretty sure no mosquito is going to get through that!
In the evening we strolled around the very busy town centre. We ended up sitting on the stage in the park in the centre of town eating our yummy street food. My tacos were $1.75 and my friends has a chicken and rice dish for $4.00. Then we found an ice cream place and had 2 scoops for $4.00.
A very nice day.Read more
Today we are doing a guided tour of Actun Tunichhil Muknal cave (ATM for short). Numbers are restricted and you can only do it with a registered tour guide.
We had to swim across a few rivers then when we got to the cave we swam into it. Then with our helmuts with flashlights we waded right into the cave. There was alot of climbing up and down through the water. The cave was fascinating and the crystallations sparkled. Although alot of it has died due to a lack of rainfall. In mayan times there was no water.
But it was hard going!!
The footwear was socks and crocs and mine were a size too small and they basically had no grip! And with my foot still healing from the ruptured ligaments I don't have the balance and strength that I did pre injury.
So I had to tread carefully and take my time so the guide took me up the front and held my hand which gave me the extra stability I needed.
Then we got to this huge rock which we had to climb up. So the guide tells me to basically do the side splits as the first part of getting up the rock! Couldn't do it and as I thought they were just going to walk over the limestone in soaks and the guide said they would be back soon I stayed behind.
So at first it was quite nice being in the cave by myself and I found a nice rock to sit on with my feet in the water but as time marched on I thought something isn't right. I watched a group go up and their guide showed them a much easier way up. There were two vital steps our guide missed which meant no side splits!
Then I watched another group go back the way we came and I thought OMG the main point of the tour is up there!!!! So I was one cranky $95US out of pocket person on a tight budget.
Anyway thank god one of guides offered to take me up and I was up that rock very quickly and we speed climbed deeper into the cave!
And there was the highlight! The site of the maya sacrifices. It was incredible.
A huge space that is called the Cathedral and it really looks like one. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and lots of simmering.
Lots of pots everywhere that would have contained offerings to the rain gods. And then the saddest part is seeing all the skeletons of the human sacrifices including seven children the youngest 18 months. The way they died was kept a secret and it was violent. They could be disembowelled, their beating heart pulled out, skull mashed or mutilated. It was all about letting as much blood as possible as an offering to the raingod.
It was a great honor to be a sacrifice and supposedly they were volunteers.
The 18 month old had its skull smashed and the axe is laying next to the skeleton. Another skeleton is laying on its back which means it was probably disembowelled.
The mayans thought the cave was full of evil so going into it showed the gods how brave they were.
No cameras are allowed after a French tourist was leaning over the rope getting close to a skull (he obviously had never heard of zooming) and dropped his camera smashing the skull!! Clearly he had not heard of a safety strap either. The Government then closed the caves. The guides then lobbied for them to be re opened with camera restrictions. They tell you if you try to sneak a camera in their jobs are on the line.
So a long trek back and an early night for me. Exhausted!
No photos of the cave so random Belize photos attached. The little guy did a fine job of trying to sell me things! The little girl is his sister and was in the stall having a great time swinging away! Under the sign saying no alcohol is where the town drunks hang out! And Zuly's had some great food.Read more
Relaxing day today and these are some of my favourite days.
Walked around town stopping in various spots just staring at the ocean - various photos of my chill zones attached.
Got a chicken egg and cheese flapjack from a little place run by two women for breakfast. So cheap and so filling it was breakfast and lunch.
Had such a lovely day. For dinner I went back to the street vendor and then for dessert I wanted to try the key lime pie from a women who sells slices of homemade cakes and desserts but she had sold out. Disappointed! But good for her!Read more
A fantastic day snorkeling. Whilst the reef wasn't very colourful the fish, giant sea turtles, sting ray and nurse sharks that we swam with were incredible! A real highlight.
Wish I had had an underwater camera but on the other hand that would take you away from being in the momentl.
This time with the sea turtles you were really close in crystal clear water and I got to do a mermaid dance (over under and beside it) with one of them as it swam around. I had to make sure I didn't touch it. Such docile and beautiful creatures. Although I did see one get very annoyed with a smaller mate knocking it until it swam away! I guess we all have days where alone time is required!
There were quite a few sting rays as well but the turtles get my attention every time!
I was so absorbed everyone else was back on the boat and one of the crew had to come and get me!
Next was the sharks and how exciting was that! There were so many of them and schools of fish swam around you. Once again could have stayed there for ages.
We also saw a ship wreck which was interesting - apparently it was carrying cement power and in a storm it got wet and the extra weight sank the ship!
We even saw Dorie from Finding Nemo and the elusive angel fish which is on the Belize dollar.
At night we went for a stroll down the main street and for dinner had a burrito from a street vendor where all the locals were going. $1.75 and it was huge with lots of filling.
Next I decided I would check out the local reggie bar which opens at midnight! I had arranged to meet some of the group after they finished having drinks at the Sports Bar. Yes the name pretty much sums it up and its for tourists only altough the young Belize men hang out there as well then move onto the reggie bar.
The Belize men are very 'attentive' and marriage proposals are common. And if you can't get picked up at a bar in under a minute then there must be something wrong with you.
So we get to the reggie bar and every drunk backbacker who is staying on the island is there. Lots of dancing and they had the cool bar swings.
I lasted about half an hour! But at least I checked it out, had a drink, a dance and declined three belizian men. Not bad for half an hour.
The little shack was snorkeling headquarters and the big plastic bottle contains a stable on the island - rum punch! Lastly thats my travel buddy from the tour at the street vendor!Read more
To say we went to Belize is a lie. In fact, we're doing our best to avoid it. We've been warned of dangers many times and it only takes a quick scroll through the local rag to make that assertion yourself. Instead, we'll stick to the touristy hot spot of Caye Caulker.
Caye Caulker is a tiny island off the east coast of Belize, barely above sea level and protected from the trades by the mesoamerican coral reef. The surrounding waters are super shallow, barely deep enough for the ferries and not even deep enough to swim! It's got that caribbean island feel. Time is just a distant concept, happy hour is every hour and everybody is your 'man' or 'bro' especially if you like green or white.
We spent four nights here, getting in some serious feet up time. Our first two nights were in Pause Hostel, which clearly should be spelt Paws as it was an animal sanctuary for birds, cats and dogs - dozens of all of the above. It was a feral place; the grounds smelt like cat piss, the ocean, showers and bathroom wreeked of human waste, the room was filthy and our beds still had the previous occupants sheets on when we arrived (at night). The bathroom was disgusting, there was no hot water, the toilet had no seat and finding tp was a difficult ask. It was humorously awful until we discovered that a raw faecies were being discharged directly into the same place we were swimming. That was the straw the broke the camel's back, so we moved elsewhere. M&N Hotel felt like a luxury hotel based on our previous experience, infinitely better with lovely staff and not only towels, but fresh towels daily. What a treat! Not to mention it was cheaper than Pause!
We spent our days on the island wandering the streets, unwittingly in search of the finest cheap dining. There are a surprising number of bars and restuarants with quite a variation in price range and style of food. Undoubtedly best at breakfast was the local Fry Jacks hut. Deep fried corn bread/tortilla stuffed with your choice of chicken, ham, cheese, beans or eggs for a mere $1.50 US. A great start to every day! We also took delight in the local grill with unlimited rum, pulled pork buns, key lime pie and a variety of bakery treats enforced by the rising king of the donut, Scott.
The highlight of Caye Caulker would have to be the snorkelling. We took a full day trip with the Caveman and were not disappointed. It was an eight stop affair including swims with turtles, sharks, stingrays, eagle rays and plenty of fish and coral. The biggest prize (and main reason for the trip) proved too elusive on the day - no manatees for us. I was gutted, I've always wanted to swim with these creatures but like Caveman said "you can't control mother nature!" Our final two stops were to feed the tarpon (big fish) and the kite birds. Our guides were young and fun and very efficient which was a welcome change from some, who treat you like you can't tie your own shoe. There were plenty of options for snorkel tours as there's not too much else to do in the island. The interesting thing was that the reef extents from Cancun almost to Panama but they all snorkel the same spots. Surely there's some hidden gems they're not showing the tourists?
Caye Caulker is also one of the closest ports from which to visit the Blue Hole - a giant circular depression inside the lagoon. I would have loved to dive this or even fly over it, but at $120US it was too hard to justify. The woes of sticking to a budget...
MERC got up and running again on the island. Still working on any measure of base fitness, I was stoked for some suuuuper flat running. Unfortunately, the entire length of the island can't have been more than about 2.5km somewhat limiting explorative distances. An intervals session was proposed at the local soccer field and for the first time in MERC history, appeared successful despite a barrage of verbal insults from the local kids. The second run more than circumnavigated the island, and almost ended in disaster for me, coming through a bout of the old Delhi belly. Almost. Things are looking up for the club!
All in all it was a solid few days rest on the island. It took some adjusting to go back to english speaking, with accidental 'Holàs' slipping out on occasion. I'm sure, however, it'll be harder to go back to Spanish.
We caught the ferry back to the mainland (Belize City) which was surprisingly well run, except for the fact it was overbooked and we had to sit on the floor. From the we split Belize in two, bussing five hours due west across the border and into Guatemala. I was humoured by the emigration agent playing games on his phone whilst processing people, barely bothering to batan eyelid. Love it. We'll spend the night in Flores and set out to explore Tikal tomorrow. Fingers crossed for no rain!
For now our biggest conundrum is whether or not to visit Honduras. Suggestions welcome!Read more
What else would you do on a water taxi from a tropical island than knitting a scarf ?!? 😳😂
I experienced the Belizian as very friendly helpful easy going people....it is a super relaxed place where i felt absolutly save and welcomed! 😊
I had somehow expected Caye Caulker would be smaller and probably less touristy but I was still struck by it's colorful houses and nice little outlets along the beach.
It's a place to chill and relax and definitely a place for party. I had met Anneliese from England on the boat from Chetumal and together we had a great time here.
We stayed at Bella's Backpackers (the first night I actually stayed in a hammock on there patio as everything else was booked) which, with it's laid back vibe, was the perfect home on this island.
We went on a snorkeling trip to the reef and swam with nurse sharks and sting rays.
The typical night would start with sneaking into Dirty Mc Nastys (another hostel) to get some of their free rum punch and end at the sports bar where everybody on this island ended up. Which means you would meet everybody here who you had met during the day. One night we even made it to the Reggae Bar - the club where everybody goes once the sports bar shuts down.
I stayed for 3 nights and figured after just being at the coast so far it was time to head inland now...Read more
I had decided to make only 2 stops in Belize on my way to Guatemala. San Ignacio should be a good contrast to the Beach & Party Island Caye Caulker.
I took the boat to get to Belize City which I had decided to skip as a full day stop. Just the 15 minutes walking from the boat to the bus station proofed me right. Belize City is just another City and even during the day it felt pretty sketchy.
After the fancy ADO Busses in Mexico i actually enjoyed getting on the local bus to San Ignacio. For shorter trips they are really ok and you get to learn more about the country and the people on a local bus.
The first surprise in San Ignacio was to meet Dinesha again. A girl I had met in Caye Caulker under some weird circumstances. Let's say... even though we are complete opposites - we seem to attract the same type of guy ;)
Anyway it was nice to meet her again to actually get to know her and laugh a lot about this strange night in Caye Caulker.
San Ignacio is the starting point to some tours you can take to the caves in the area. Even though I'm not a big fan of guided tours I should take the chance to see Actun Tunichil Muknal - an ancient Maya Site in an three-mile-long cave.
You are not allowed to bring a camera (we got some pictures from the agency afterwards) and as you have to swim to get into the cave you actually just go in your swimsuit and watershoes. You have to swim and climb trough an amazing landscape of stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave in complete darkness with the only light coming from your groups headlamps till you reach the main chamber where you find tons on relicts like old pots and the skeletons of the sacrificed mayan people! It's incredible they are not taking away that stuff to put it in some museum.
On the way out of the cave we were by ourselves with just our group of 7 people. Our guide made us turn of our lights and let us walk through the waistdeep water in complete darkness (you really couldn't see anything).
This tour was so worth its money. Definitely recommended!Read more
I was planning to leave San Ignacio the next day to head over to Guatemala when Sandy asked me to join them the next day for a road trip to Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. I knew that Maayan, a girl from Israel, had been looking for people joining her to get a rental car and go there but hadn't really thought about it as my plan was to just go to Actun Tunichil Muknal and not spend any more time in San Ignacio. But now that I was asked again I figured - isn't this the upside to have 6 month for my trip? So that i could just change my plans like I wanted and just stay longer whenever there was an opportunity for some adventure?
So checked with the hostel if I could stay another night and told everybody I was in.
We were 10 people all together and got 2 4WD for the trip. There were 4 places we wanted to go to inside the park and we decided to drive to the one furthest inside the park first and stop at the other ones on the way out. So the first one should be the Rio Frio Cave. We even found that one in maps and used my phone to guide us there. After the while the phone told us to leave the main road (which was already just a gravelroad) and take a small path towards the river. We followed these directions without a doubt. After a while the street got smaller and bumpier and due to the rain there was a lot of water in the street. At one point the street was completely under water for at least 20m and we didn't know how deep it was. But the phone had told us to go this way so Justen gave it a try and started into the water. We did pretty good for the first half but somewhere in the middle the car got stuck. By trying to get out with a lot of gas Justen gave our car a nice camouflage look :) He probably should have closed the window first.
As the car wouldn't move we all got out and started collecting wood to put it in front of our wheels for better grip. The guys from the second car came to help and we all stood on the side cheering him on when Justen got back into the car to give it another try. There was a lot of flying mud again but it worked! The car was free and Maayan, who was driving the second car, managed to get through the mud without any trouble.
We kept on going down the road till we got to a pretty steep hill with again a lot of water at the bottom. So we decided to give a closer look to the map and figured out what the problem was. We hadn't logged in the parking lot at the cave but just the closest "street" - which wouldn't bring us to the hiking path and was divided from the cave by a river 😬
We send Tassilo and Peter to check out the way beyond that hill and used the time to start eating our food while listening to some raggaton music from a CD we had found in the car. Even though we still hadn't made it to any of our touchpoints we had a lot of fun and this trip was already worth it's money!
When Tassilo and Peter came back they told us it would be pretty hard to cross the river and get to the cave from this side so we jumped back into our cars and made our way back toward the main road. When we came back to the flooded part of the street Justen made us get out of the car first and drove through the mud with a lot of noise (partly from hitting a tree) but he made it. This time it would be Maayan who got stuck. But we already knew how to get a car out now. At least now both cars looked alike.
After this adventure track we found the rest of the streets to be pretty decent and there were actually signs telling us where to go.
The Rio Frio Cave was huge and there was even a little beach inside. Of course it couldn't beat Actun Tunichil Muknal, but it was still pretty amazing.
The next two stops were Rio on Pools and Big Rock Fall. Two spots at the river with pools and waterfalls. Unfortunately it was still pretty cold due to the rain the night before so we didn't actually go for a swim. But it was still fun to walk around and spend some time near the river watching the water fall. And there were never really a lot of other people around. Really nice.
Our last stop was a fancy resort with an outside terrace from where you could watch another waterfall. We didn't quite know if they would even let us in the way our cars looked. But they were just smiling. Actually everybody we passed kept laughing at us. Stupid tourists not knowing their way around ;)
We treated ourselves with an expensive drink and enjoyed the view.
After that we headed home and were surprised to hear that the owner of the car rental was really happy to hear we had a great time and didn't really care that the cars looked like they did. He only asked us for a good review on TripAdvisor and even wanted us to share our pictures and videos.
After that eventful day we enjoyed the end of the day in the hammocks on the roof of our hostel. It's gonna be a day to remember...Read more
You might also know this place by the following names:
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