Sharks, caves and a Mayan city
13.07.2011 - 18.07.2011
The next few days after the robbery we spent traveling back to Belize City to file for a police report, then to Belmopan (the capital and a massively uninspiring place) to get an emergency passport. Amid this we managed to fit in a trip to Belize Zoo. Now I'm a big fan of a zoo and this one was pretty cracking, jaguars, monkeys and tapirs roamed big enclosures and looked pretty happy with life. See Chris' photos from the zoo here. With the boring paperwork complete we headed back to Caye Caulker to try and persuade the lazy police to actually write the report and also eat more lobster. Caye Caulker itself is a fairly nice little island, chilled out and pretty backpacker-friendly except for the wanna-be hustlers from Belize City that love to try and sell you drugs and rob your stuff. We took a sailing boat for a days snorkeling, swimming among nurse sharks, rays and green turtles; it was pretty neat.
Moving on from Caye Caulker we headed west to San Ignacio, a town near the border with Guatemala. What I noticed as we traveled through this part of the country was the importance the people seemed to attach to having a well maintained lawn; I liked the place instantly. The town itself is nice, pretty tourist orientated but not gaudy. While we've been here we've been on a couple of tours, firstly to a huge cave system called Actun Tunichil Muknal. Initially, after a 40 minute walk through the jungle you enter the cave swimming across a deep pool of water and spend the next half an hour squeezing between and scrambling over rocks marching upstream often in pitch black. Eventually you reach a small cliff formed by the calcium carbonate deposits over the past million or so years. Climbing up this the cave opens up into a vast cavern, it is entirely unlit except for the beams of partially illuminating light from our head torches. It was hard to get a grip on how vast the space was because only tiny bits of the caves were lit up at a time. Scattered around the cavern were pieces of Mayan pottery and the occasional skull, some smashed, some pretty much complete and some partially covered by the calcium carbonate deposits. At the very top of the cavern lay a complete skeleton, again partially mummified by the actions of centuries of water running over it. This, along with the other remains in the cave were sacrifices to the subterranean gods who it was believed controlled all the water. With the force with which the river spat us back out of the cave, it was easy to imagine why.
Today we took a trip to the ancient Mayan city of Caracol. Once bigger than the more uncovered site at Tikal in Guatemala and home to about 120,000 people, the site took 2 hours over unmade roads to reach. But what we walked into was amazing. The structures, huge and the rain forest backdrop, vast. The Mayans pulled off some pretty impressive stuff. We arrived early and had the entire site to ourselves pretty much for the entire time we were there. (The next 3 photos taken by Chris)
So tomorrow we leave Belize, with mixed emotions about the place. But from our experience, west is best!