How do I even begin to explain the wonders of this charming country? My life revolves around colors and textures, around sound and small and sensation, all of which there are in abundance in this incredible country, from deepest jungle to desert island.
We started in the jungle, stepping down to the tarmac into thick, wet air, skin drinking it up immediately. We were met by a friendly Mestizo man, good humored and knowledgeable about his country. The Eco Lodge is two hours from the airport on a two lane road, which seemed a kind of rough until we experienced more of the local roads. The trip back to the coast the road seemed like a major highway. Tiny towns, huge Mennonite farms off in the distance, everywhere houses made of concrete, palapa roofs here and there, strange trees everywhere. Then, San Ignacio and a six mile trip over roads the politicians hadn't gotten to yet (they'll wait until the next election), rough roads, bounce you around and make you hang on tight, washes of water hiding who knows what type of deep hole? I ended up with big bruises on my shoulder from crashing into the window lock. Then I got smart and moved to a middle seat where I could hang on with both hands.
Deep dark night by the time we got to the resort, but even in the dark we got a sense of the wonderful experience waiting for us, the lovely cottage, each named for the type of wood in the central beam. And it's humid, everything is wet and doesn't dry. There's a fireplace in front of the big bed, which we indulged in each night, flickering light warming and drying the room, flickering on the walls, pure romance.
The plants, sweet goodness, the incredible plants everywhere, climbing and displaying their colors, philodendron doing what it does naturally, climb big trees and kill anything it gets a hold of, slowly squeezing it's host; bromeliads tucked into every tree crotch, and others sending tendrils down to the ground to gather extra nourishment, rooting from the top and going down. My enameling brain kicks in and starts designing vivid pink leaves.
We wake up and toddle outside, gaping like a pair of city slickers, down to the huge outdoor restaurant, to find food at your pleasure at any time, plus the covered bar ready with a luscious pineapple and rum drink. It overlooks the Makal river and the bird feeder brings toucans to munch on the watermelon left there each morning. Later we see another type of toucan perched in a tree and more birds that I've never seen, including a Mot mot with his gorgeous coloring and unusual tail feathers. I am enchanted and thrilled when we see a large iguana climbing a tree and gratified that none of the snakes made an appearance on our entire trip. Note to self, don't do a google search on Belizean snakes before you go.
|Hanging out as the evening drops over the jungle.|
Every day is a new adventure. We head out to the San Ignacio market on Saturday morning to have breakfast cooked local style, tortillas patted out by hand and filled with stewed chicken and rice and beans. Then onward to Xunantunich, one of the large Mayan sites and a smaller one, Cahal Pech. Our guides are Mestizo natives, many who speak both Spanish and Maya and have the features from carvings on the temples. We hear an otherworldly sound from the temple....a roaring that has us wondering if dinosaurs are in the trees. It's howler monkeys, small 20 pound fellows with HUGE voices, an incredible experience. Monkeys creep me out, I'm glad to give them a wide berth.
We take a wild ride on a Polaris, through small communities to the Barton Creek Caves where we load onto a decidedly tippy canoe. Wearing helmets and headlamps we head deep into a limestone cave to experience a Maya holy site, water dripping off the walls and ceiling, which gets lower and lower as I feel my heart rate climb, whew. The culture here is steeped in Maya belief, the Ceiba tree is sacred, it's 13 layers of heaven, it's main body inhabited by humans and the 9 layers of the underworld. Here the creeping limestone resembles the roots of the tree. The priests would spend many days in these caves, communing and offering blood sacrifice. These caves resonate with power. I am very glad to see the light on our way out and feel reborn to the earth.
Two hours back to the coast, hop on a water taxi for the 75 minute ride to Ambergris Caye and off the taxi to CHAOS, scores of golf carts, agressive taxi drivers, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, people everywhere packed into dense housing and businesses. We stumble into a great restaurant, sand floors and delicious food, cold beer, what can be better?
Well, it does get much better, one 7 dollar taxi ride down the island and we find that we've scored a cabana right on the end, this is the view from our bedroom window! Plus the bar/restaurant and lovely pool is right next door.
Oh my, can't believe how wonderful this is, the breeze blowing through the cabana. We quickly make reservations for snorkeling the Meso-American reef which is the second longest reef in the world, behind the Australian Great Barrier Reef. We see all the usual suspects plus get to swim with nurse sharks and manta rays, and on one trip get to touch a shark, skin rough like sandpaper. Adding a first for me of an eel and a lion fish and squid and a spiny lobster that would have fed six of us. This is the most challenging snorkeling I've done and I'm grateful for a life jacket to keep my ocean panic on a low level. I'm not a natural swimmer and being bashed about by waves while trying to swim against a current are almost more than I can handle. But I do and feel fine about the whole thing. I've become a critic of boat ladders, loving the big sturdy ones with flat bars for your feet, old feet attached to old shaky bodies do not do well on round bars, hurts dammit, but it's a small thing.
There's a Mayan chocolate shop in town and we indulge, twice. My man finds a coconut and manages to cut it open and we drink coconut water from the source. He's a nut....no, you can't try to smuggle a coconut home...don't even ask! I won't show you his crazy pic, complete with ocean hair and I don't care, but imagine him half monkey and half Ernest Hemingway and you can imagine.