So, Drew and I have been in Belize over a month now. Crazy. And I have absolutely no excuse for not blogging. So, just get excited that I am blogging now!
Last weekend, Drew and I were able to travel inland to San Ignacio, which is about 10 miles from the border of Guatemala. When Drew's family came to visit in November, we took a day trip to Xunantunich, which is a few miles outside of San Ignacio. While the ruins were amazing, we weren't able to spend much time at all in San Ignacio itself, so we were excited to be able to spend more time in the city.
San Ignacio is actually a twin city to Santa Elena - they are divided by a river that locals swim in when it is hot. And with the temperatures reaching into the mid 90's, there were a lot of people swimming! Drew and I stayed at the Aguada, a hotel in Santa Elena. It was a little out of the way, but it was very inexpensive, clean, and had a pool to boot. We were very happy. After checking in a and swimming, we took a cab to Cahal Pech, a Mayan ruin site actually in San Ignacio. The ruins weren't huge like the Castillo at Xunantunich, but the ruins were more interesting to explore because there were more chambers and hallways to go through. A beautiful nine-year-old Mayan girl volunteered to be our tour guide, and she showed us all the different ways to climb up the main structure.
The next day Drew and I went on the most popular tour in Belize - the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave. The tour was a little pricey, but after it was all said and done, it was totally worth it. We drove for an hour, went on a 45 min hike fording a river 3 times, then finally made it to the mouth of the cave. There, me, Drew, two Italian couples, an Irish man named Rory and our guide donned helmets and head lamps and head into the cave - which meant diving into a 20 ft wide pool of clear cold water. Some of the women dealth with it better than the men. For the next hour or so, we swam and climbed through this enormous cave. The best explanation was like being in a natural basilica. The ceilings reached 30 or 40 feet high. Huge stalagmites, stalagtites and curtain formations glittered in white, red and yellow. Flow stone looked like frozen waterfalls from centuries ago. Rock formations seemed like giant scoops of dripping ice cream. (I was super hungry at the time) It was so humbling. Then we got to an entrance of one of the 13 chambers of the cave. We had to climb up a large boulder then take off our shoes. Park rules dictate that everyone has to wear socks, but no one told Drew and I, so we went bare foot. Luckily we didn't cut our toes. We entered the cave and there was pottery artifacts everywhere. From shards to almost complete pots and urns. Archaeologists believe that the pots were left for food and liquid sacrifices to the Mayan gods. Then, the guide showed us to a shallow dish, used for blood letting rituals. The next artifiacts were calcified skulls and bones, left from human sacrifices. In total we saw the remains of five humans, including the Crystal Princess at the furthest reaches of the cavern. The skeleton of the 18 year old woman is still in tact, except for the fatal wound in her back bone. Her remains lay in front of a large curtain formation. It is at once sad, beautiful and humbling.
It took another couple of hours to make our way back out of the cave, back through the jungle, and to the van. It was a long, strenous day, but so much fun. A once and a lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately, Drew and I didn't bring our camera on the trip because we didn't want to risk it falling in the water of the cave. We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the pool and exploring the city. The restaurants are wonderful there, everything from Indian to bistro to a French bakery and of course Belizean food. There are also some great bars and a nice market area on the weekend. We can't wait for the students to come in a few weeks and enjoy it for themselves.