After a few glorious days in the Caribbean it was time to head inland, and explore the countryside of Belize. It was sad to leave the island paradise that was Caye Caulker, but I was also definitely looking forward to getting into the heart of the Mayan world, and exploring the ruins that were left behind. Our first stop though, just outside of the city was the famous “Belize Zoo”. The zoo is a home for many rescued and orphaned animals of Belize, and through its educational centre the people of Belize, and those of us from beyond, can see such unique animals like Tapirs, Jaguars, a myriad of bird species, and many many more. The first thing that struck me when we entered though, was a signed photo of Steve Irwin, the famous Australian ‘crocodile hunter’ (who for those that do not know, ended up dying from a stingray barb while filming a documentary). I thought it was pretty cool that this famous aussie had been here too!
The most exciting thing for me though? Seeing a Toucan for real!!! I love the look of these birds, I think they are so cool, and I have always loved the way they look. Finally getting to see one was definitely a highlight for me! What was even funnier though was how much the toucan loved the camera – they would come close to the cage and pose right next to the lens, they were definitely used to humans here.
After some time at the zoo, we carried on our journey towards the hilly interior, and the base town of San Ignacio. San Ignacio is known as the “adventure capital” of Belize – in the surrounding countryside people have the chance to white water raft, horse ride through trails, and to experience tubing through watery caverns, some of which still contain skeletons of sacrificed victims from the Mayan times! After a glorious night of lazing by the pool at our B&B the next morning I chose to go and explore the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich. Getting there was half the fun – we hired a taxi with 2 other travellers (so it only cost us $15BZ for the whole transport). The taxi has to cross the Mopan River by a little platform, which a man winches a handle and it slowly creaks across a wire across the river. Then a drive up the hill to the ruins.
Once at the ruins the fun began – hot steamy jungle, climbing up the huge ‘castillo’ (main temple), in the midday sun. Probably wasnt the smartest time to go, but we were there, and intended to make the most of it! The great thing about these ruins is that it doesn’t appear to be very well known by the average tourist. We only saw about 5 other people the whole time we were there. Having the whole place pretty much to ourselves was wonderful. It also meant we could take our time trying to climb up the hundreds of narrow steps to the top! Thank god, because it was tough going!
Finally making it to the top was an achievement – and with our backs against the top stones and the sun behind us, we got to sit in a tiny patch of shade and take the view in, drink all our water, and try and cool down and recover!
After our time at Xunantunich the taxi dropped us off back in San Ignacio. We ate some beautiful fresh pastries from the local bakery run by Mennonites. The Mennonite community is quite large in Belize, and with their German heritage they run the best bakeries and coffee houses in San Ignacio in my opinion!
The rest of the afternoon was spent by the pool, chatting with Taryn, the daughter of the owners of our small family run hotel. (the Hotel Aguada) She was a cracker of a girl, 10 years old going on 18, a real laugh, dancing around with alot of sass and funky attitude. We had a fun night drinking pina coladas, getting lessons from her on how to dance the “punta”. (A local dance which involves the typical Caribbean movement of gyrating hips!)
Our time here in San Ignacio was fantastic- there really is so much to do, or you can relax and just soak up the atmosphere of this unique town. Belize did not disappoint!