Just a quick update…then Belize. We are still in El Salvador, we wanted to go, but Palarran was against it, so she broke on us. We have had some bad vibrations in the shaft and thought it was a bearing, which I brought back on my last trip to the States. CB installed that and turns out the real culprit is a worn out engine mount. So we are waiting for the tortis to make it’s way down from the states with our parts…which should take 3 weeks. In the mean time we put the boat on a mooring and are gonna rent a car and check out parts unseen in El Salvador. On Sept. 9th I am going back to Chicago to visit the ‘rents and CB is heading back to another pretengineer job in KC MO. We will be back around the end of Sept. And hopefully be getting on our way south. Okay, news brief over…back to Belize…it really was unbelizeable :-)
After Livingston we took the roughest panga ride I have ever been on to Punta Gorda, Belize. Seriously, there were like 5 foot seas and the panga driver didn’t slow down a bit…but I did have to give him daps for some serious driving skills…even though I had to ride on a fender to keep my spine from compressing. Any who, Punts Gorda (PG as the locals call it) is your tipico boarder town. Lots of Government offices and places to take you anywhere but PG. It is unbeliezebly hot here and not really a touristy place…but we were ecstatic to be speaking English, although I couldn’t turn off my Spanish while I was there.
We immediately found a bus to Independencia, a dusty town where you caught a cab to a dock where you took a launcha to Placencia…bus, dusty town, cab, panga…seems to be the jist of this country. Placencia was beautiful…our first vision of the crystal clear Caribbean Sea…just beautiful. Did not do much here but hang on the beach and drink fufu drinks.
Next we were off to the less desirable Belize City…a place so undesirable the government moved the capital from Belize City to Belmopan (also not a great place, but apparently better than Belize City). I actually didn’t think parts of Belize City were that bad…compared to the south side of Chicago or Watts in Cali:-) The whole purpose of going here was to catch a ferry (see the trend) to Caye Caulker…where we would spend the next 5 days falling in love with Belize. Caye Caulker is a tiny Caye inside the beautiful Belizean reef. Belize is extremely protective of their environment and totally committed to keeping their reefs alive. There are very steep penalties for even bumping a reef with your boat…best to anchor in areas marked as anchorages on the charts. This tiny little speck of an island is awesome. Great food, amazing bars and ton of stuff to do. CB took kite surfing lessons…here is some proof!
The next day we went on a dive charter out to another Caye to dive on the reefs. I can’t even describe how beautiful this was. The water was crystal clear as far as you could see. The reefs were full of color and the fish were out of this world. The highlight had to be the gigantic Leopard ray that gracefully and slowly swam around us on the second dive…he was soooo tame! The first dive was 100 feet, the next 70 and the last only 40…you could not tell a difference in light and clarity between them all. Unfortunately I left my GoPro at the boat…dammit! This was a very good day.
The rest of the time we spent hanging out at the dock bar and eating CB’s new favorite dish…stew meat with beans and coconut rice…it was pretty good…the first 3 or 4 times:-) Oh yeah, and we rented a room from this local guys uncle Tio (tio is Spanish for uncle??? I don’t know) But the room was sweet and overlooked the ocean…and it had cable…in English. CB and I had not seen English TV in some time…we watched a lot of cable too:-)
After that it was back on the Ferry to Belize City to catch another bus to another dusty town in the mountains. San Ingnacio\Santa Elena is just outside of Noj Kaax H’Men Elijio Panti Forest Reserve. Here you can take a tour of the famous caves via float tube or do hikes and caving in the famous Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves. We didn’t know about the ATM tour until we got to one of the many tour office in Santa Elena. The tour guy was telling us about the cave tubing but said if we really wanted an adventure to try the ATM tour which involved hiking, caving and swimming???? Whaaaaaaat! This sounded right up our alley. So the next morning we woke up early as hell and took off on a bus, down a dusty road to the park entrance. Only a handful of companies have permission to do tours of these highly religious caves…but they were all there that day. The guides are all Mayan and really do a good job at spacing out the group to make this an amazing experience. These caves were where the Mayans would go to meet with their underworld and pray to their Gods for health, good crops and prosperity. It was considered a very brave thing to enter these caves and often human sacrifices were made. When this particularly extensive cave system was found not so long ago, archaeologists dated the pottery and skeletons to range from 900 BC to 800 AD. Which was about the time frame of the Mayan reign. This tours was probably the coolest thing either of us has ever done….and that is saying a lot. They no longer allow cameras in the caves due to an unfortunate incident where a tourist dropped a camera on one of the skulls an crushed it…bad mojo for that guy….so I had to use photos off the interwebs…but like I said…the coolest experience I have ever had.
Most of the water was armpit high…as you go deeper you are actually climbing down into the earth. This water is from an underground river that is full of minerals and good stuff for your skin. When we got out we had lost our tan….damn Mayan Gods…do you know how long it took this Gringo to get that brown???
Stalagmites and Stalactites throughout the cave system. Many were shimmery shades of purple and green from the minerals in the water…apparently in rainy season the water rises anywhere from 3-10 feet up.
It took about an hour to get to this area. You had to climb about 20 feet straight up out of the river up onto this plateau where there is a path leading to where the offerings and sacrifices were made. Imagine doing this back when the Mayans were going in here with only a torch or sometimes in the pitch dark…
There were numerous partial skeletons and bones throughout the area…but this is the most famous. A whole skeleton unearthed by archaeologists. The bones have actually disintegrated and what you are seeing here is the fossil left by the crystallized minerals.
See! That was cool as hell right!!! Now you all probably want to go to the ATM caves…if you ever get the chance…DO IT…no matter what the price. It is an experience you will never forget.
The next stop was back to Guatemala to go to the ruins in Tikal….yep, you guessed it…cab, dusty road, walk across border and about 5 more buses….next post Tikal!!! Here is a little preview.