Saturday, February 16, 2008

Belize - December 30th, 2007

This was my last day in Belize this trip.

I had a good sleep since the prior night I shared the same room as Richard and he was snoring quite loudly.

Lisa, Rich, Talia and Will had a day trip planned so after breakfast we said our goodbyes in the suite and then proceeded to pack

I was able to leave Maya Mountain Lodge around 10:30 AM.

I did do a circuit of San Ignacio to fill up on gas. I made the mistake, which seemed common by other tourists too in trying to go over a one way bridge the opposite direction. I had to retrace the road back a 1/2 mile to see where it went to the right.

The central part of San Ignacio has a counterclockwise one way loop with two bridges. After crossing the correct bridge I was able to find a gas station and fill up the tank. Since I wasn't used to automatics I tried to start the Suzuki again but couldn't. With the help of an attendant I did have to press down on the break to get it to start. I'd done the same mistake a couple of days before but hadn't realized then the requirement to step on the break to start the ignition.

On my way back to the coast I did stop by a crafts shop - the most comprehensive and high-end I'd seen; just a few miles outside of San Ignacio. I did buy a couple of gifts and then drove further east.

On the way, I was able to stop by the Belize Zoo and spend a 1/2 hour there seeing some of the wildlife. If you have a few extra hours then the trip to the zoo is well worth it.

I did make it back to Ladyville with plenty of time to spare and I had no issues with checking the car into Crystal Auto Rentals. There were no extra fees and I would definitely use them again.

Inside the airport, it was nice thatDelta Airlines flight paid for my departure tax so I didn't need to pay any further monies.

With some extra Belizean dollars in my wallet I did buy a t-shirt, mug and a couple other small items to pack in my carry-on.

The flight left on time and the view from the airplane of the northern Belizean waters - including Ambergris Caye - was spectacular.

One thing that I'll never forget though, is the crazy airport scene in Atlanta. We disembarked, had to retrieve our checked in baggage, go though customs, recheck our check-in baggage and then got on another plane for Denver.

Our flight was late by an hour and I didn't get into Denver until after 11 PM. When I finally got my luggage from the baggage carousel it was too late to take a bus and there were no further shuttles to Boulder.

Luckily I found a ride to share with two other Boulderites so instead of paying $80-100 dollars myself I was able to split the fare for about $35 dollars + tip.

All in all, I would recommend Belize as a great country to visit - although the Christmas holiday season is the most expensive time to go.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Belize - December 29th, 2007

For my only full day in the Cayo district of Belize we traveled to the Mayan site called Caracol.

It was another full day guided trip so we left Maya Mountain Lodge about 8 AM.

We traveled south of San Ignacio on paved and unpaved bumpy roads. There were a few small towns along the way and eventually we made it to an area where we would meet up with a military escort. Military accompaniment was required since there were bandits that had robbed tourists a couple of years before.

While we waited for the official departure time our tour bus took a small side trip down to the Rio Frio cave. The attraction of the cave is it's enoumous mouth and ease of travel to fully explore it's 1/4 mile length. We were able to go in about an 1/8th of a mile to look around, take photos, examine some species of trees at the entrance and then return to our van.

With our miliary escort we were able to travel further into the Pine Mountain Ridge. If you think you'll see jungle everywhere you travel in Belize you'll be in for a surprise. The Pine Mountain Ridge area is at a higher elevation and feels a lot more like places in the northern latitudes. If you've ever been to the Pine Barrens in New Jersey - or have heard about them - then this region will remind you that northern ecosystem.


The final few miles of the road became paved again - although narrower than 2 lane roads in the states.

When we finally arrived at Carocol's entrance and grassy parking lot a more jungly ecosystem was readily apparent. There were no major Mayan ruins within eyesight of where we parked so we did have to hike in (1/2 to 1 mile of hiking) to see some of the more famous buildings to this huge archaeological dig.

Since this was our 6th full day in Belize we were eventually going to get showered upon and our visit to Caracol provided us the precipitation that we didn't get while down in the Toledo district.

Although we were officially in the dry season some locals felt it became a drier season in the Cayo district from February through May. Regardless, it was nice to have some rain while visiting Caracol. It gave the ruins and the surrounding forest a more dreamy feel.

The ruins were great. The A and B groups were terrific. We hiked the tallest structure in the site (located in B group): Canaa, while the rain was really coming down. The structure is almost 150 feet high and once you got to the top the view to the surrounding forest and lower structures was spectacular.

We did have lunch after our tour and then headed back on the bumpy road back to San Ignacio.

On the way back we did stop at a river to swim but it started to rain again our group quickly got back into the van. We did stop by a craft house for local artisans and then finally got back to Maya Mountain a little after 4 PM.

Dinner was great. One of the best features to Maya Mountain is their food and dinner is quite good. Their packed lunches were also quite good too.