Going inland was a blast. Next cruise, we will plan more inland excursions. A completely different set of wildlife, human culture, and climate was found. Leaving Alembic was disquieting. I was convinced that the bugs or rats would invade my galley, while Bill was more concerned with safety and security. The day before we left Alembic, we saw a huge dead rat on the dock that didn’t help my state of mind. I coached all the trolling iguanas to guard Alembic, and fed them compost scraps as payment. They didn’t let me down. Maybe Bill had coached the many wandering dogs and the nearby parrot to patrol our floating home, because all was well upon our return.
Our rental car, with 120,000 miles, ran flawlessly and survived without a scratch from the passing speeders on the 200 mile trip or the aggressive wildlife surrounding the inland parking spot beside our cabana. Midas was the perfect getaway, with sweet tiny cabanas nestled in the forest packed with birdlife. Each morning, I enjoyed watching the parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, flycatchers, seed eaters, warblers, tanagers, woodpeckers, hawks, and falcons interact. This hysterical flycatcher kept sweeping his body up and down our windshield while pecking at his own image. I later realized that we had parked right under his nest, and he was attacking the “predator”!
Lindsay had lived in San Ignacio for a few months five years ago, and she gave us specifics about the hot spots. We visited the same mayan ruins and caves that she had, and as we wandered on foot every day throughout the town, my heart warmed to think about Lindsay passing through the same areas.
I’m certain we even met some of the same people. This town has some tourists, and many expats, but the bustling town was predominantly folks whose families have been here for generations. Teak plantations were evidence of long term plans and hopes for generations to come. Endless acres with carefully planted teak trees surrounded the town. Farmers have to wait decades before the wood is harvestable. Most who plant these trees will not live to reap the benefits, but their grandchildren will appreciate the efforts.
The first day, we walked from our cabana to the Cahal Pech “Place of the ticks” ruins. This is one of the oldest Mayan sites in Belize, yet it was discovered relatively recently. It is believed to have been settled in 1200 BC, abandoned in 900 AD, and discovered around 1950, with excavations occurring from 1988 to 2000. The forest had overtaken the site, hiding the evidence of its civilization for centuries.
The next day, Oscar picked us up at Midas and took us to the ATM caves, for an amazing tour. Oscar was the perfect tour guide. He mixed humor with depth of Mayan knowledge, always respecting the spirits, the ecology of the site, and our needs. He was the only guide who insisted on turning off headlamps every time we stopped to hear his instructions or Mayan details. Darkness gave us a feel for how the cave felt for the mayans who came in for ceremonies and rituals. Traversing the cave required swimming, hiking, squeezing through tight spots, and lifting our bodies up over slippery steep rocks. It’s staggering to think of the Mayans making this trek with torches, heavy pots, sick people, and often while intoxicated!
The third day was a trek to Xunantunich “Stone Woman,” only 20 minutes by car. This site was thought to have been settled around 600-300 BC, abandoned around 1000 AD, and first explored by a British officer in the 1800s. We opted to skip the guide and to climb and discover the site on our own. I marveled at the complexity of the architecture and culture and now am eager to read more about the customs and sophistication of the Mayans.
Having such a small taste of inland culture barely whet our appetite for understanding the depth of Latin and Mesoamerican culture. Living and traveling along the coast has given us a flavor for the pirates and seagoing folks, but the civilizations living on the land have a completely different story. I’m ready to begin reading.