Journey into the Forest: Day Trip to Caracol
Caracol Travel Blog› entry 4 of 13 › view all entries
July 2nd, 2010 – by: sayohat
It was a good thing we hadn't planned our trip a week earlier. Everyone said that the rivers and streams were over their banks, which caused many places to be closed or flooded out.
Other than the military outpost, a few scattered hamlets and the tiny village of San Antonio, we didn't see much but forest, butterflies and the occasional lizard. Besides our driver, Serge (pronounced "surge"), there was only one other person on our trip, a Greek guy named Alex who spoke fluent Spanish. After arrival, we started out towards the ruins but actually passed by several trees that Serge pointed out to us. He picked up a kiwi-sized "nut" and cut it open, revealing a white pithy substance. This was the fruit of the cohune palm and it tasted a little like bland coconut. We had to watch our step to avoid the large black mounds the fire ants called home. Serge pointed to a banana tree with a large bunch of green bananas and a drooping flower pod hanging down.
We emerged onto the expansive plaza while Serge explained that the facades of the temples were adorned with jaguar carvings. Actually they were fiberglass replicas constructed to preserve the originals, which have been removed and will be placed in a museum that is being built near the entrance. Despite Caracol's success as a powerful Mayan site, it had water problems. A small reservoir on site was its only supply, refreshed only by rainfall. One theory holds that as water became even more scarce, the population dispersed. In fact, this theory could be expounded to account for the entire decline of the civilization. There are thousands of Mayan peoples still living in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, and I could understand that over the years through migration and intermarriage with other groups they lived on. Most of what we heard about the Mayan civilization amounted to a bunch of educated guesses.
Only a handful of other tourists were there the entire time. It really did feel like we had a private tour of the place. From the tallest structure there (and just about in the entire country), Canaa, we could see the vast forest stretching out to the ends of the horizon. The macabre screeching of cicadas and grasshoppers could be heard in the air, like a symphonic soundtrack to a horror movie. It was a steep climb to the top, the first of many. We must have spent 45 minutes or more exploring Canaa itself. The heights were awe-inspiring. No wonder the royalty would occupy these heights and feel godlike being that close to the sky.
The ball court was small but apparently exclusive for royalty to watch.
More flora on the way to the A Plaza: bird peppers (tiny slivers of intense hotness), wild coriander (flat-leafed cilantro), allspice leaves and green and black avocado trees.
We wound our way around the South Acropolis and past the main reservoir, which was overgrown with a thick covering of green lilypads.
Slightly smaller than the B Plaza, but rivaling its grandness, A Plaza contained the Temple of the Wooden Lintel, A-3 temple that was off-limits and A-2 that was accessible but mostly overgrown with plantlife to illustrate the condition of how most temples are found.
After exploring that area, we headed back to the entrance and picnic grounds and had a filling lunch consisting of sandwiches, plantain chips, a banana and an orange. We got a couple things in the gift shop, including a book on Belizean Mayan sites. Luckily the mosquitoes weren't very bad and we ate in relative peace. It was hot, as usual, but by then we'd prepared to exist in a sweat-drenched condition.
On the drive back, we detoured to a place called Rio On Pools, just off the road. It was a series of small cascades flowing over the rocks and forming a small swimming area. We weren't alone this time...we came upon at least a dozen British soldiers who were taking a midday break to bathe, swim and shave in the refreshing water. It was difficult to access the actual waterfalls without endangering ourselves against sharp rocks and swift currents, but the shallow portions of the water we waded through were warm and comfortable. Nearer the Brits the river opened up to a still pond, where we were able to swim for a few minutes. I wanted to get to the edge of the water, which appeared to end on a rock ledge overlooking a canyon. We had picked up a park guard at Caracol and he went with Alex over to the ledge somehow, but Mark and I opted for swimming, which is why we had donned our swimsuits for the entire trip.
I thought we were going to go to a cave, but time must have run out, so we just went back, passing over a few of the same "sleeping policemen" that we'd passed before. Speed bumps were everywhere in Belize, and not just on residential streets. In fact, they were more common on major roadways, including the three main highways in the country. Some of the speed bump signs on this road actually had illustrations of someone with a badge and hat lying down. No one really ever seemed to be in a hurry in this country where I did not see a stoplight the entire time. Our days were packed, but were not really rushed.
It turns out that Serge actually was subcontracted by Mayawalk Tours, the company we paid for the excursion, but he owned the restaurant/bar across the street that we'd lunched at the previous day.
Another long day, but it was not complete until we sampled the chocolate cake that was tantalizing us on the menu of the Sri Lankan restaurant next door to our hotel, the Serendib. I ordered a Sri Lankan dessert called watalappan, which was a grainy, syrupy custard pie that I found quite delicious. The rum drinks we had also hit the spot. Stuffed and exhausted, we closed another evening in Belize, preparing for another day of unknown adventure.
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