jesus christ! it's the jacana (jesus christ bird), since it appears to be 'walking on water'
Woke up this morning, got ready... sprayed myself thoroughly with my 100% DEET... and then headed out to the lobby for the trip to Lamanai. While waiting for the driver to be ready, I met 2 newlyweds on their honeymoon from Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi, Tucker & Danielle. We chatted for a while as we drove to pick up a few more people - turns out they lost everything when Katrina hit - amazing to meet people directly affected like that, especially for me, since one of my projects at work right now was to design and rebuild a neighborhood center that was destroyed by the hurricane - they were excited to hear about that. =)
Anyway, back to Belize - we were now on our way up to Tower Hill in the Orange Walk District, and passed a crocodile on the way, which was chillin in a little swamp on the side of the road near Sandhill (tried to get a picture, but it disappeared before I could snap it!) On the way I also noticed how all the houses were built on stilts, even so far inland - people here are very paranoid about hurricanes, and rightly so.
the mennonite boys
In 1961, Hurricane Hattie destroyed Belize City
, which is why the capital was moved to a new city in the center of the country, called Belmopan. Interestingly, there's another town far inland where many people flocked to after Hattie, named... you guessed it.. Hattieville. So the stilt-house thing is evident all over the country, and over the years, it's become more of a tradition than an actual necessity.
Ok enough with the history lesson! Once we got to Tower Hill, we got in our little speedboat and were on our way. What an awesome experience! It was a blast going down the river, and the scenery was just beautiful. We saw huge termites nests in the trees, and all kinds of bird life - vultures, orioles, egrets, kiskadees, kingfishers, jacana (the jesus christ bird), herons.
welcome to lamanai!
.. etc. But the most interesting thing we saw, to me at least, wasn't animal or plant life... it was actually some human life! The Mennonites living in a town on the New River called Shipyard. What a trip that was to see - young, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed guys in overalls, in a fishing boat along side their traditional village, just going about their business. In BELIZE??? totally a trip! The story as to how they ended up here is amazing, kicked out of Germany, Russia, Prussia, Canada, Mexico, and now finally Belize, a country who appreciated and accepts them. They contribute to the economy, producing goods such as milk and eggs, etc., and in return don't get taxed, and are allowed to live as they choose - without interference from government.
in front of the mask temple at lamanai
Totally cool. Ok, sorry I know that was kind of another tangent history lesson, but it was too cool not to tell about... =)
Finally we get to the site of Lamanai, and stop to have some lunch in the picnic area at the entrance. mmm... homemade rice and beans this time from our guide, which tasted GREAT with the spicy onion salsa he also brought - they were even better than yesterday. thank God, no almost-still-alive snapper this time, but some goooood finger-lickin fried chicken. After lunch, we checked out the small museum, and then trekked through the forest for a while with our guide, and then suddenly, behind me... I hear the most frightening, blood-curdling, horrific noise I may have ever heard - it was the sound of the infamous 'howler' monkeys.
omg this is scary!!!
It was so eerie and otherwordly, it made me feel like I was in a horror movie and some angry alien monster was chasing us. After hearing that, why they are called howler monkeys i will never understand. THAT WAS NOT A HOWL. They should be called "of-the-devil-monkeys", or at least for God's sake, growler monkeys. Unless they were named after some dude with the last name of "HOWLER" then they need to change it, haha. Man, that was some freaky shit!!!
SO - finally! we get to the first site, the Mask Temple, where there was a huge stone carving of a Maya figure head or mask at the base of the pyramid. It was awesome. We all thought that pyramid was pretty impressive.. until we got to the Main Temple... Like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, disguised and shrouded in the rainforest canopy, and then BAM! there it was, a huge, beautiful, almost intact, Mayan pyramid.
relieved to be alive, but scared of having to go down!
Now THAT'S what i'm talkin about. In the middle of the central steps to the top was a yellow rope. Wait... am I supposed to climb THAT?? whoa. umm why is there a rope? that scares me. Only 4 others from our group - Danielle and Tucker, and a couple from the East Coast decided to climb it. With my fear of heights, and looking at how steep the steps were - I freaked. But... Danielle convinced me, and I did it. Going up was scary, and the view was incredible from the top --
...but MY GOD did I now know how a cat feels after climbing up a tree!
How the HELL am i getting down? Uh, can someone please call me a helicopter to airlift me off this thing!! I was completely terrified. The hardest part, of course, was the first step, but wow did my life flash before my eyes a few times! it felt like the steps were neverending as i did it one by one, veeeeery slowly, very carefully.
the main temple seen through a maze of trees.. isn't this such the indiana jones shot?
.. soon Thank God, I was on solid ground and I swear I almost knelt and kissed it. I was drenched in sweat more from fear than from the heat, but so glad i did it - what an adrenaline rush!!! Little did I know that would be the first of many pyramids I would climb on this trip!
After that, we saw the ball court and the beautiful Jaguar Temple before heading back to the boat. I stopped at the small shops at the entrance to buy a couple things, and as always, was the last one back on the boat. We said bye to Lamanai and headed back down the New River for another hour... waved to our Mennonite boys on the way... and arrived back at the Tower Hill dock, and got in the van for another hour-long ride back to Belize City. Danielle and Tucker and I exchanged info and we dropped them off at the airstrip to catch their flight back to San Pedro.
a beautiful flower... forgot what it's called!
Back in Belize City, I bought a couple yummy meat pies from Le Petit Cafe across from the hotel, and checked out the stately Great House next door before going back to my room to relax for a while before dinner with Richard. I called him and we decided to meet at 7 in front of the hotel. I also called Keisha and she couldn't find me a tour to San Ignacio
and Xunantunich for tomorrow, but found me a driver who was willing to take me. Turned out to be a really good deal, since he agreed to take me to the Belize Zoo, then Belmopan, then Xunantunich, and then to my hotel in San Ignacio... perfect, and at my own pace.. it was a deal.
At 7pm I went downstairs to meet Richard, and while waiting I met a couple from San Francisco, Cliff and Annette, and we chatted about SF and Belize - nice people! Richard came and I hopped in the car, and met his girlfriend Amanda - and then he told me she was 5 months pregnant.
i love this shot.
. with twins!!! I had the pleasure of bringing the good news personally back to his friend Betty (my coworker), who he hasn't told yet. How cool! So we decided on Indian food at a place called Sumathi (I had enough rice and beans the past couple days!), and it was great. We were completely stuffed, but the food and the company were great - I love meeting and hanging out with locals, there's nothing like it to really get to know a place. After dinner, I got a night tour of Belize City - from the southside ghetto to Buttonwood Bay, (where we stopped for some really good Italian ice cream). We saw the Belcan Bridge, Swing Bridge, Regent and Albert Streets, and then parked to get some pictures of St. John's Cathedral. It was a great little tour.
amanda and me
They took me back to the hotel, and we decided to meet again for lunch on Monday before I had to get back to the airport. I said bye to them both, went up to my room, and after a long but exciting day... slept like a baby. =)