BELIZE & GUATEMALA
Our Trip to Central America – First Part (November 2016)
There’s nowhere in the world quite like Central America. There are so many cultures—past and present—to learn about, so much good food to taste, and so many lovely scenes to enjoy. During our trip to Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, we had the opportunity to appreciate all these things. Between beautiful beaches and ancient ruins, this was definitely a trip of a lifetime.
Our vacation to Central American began when we touched down in Belize. After all the usual airport shenanigans—the long security lines, grabbing our bags from the carousel, admiring our freshly-minted passport stamps—we gathered ourselves together and went to hunt down our ride.
Teddy (Teddy Bear Shuttle), a lovely patient man picked us up from the airport, and thank goodness he did! Our journey from the airport to the hotel took a few hours but it was so pleasant and relaxing. We made a few stops on the way going to get snacks and drinks. Teddy entertained us with many stories and curiosities about that beautiful country. We were staying at Black Rock Lodge, a unique eco-lodge nestled in the dense rainforest above the Macal River in the Mayan Mountains of Belize. The whole area seemed so exotic to us that it was hard to imagine how it all could seem commonplace to the locals! I guess if you live anywhere your whole life, it seems normal. As for us, we couldn’t stop staring at everything we saw and ‘Oohing” and “Ahhing” over all the interesting things outside our windows.
Black River Lodge is located on a rough road, half an hour outside of San Ignacio. This city is part of a larger area, District, named “El Cayo” that was settled by the Spanish during colonial times. San Ignacio was populated by people involved in the Mahogany production business, but today it boasts a diverse population that depends quite a bit on the tourism generated by nearby Mayan sites.
We got to stay three nights at Black Rock Lodge. (We wish we could have stayed longer!) The view was incredible. Black Rock Lodge is nestled into the Mayan Mountains, and it overlooks the Macal River. The rooms look directly into the rainforest, so we could see things like toucans right from our window. If you want, the staff helps you birdwatch so you can see all the exotic species in the yard. It’s a popular activity at the lodge. The rooms are decorated to blend in a bit with the natural surroundings. We loved to lay in the hammock outside our room, reading a book or taking a nap. There are also a lot of activities that the hotel can set you up to do, and when we arrived we already had our itinerary all set up. We will always keep Black Rock Lodge in our heart, for the magical atmosphere and the lovely staff. A special thanks to Giovanni.
The first thing we did was go cave tubing and zip-lining. If you’ve ever been on a lazy river ride at a theme park, you can probably imagine what cave tubing is like. Now take away all the screaming kids and sunburnt masses and add the ambiance of the tropical forest, wildlife, and mystical-looking caves. We floated though the caves on our inner tubes, wondering at the natural rock formations and interesting sights along the way. Our day of adventure ended with Zip-Lining. We can’t explain how fun and cool it was! This video we made https://youtu.be/bc9EXEhgqlM describes it better than any words.
During our time in Belize we took a day excursion into Guatemala. After all, if you’re going to stay that close to a Mayan ruins site like Tikal, you can’t pass it up! On the way to Tikal we stopped at two beautiful spots for pictures and videos. We couldn’t miss those beautiful landscapes. Macanché Lake and Lake Petén Itzá.
After a few hours drive, crossing the Belize-Guatemala border, adding many more stamps to our passports; we finally arrived in Tikal. Tikal was as cool as we had hoped. In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. The ceremonial centre contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. The Tikal National Park is probably one of the most fascinating places that we have ever seen.
Tikal Temple I is the major structure at Tikal. It’s about 150 feet high and has way too many stairs. It’s amazing to think that a city could be in use for so many years and then just get abandoned like that. Tikal was one of the most important and powerful metropolitan areas for the Maya, with strong and famous kings and extravagant streets lines with beautiful architecture. Today, of course, the buildings still stand, but all the color and finery is gone. The stones are bleached gray by wind and weather, and we could only imagine what the city must have been like in its zenith, when it was teeming with life and filled with the hopes and dreams of 90,000 people.
After losing ourselves in this fascinating mystical culture it was time to leave the Central America hinterland.
We drove back to Belize City and we took a water taxi to CAYE CAULKER. After the shade of the caves and the dampness of the rainforest, it was nice to get out into the sunshine and enjoy the sea! The island of Caye Caulker is a little slice of paradise, about 5 miles (north to sound) and by less than 1 mile (east to west). It is a small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize, about 40 miles from the Great Blue Hole. We enjoyed the warm sand and letting the surf tickle our toes. We could probably be perfectly happy laying in a hammock on the beach at Caye Caulker forever! There are no cars on the island and the motto is “Go Slow”! The food is delicious, if you love eating fish, like us, you can get a whole, fresh lobster for a few dollars! Don’t fancy fish? Try the spicy Jerk Chicken with beans and rise. Delicious!
Speaking of ocean, Belize has a massive reef under the surface of the deep blue sea. The Belize Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site and is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet! You have the chance to dive or snorkel in the second largest reef in the world. We were amazed by the hundreds of different kinds of colorful fish and coral we saw while snorkeling! It was pretty incredible. We were lucky to swim with turtles and sharks! It sounds pretty gutsy, but the sharks we got close to aren’t dangerous at all. Whale sharks are gentle, and we weren’t (too) nervous to get close to them. Still, it makes us sound like real daredevils to say we swam with sharks! Thanks God we had our new GoPro, we can now relive those emotions every time we want. Watch our video on YouTube. https://youtu.be/qOc66Wnc9RE
After our incredible time in Belize and Guatemala, it was time to head to Mexico. Keep reading our adventures on our Mexico’s post and watch our Belize & Guatemala video below. Thank you!
P.S. “Go Slow!”