Now, let me be perfectly clear about what I mean by the term "lovely" in that last sentence. Belize is a very poor country, the cities and houses are mostly shanty-ville, and the roads were so terrible that I was in shock. I mean, I rented a Jeep Rubicon to drive on roads like that! My eyes were captivated only by wonder and my interest in the cultural differences. They certainly weren't in awe of anything Belize City had to offer. However, the friendly and caring people we met along the way were truly lovely. And of course, the things that matter the most to a person of my taste and interests--the rainforest, the mountains, the animals, and Mayan ruins were very lovely indeed.
We stayed at a guest house during our stay and were greeted at the airport by the owner, Luis. Immediately, we were welcomed into the country and were even invited to join him for his birthday party later that night. As we had a half day of unplanned leisure time on our day of arrival, Luis was kind enough to invite us to go along with him to the supermarket so we could take in the sights of Belize City. He was an awesome guy and pretty darn good guide through the city.
The next day, however was when our full day of fun began. We were met at 8 a.m by Ignacio (Nacho) and Cynthia of NCQ Tours and we began our day of incredible fun. First was a nice, long (bumpy) drive to the Jaguar Reserve and to the Belize Arial Trek for some zip lining through the rainforest. I have to say that this was awesome! It was such an incredible experience and I absolutely cannot wait to soar through the trees again! And afterwards, we got to play with a baby Howler Monkey. She was soooo cute and I tried to think of any way I could to bring her back home with me. I am just not sure if my cat Lucy would have been very happy with me and I am most certain that U.S. Customs wouldn't have been happy with me.
Next Nacho introduced us to a nice young man named Pedro, who led us deep into the rainforest and to a river that flows into the mouth of a cave and through several deep, dark caverns. We were carrying intertubes on which we would float along the river's rapids and into the caves. I was very excited about his part of the trip as we were . I had feared that I might have frozen up a bit on the zip line (which I luckily didn't at all) but just knew that I would enjoy the river tubing. I love river tubing our rivers through north Georgia and North Carolina and this river was going to take me through caves! How great would that be?! Ah, but that was before Pedro informed me of the possibility of Boa Constrictors in the cave and in the river. I immediately turned on my heels, informed Pedro that it had been nice hiking with him, and I was turning around. He, of course, talked me out of it, but the damage was done and I was full of dread. Luckily, we didn't encounter a snake (at least not knowingly) but I was sadly mistaken to have thought that I was going to be so brave going through caves in pitch darkness with only the light of my head lamp (if I had it turned on) and the sound of water rushing around me. It was actually pretty scary and claustrophobic to me. Now looking back, I would do it again. Oh and then we played with the baby monkey some more.
I was sad to leave our friendly primate behind, but soon found another friend at the Belize Zoo. I am not a huge fan of zoos as they usually make me sad to see the wild animals caged, but Nacho informed us that Steve Irwin was a supporter of this zoo. I know what an animal lover and advocate for their rights he was, so I figured any zoo he thought was okay, must be a good place. So we decided to visit the zoo. And I am so glad that we made that decision as not only did this zoo house animals indigenous to Central America and I learned about animals that I had never seen before, but I made my best friend there. I made friends with a sweet little kitty. Okay, it was actually a Jaguar, but still such a sweetie! I actually got to touch and pet this Jaguar! (Not sure you were really supposed to do that, but Cynthia was, and I wasn't going to waste my chance of being close to one of these beautiful cats.) The best part of all was that the animals seemed happy here and I could tell that they were well cared for.
After about 9 hours of adventuring with Cynthia and Nacho our time with them came to an end. The next time I find myself in Belize, I am totally calling them to set up my vacation. They were incredible! I recommend anyone planning to vist there to give them a call!
After a day that busy, I crashed out early. I needed the rest! Plus I wanted to be ready for our exploration of Mayan ruins the next day.
At 8:00 a.m. we were picked up by Leah and her mom of Experience Belize Tours. You can't meet a nicer couple of people if you tried! They drove us to the anciet Maya site of Altun-Ha. Being enthralled with history and in particular the mysteries of the Maya, I was looking forward to this. We had a wonderful surprise once we survived the teeth-chattering road and arrived at the site. We had the whole site to ourselves! So it was only me with Best Friend and our very informative guide, Anne-Marie. It was eerie to wander the grounds without the crowds of people and it felt almost as if we were the discoverers of these ancient temples. The city of Altun-Ha was a holy and peaceful city it its day. I had visited the site of Chichen Itza in Mexico several years ago and it had a totally different feel about it than this place, as Chichen Itza was a city of warriors who partook in violence and human sacrifices. After climbing the temples of Altun-ha, we went to the quarry (now a crocodile-infested pond) where the rock used to build the temples was gathered. To get there, we had to take a path through the jungle. Along the way, we spotted tracks in the mud of Belize's National Animal--the very strange Tapir. That was cool to me. I sort of felt like Dora the Explorer (only cooler).
After lunch of rice and beans, Leah and her mom took us to the airport. I found it a little hard to say good-bye to Belize so soon. I found a million and one more things I would like to do such as visiting the Baboon Sanctuary, the Crooked River Reserve, treking the Maya Mountains to waterfalls, snorkeling out on the Cayes, checking out the Blue Hole, and visiting more Mayan sites. Oh yeah--and zip lining again! Looks like I will be coming back.
Belize is a great place for adventurers and a wonderful place to visit and according to the catchy--no cheesy, actually--Belize tourism slogan : You better Belize it!