Belize... You've got to see it, to Belize it.
This was our thatched roof, screened in, log cabana, home away from home during
our first trip to Central America. We chose to stay in the interior of the country
(in the jungle) as opposed to the coastal area.
We set out on Thursday morning on the 8:00 am flight to Miami. All went
well, and since we had about a three hour lay over, we decided to just hang out in the
Admiral's Club (the American Airlines lounge). Our flight from Miami to San Pedro
Sula, Honduras on Taca Airlines, a Central American carrier, departed on time and the
service enroute was really good. We were pleasantly surprised, because we hadn't
heard really good things about Taca (a.k.a. Take A Chance Airline). We had to check
in at the gate in Honduras, as we were not able to get our boarding passes in Barbados for
the last leg of our flight. While attempting to do this, we were informed that the
flight was oversold, and that we would be put on the stand-by list. Needless to say, I was
furious since we had purchased our tickets over two months in advance, but we all know
that it doesn't do any good to get upset, so I just tried to step to the side and let Mark
handle it. Unfortunately for us, we did not make it onto the flight and Taca had to
arrange for overnight accommodations for us in San Pedro Sula. They put us up at an
Inter-Continental, which was a beautiful hotel. The staff was so accommodating,
which made a bad situation seem not quite so bad. I called the lodge in Belize to
let them know that we would not be arriving as scheduled and we settled in for the night.
On Wednesday morning, our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:20 am (this was our second early morning in a row - you all know what morning people Mark and I are!!). Anyway, we left on time, however, the flight was not a direct flight to Belize - we first flew to El Salvador, and then into Belize, arriving at about 9:30 in the morning. Our transportation, which we had arranged with the lodge, was waiting for us at the exit, and so finally, we set off toward the jungle!!
The staff at Blancaneaux Lodge was so sympathetic to our situation that they upgraded us to the honeymoon cabana!! It was really a nice little thatched-roof bungalow, right above the waterfall on the river that ran through the property. The entire resort was very secluded - it is set right in the middle of a 150,000 acres forest reserve and is 45 minutes from the nearest paved road (accessed by old dirt logging roads). There is no electricity in the area, so the resort has their own miniature hydro-electric plant. We should have been clued in when the web site advertised 24 hour electricity as a perk!!
Belize, previously known as British Honduras, lies on the East coast of Central America in the heart of the Caribbean Basin, bordering on Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the West and South, and flanked by the Caribbean Sea to the East.
The cayes(pronounced keys), the offshore atolls, and the barrier reef are the
main attraction to Belize. The barrier reef, which is 185 miles long, is the longest
barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, and is the second largest in the world (Australia
possessing the largest).
Belize is also blessed with an outstanding archaeological heritage of Maya temples and palaces. It is known that the Maya occupation began as early as 1500 B.C., and although it began its decline in 900 A.D., some Maya cultural centers continued to be occupied until contact with the Spanish in the 1500's. During the classic period (250 A.D. to 900 A.D.), the population of Belize exceeded well over one million people, and it is believed that Belize was the heart of the Maya civilization at that time.
The current population of approximately 200,000 people consists of a mixture of
Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese, and
Eastern Indian. Due to racial harmony and religious tolerance, all of these different
elements have mixed and blended successfully, and Belize has gained a widespread
reputation for its friendly people.
Caracol - The most recently discovered of the Mayan ruins, Caracol sits another hour plus into the preserve and farther from civilization. "Currently in the state of excavation and restoration, Caracol is the largest known Maya center in Belize. The largest pyramid in Caracol, "Canaa" (Sky Place), rises 140 feet high, and it is the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize. Since Caracol is located in the Chiquibul Rain Forest, there is a plethora of flora and fauna to enhance the true beauty of this magnificent Maya center." (from Belizenet.com) What they fail to tell you in the web site info, is that the guided tour of Caracol lasts about 2 1/2 hours, and you will walk up and down several hundred Mayan steps. These are not any ordinary steps, as the Maya built them for safety from attackers - a person (enemy) cannot run up the stairs since each riser is about 2-3 times as tall as our modern steps. Despite the steps, the tour was fascinating, and we also got to see some wild life enroute. We were nearly trampled by a herd of wild jungle pigs (peccaries), but we managed to stay out of their path. A few minutes after we saw the pigs, we heard this incredible noise (it sounded like a human crying out in pain). It turns out that it was just a howler monkey, and our guide took us through the brush so that we could see him. We knew it was a male, as only the males can howl. We were very lucky though, because we actually got to see a whole family - a male, a female, and three others that were smaller in size (don't know if they were male or female). This incredible discovery was a great way to end our tour! Our guide had the table set with our boxed lunch when we returned to the site entrance. The setting was so peaceful (except for the howling) and we had a very enjoyable lunch.
Barton Creek Caves - On Easter Sunday, we went for a tour of the Barton Creek Caves which is explored by canoe, using a large hand held spotlight for illumination. We went 1 1/2 miles back into the mountains, but luckily our tour price included having a guide who did the paddling! The caves were used for ceremonial purposes by the Maya, and you can still see remnants of pottery and skulls in the cave. The caves themselves are estimated to be about 2000 years old, and the stalagmite/stalactite formations were incredible.
The restaurant at the lodge had really good food which was a good thing, since you essentially had no other choices. We lunched a couple of different times on Blancaneaux's famous wood-oven pizza. I should probably fill in with a little background info here ... Blancaneaux is owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and he had the wood stove and the espresso/cappuccino machines imported from Italy. So, they really are famous for their pizza and their coffee. The lodge also had nightly dinner specials, one of which was local seafood. As I said, the food was great, and the atmosphere incredible!
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