Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Location: Xunantunich - an adventure in Belize

Location: Xunantunich - an adventure in Belize

Few might know that Belize was known as British Honduras... in Central America. It's the only country in C.A. where English is spoken. Belize is known for its luscious tropical jungle, spectacular coral reef (second only to Australia's) and old Mayan civilization. One of the most amazing Mayan cities discovered within the jungle is Xunantunich, which is located about 2 hours by bus from the port of Belize City. The drive is almost boring with no interesting landscapes, except for the far away glance at a mountain range called the Mayan Mountains, which resembles a sleeping giant. The rest of the way is cut across the outskirts of Belmopan, the capital, and other smaller villages, where you can see the underdeveloped infrastructure of the small country.

The Mayan Mountains resemble a sleeping giant
To get into Xunantunich Mayan city, we need to cross the Mopan river, near the border with Guatemala, by a hand cranked ferryboat- this crossing is no longer than 5 minutes. Once on the other side of the river, it takes about a mile uphill to the site (yes, you can hike, but you can also go by horse back or van...). There are still many temples and edifices buried within the jungle. The main structure is El Castillo, the main temple, a spectacular pyramid that rises 130 feet above the ground and it's one of the very few pyramids that you can climb if you dare. The climb is steep and challenging; descent is worse... so be careful when adventuring yourself on these steps. However, the view from the top is significantly worth it. You can just imagine the powerful priest addressing the population down below and performing sacrifices to their gods. It's a bewildering image and not to be forgotten - a magnificent jungle all the way down the horizon and the remnants of the Mayan city down below... bringing us a sensation of the peace and beauty our world has to offer, which we all should embrace. 

Beautiful Mopan river
Note on local cuisine: On our way out of Xunantunich, we stopped at a local restaurant (Benny's) to savor the delicious Caribbean cuisine, consisting of rice and red beans cooked in coconut milk, fried plantains, and a coleslaw type salad. (For non vegetarians, there was also chicken!). The restaurant was clean and well kept and it's owned by a local family, and it seems to be a favorite tourist stop for most tours coming in and out of Xunantunich, in the town of San Ignacio.

El Castillo - you can climb to the top

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