There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

Definition of Walkabout :

a short period of wandering as an occasional interruption of regular work
Showing posts with label Belize. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Belize. Show all posts

15 February 2014

the lesser known ruins of the Mayan

The rain poured in torrential buckets during Belize's "dry season". Another reminder that Mother Nature has a mind of her own, regardless of a traveler's plans. If one is mindful of this fact, and can bend and sway with the changes, unexpected adventures lay in wait.

The rivers swelled and flooded all roads leading to the more infamous Mayan ruins I initially wanted to see. Day after day everyone was hopeful the waters would recede, but on my last full day in country, the realization hit that this wasn't going to happen.

So I ended up going to Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit.
Lubaantun is in the lush jungle, just beyond the beautiful little village of Toledo. When first discovered, the archaeologist's used dynamite to unearth the ruins, sadly blowing up each structure in the process.

A crystal skull ( just like in the Indiana Jones movie) was found and stolen by Americans back in the 1940's. The Belize government is working with the US to try and retrieve this part of their cultural heritage, but without much success. They believe it is sitting in someone's home in Indiana.
Among the ruins we find natural abundance in the jungle, from coco beans to gum trees, plants that help with aging to herbal remedies for diabetes.
As I was walking between the great fallen ruins, I hear a thunderously loud crack from the sky. No more than a few feet from me, a great tree branch falls from high above, smashing on the ruins below. A powerful reminder of my small place in this vast world.
Before we go to the next site, we stop in Toledo to eat at a local restaurant. The husband/wife that run the place are amazingly friendly, and the local cuisine was out of this world. Toasting over belikins, we all enjoy the hearty feast.
Nim Li Punit is collection of Stela ( erect stones with engravings on them) in a stunning remote lush green jungle setting. The second largest Stela found so far is here, rising to a little over nine meters.
Stories of ritual human sacrifice are told in the engravings, from disembowelment to the cutting off of men's penises.

Brutal fascination in the realm of religion and fear of one's diety.
Erect stones in a courtyard are believed to be the markings of the Mayan calendar.
I find the stone marking for January, and revel in what will be a New Year the following day. On the last day of 2013, I wish for peace, hope and good health for the upcoming three hundred and sixty five days.


11 February 2014

Maya Beach

Last summer I came across a random blog post about the country of Belize. I'm pretty sure it was one Google search later that took me to TripAdvisor where the Maya Beach Hotel stood out to me as the place I should stay.

Not hardly any research was put into it, more of a feeling that this was the country to go visit, and Maya Beach Hotel was the place to stay.

It's how I roll when I travel. Was it worth the gamble? I arrived after dusk, and the lobby was tiny and cramped, to say the least. Behind the front desk was the gentleman I'd been emailing with the previous months about various things, so I did feel good that he was there and checking me in.

"Let me take to your place where you can get refreshed, then come back to the bar anytime and we'll get you something to eat."

We go around the corner and in the pitch black darkness I hear ocean waves, but no lights lead the way to my abode. Then we come to a house with outside porch lights on....
I wonder which room will be mine, and how intrusive it will be having others staying here as well. That didn't last long though as I was informed the entire place was for me.

This is more like it! A few steps to the ocean, a large patio deck for my leisure, and no neighbors close by.
I had nothing but time. Time to read pages as the waves lapped against the shore. Time to nap in my hammock, listening to the breeze.
Time to ride a local bike into town and shop in the local store for necessities, filling my basket to the brim.
I'd sit on the pier for hours, watching stingrays fly out of the ocean and flap as they would catch the sun's rays before descending. Needle fish would feed below me, picking food off the wooden pier posts in the water. Jellyfish would occasionally pass by. All manner of birds would eat in the abundant waters.
From glorious sunrises to humbling sunsets, I was taking it all in. ( When I wasn't gorging on the succulent cuisine the hotel offered. Truly out of this world!)
After a week here, boarding our little puddle jumper to take me back Stateside was bittersweet. Bitter because of not wanting to leave the special little town of Placencia in Belize.
Sweet because at least I was able to go.

08 January 2014

the inexplicable pull to False Caye

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I'm terribly afraid of sharks.

Deathly afraid. Fear paralyzes my body and I have a hard time even putting my feet in the ocean, let alone my whole body.

Kayaking on the ocean would be quite the feat, as sharks can eat kayaks. Snorkeling? forget about it....

One of the reasons I chose to go to Belize was to confront these fears, to kayak and snorkel in the ocean. Sitting on the pier my first morning in Placencia, sipping coffee, the distant island of False Caye was calling to me, tempting me to come explore the unknown....

I inquired with the hotel staff about how long it took to kayak out to the Caye.

" oh, about twenty minutes..."  I should have realized that was twenty minutes in slow pace Caribbean time.

Regardless, I got a one person kayak, loaded up my backpack, snorkel gear, and courage, and started paddling.
Almost an hour later, battling unrealistic fears of prehistoric monsters rising from the waves lapping against my kayak and swallowing me whole, I arrived at the Caye. The waters were amazingly clear,  the beauty of the ocean floor as visible as objects through a new window. A window to a new world.
I started by kayaking the entirely of the island, feeling like Robinson Crusoe exploring a new land. I find a small bit of dirt as most of the island is made of mangroves, and beach for a spell to have lunch and give my arms a much needed rest.
After some water and dried fruit, I ready myself to see the ocean from a new perspective, and get my snorkeling gear ready. I wasn't going to head into any deep water, but anxiety was starting to take over.

So before it could rear it's ugly head, I drop anchor on the kayak, and into the water I plunge....
The rest of the story, as they say, is history.

05 January 2014

The Monkey river

Cruising slowly up Belize's Monkey river is a nice and relaxing way to see some indigenous creatures of Central America, from the expected birds, to the not so expected.....
from the tiny bats we found (pictured above) to colorful turtles, iguanas, and crocodiles, the jungle never disappoints or amazes me. The birds weren't skittish as we approached, in fact they seemed to patiently pose until we had the perfect shot.
After traveling up river for a time, I was surprised as the boat docked along the muddy shore, and we exited into the jungle. I knew that part of the excursion included searching for black howler monkeys, but I had no idea we would actually be walking around in the jungle to search for them.

We didn't have to search far. In the mighty trees directly above us, the prehistoric sound reverberated down. A hauntingly King Kong cry came from these creatures, which pierced one's tortured soul.

Howler monkeys are the third loudest animal on the planet, with only lions and the blue whale being louder.
Families of monkeys were moving quickly through the trees, as us onlookers were trying to get a photo of them while avoiding falling monkey pee and poop.
In addition to the black howler monkeys, the jungle held other surprises for us. Groves of bamboo, deadly tree branches with painful stickers, colorful mushrooms with a poisonous bite ( it would be your last bite), and edible termites.
As we made our way back to the Monkey river entrance, we docked at Monkey River town to have lunch with the locals, which is always a favorite experience of mine.

02 January 2014

rappelling down a waterfall???...

It was a twenty minute short hike to our destination, the top of Bocawina Falls. The group was in good spirits, just full of exactly does one rappel down a waterfall?

The sound of water pounding rock as it was cascading down the mountain grew from a distant sound to a deafening roar. The thickness of the jungle though blocked our view of the river until we reached the top.

As we were strapping on our gear, a couple of us peered over the edge....

"We are going down that?"
I was quickly second guessing my decision to do this. I mean lets face reality, I'm no spring chicken, and having a busted leg was not part of my holiday plans in Belize.
As we all slowly made our way across the river towards where the rope was tied to a tree on the other side, people were already slipping on the moss covered rocks and falling.

Not a good sign as we hadn't even started yet!

The descent was one hundred and twenty five feet. After a quick tutorial on how to safely descend ( lean back, move slow, legs spread apart, don't panic! ), the guide asked who wanted to go first. I volunteered. The rest of the group breathed a sigh of relief.
As I started to go and the waterfall spray soaked my body, adrenaline took over. Panic disappeared. I felt like it took me forever, but I rappelled Bocawina Falls without falling once!

As it turned out, I was the only one in our group to do so. As one guy later told me.. "You made that look easy".
My back, legs and arms were twitching from the strength it took to get this completed, so I'm not sure about how EASY it was, but it certainly was exhilarating.

01 January 2014

zip lining at Bocawina

I've always wanted to try a zip line somewhere, but haven't had the opportunity. Finding myself in the Bocawina Falls National Park in Belize changed all of that.

Bocawina has the longest zip line in Central America, and as we are getting geared up our guide tells us that after a short hike in the jungle, we'll be zipping to eight different tree house stations, with the longest section covering a half mile, going at a minimum speed of sixty miles per hour.

My heart was racing from adrenaline.
We start by doing a small test section to give each of us a feel what to do, proper hand placement, etc...
I'm nervous, but their are many in our group that is also doing this for the first time, so I'm not the only one with the jitters.

My time for the first section comes, and after being securely strapped in, off I go....
I must have been more nervous than I thought though, as I hand braked too soon and came up about ten feet short of the subsequent tree house landing platform. Doh!

I pull myself hand over hand along the cable to the platform. Lesson learned. The next section I was determined to not let that happen again....
Flying through the trees high above the ground, I successfully make it to the next section. With each zip, my form improves, the rush becoming greater and greater!
The zip line at Bocawina certainly was an incredible experience!

31 December 2013

finding manatees in Belize

The boat is skimming quickly across the calm waters, navigating around mangrove cayes with ease. The sun occasionally makes its presence felt through the Caribbean clouds.

We are on the search for manatees.

We find a open spot of water surrounded by mangroves to the east and west. You can catch glimpses of the ocean floor, perhaps fifteen to twenty feet below.

Manatees must come up to the surface every three to five minutes for a breath, so we know that if they are in this area, the waiting won't be long.
The beautiful tail of a Mother arches the waters surface, then splashes playfully down. Through the crystalline water we see a young calf next to the mothers side.

They head down to eat the sea grasses on the oceans floor, then rise again for us to see, over and over again.

28 December 2013

the Belize Jellies

Kayaking along the Belize coast, not a worry in the world. Most certainly a Holiday unlike any I've taken before, but one that I can easily get accustomed to.
To my right, a phantom image slowly appears from the Gulf of Mexico sea, moving with ghost like precision.

Then another, on my left....

My day just went from cool and relaxing to fan-freaking-tastic.

I love Nature.