Trip Start Feb 09, 2010
37Trip End Mar 23, 2010
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Where I stayed
We were up before the alarm this morning & had time for a nice relaxed breakfast on the hotel's outdoor dining area before meeting our group to head to the ruins of Caracol. We joined 4 others, 2 women and a man and his daughter, along with our guide, Bruce, for the 2 hour drive on a deeply rutted dirt road that only a high centered four wheel drive vehicle could handle. We enjoyed seeing the Caribbean pine forest and Bruce informed us of lots of interesting details about the country we were passing through.
Caracol was a delight, even after seeing it immediately after Tikal. It’s a much smaller site in a very remote setting – took 2 hours to drive here, mostly on a deeply rutted dirt road with military escort (for our safety). Bruce spent 17 years working with the Dept
We learned that today Belize has 300,000 people, but at the height of the Mayan classical period there were 5 million! Each small residential structure housed 5-6 people and there was no jungle, or very little, too many people. We saw several tombs – without bodies, bones or treasures, and learned that when a person died (not royalty) they were placed in a tomb (which was previously a storage area) under the floor of the house. When the next family member died, the bones of the first were pushed to the side and the new occupant took up residence in the tomb. I didn’t ask, but I’m assuming they didn’t still store the corn and potatoes there.
We learned lots about the plants around us also – such as, the Ceiba tree – the humongous Guatemalan national tree – that holds up to 2000 gallons of water. Wow. This tree was and is sacred to the Mayans because it symbolized the relationship between the gods, earth and the people.
The ceremonial and market plaza is impressive, but nothing to the main plaza which houses the Caana and three other pyramids around the perimeter. The Caana (sky palace) structure is huge – both in height and width – and when we reached what we thought was the top we found that there is another whole plaza way up there
WOW doesn’t begin to describe our reaction when we stood at the top, above the jungle canopy, and could see for hundreds of miles. Unfortunately, our photos can’t convey the majesty of the site. Our mouths were hanging open – till a bug flew into mine. Our 2 new friends, Betsy and Andreanna were equally in awe. Troy and I agree that while Tikal’s Temple 4 is taller, the view here takes the cake. Maybe it’s seeing the enormity of the structures below (Tikal’s temples are not as wide), I don’t know, but standing at the top of Caracol will be remembered as one of the highlights of our lives.
OK, time for some fun now. Bruce and Mel were sitting at the bottom of the opposing structure clear across the plaza. They could hear us when we faced them from the top of the pyramid and spoke quietly. Betsy soon had Bruce waving, scratching his nose, clapping from about 500 yards away…. Amazing acoustics. We realized that the Mayans must have been able to talk back and forth from pyramid top to the bottom of these great plazas without even raising their voices. Back at the entrance to the ruins we had a delicious lunch and great conversation followed by a trip to 'Rio on Pools’ a section of river with fun little pools, waterfalls and more pools. We had planned to swim, but the day wasn’t quite warm enough – probably in the mid 70’s, cloudy with a light breeze. It was fun wading and jumping from one rock formation to another though. We really enjoyed our group and all talked non-stop the whole way back to the hotel where we continued talking over drinks until after dark.
After dinner and a shower (how did we get so sticky?) it was time for bed – 11:00pm already? That was one fast, fun day.