Xunantunich & Cahal Pech

Trip Start Dec 14, 2011
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Flag of Belize  , Cayo,
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Me and Juliette visited the Maya ruins of Xunantunich briefly in 2001 on our way to Guatemala. Today we get to explore this magnificent archaeological site once again. High and strong, Xunantunich is located on top of a hill over looking the surrounding jungle, rivers and farmland, the view is one of the best for a Maya Ruin.

Located just 20min by bus from San Ignacio, an easy independent day trip. We hopped on a Benque bound bus and kindly asked the driver to drops us off at the river crossing to Xunantunich. After a brief interruption by a bull on the highway, we arrived at the river crossing in no time.

Unlike 10 years ago, where me and Juliette are the only ones visiting this site, and wondering if we are going to get robbed by bandits jumping out of the dense jungle or taken for lunch by Jaguars. Today, flocks of tourist with shuttle vans and 4WD jeeps are waiting by the only river crossing to the ruins. There are of course a line of  souvenirs stands by the river and a proper tourist sign was in place. We were glad to see however, the river crossing hasn't changed, still a hand cranked floatation platform that allows one car at a time. It is only matter of time that a bridge will be build with this kind of traffic.

A hike up the hill is still hot and sweaty as we both remembered, but the road is now paved and the surrounding jungle less intrusive. Once we arrived at the gate, and paid for the entry, we realized Xunantunich has become a popular tourist attraction. A group of American teenagers following their tour leader were ahead of us, and a smaller group of Texans (judging by their accent and waist line) were behind us, we hurried to get ahead of the crowd.

Xunantunich, still magnificent, still surround by jungle of howling monkeys and birds, still a steep climb to the top, and still mostly in ruins. Perfect. The view at the top of the highest pyramid is the best of any Maya ruins in my opinion. We snapped some photos, and rested at the top for a while until the large group found us, then it's time to go. We wished to stay longer, but the tourist crowd is getting larger, and it wasn't fun anymore. We had another ruin to visit, so off we go.

After lunch back in San Ignacio, we visited Cahal Pech, a smaller ruins within walking distance of San Ignacio. Cahal Pech has nothing spectacular, just a simple ruin with a plaza and few reconstructed pyramids and temples. But the best part is that at near closing time, we almost have the entire site to ourselves. We climbed to the highest point, watching the sunset color turned orange, listening to the wind brush through the leaves, and observing the hawks flying overhead and search for dinner. Capping off a wonderful day.

We always like this part of Belize, San Ignacio never disappoints.
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