Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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06 September 2007
Lots and lots of Mayan ruins
OK, back in business after a few days of waiting for Hurricane Felix, which turned out to be something of a non-event. It did dump several inches of rain out here in western Belize, which had an impact on some of the cave tubing trips but was otherwise no big deal.

Today I did a tour to Caracol, largest Mayan ruin site in Belize. Led by guide Jorge and driven by a funny little guy named Everald, both of whom work for Mayawalk Tours, we were a fairly small group of two British couples and myself. The drive out to Caracol started off along some nice paved roads that took us past several Mennonite farms. (Can I just say how bizarre it is to see Amish-looking people in middle-of-nowhere Belize??? Yet another piece of Pennsylvania here in Central America.) But then we veered off the main road onto one of the bumpiest paths I've encountered since the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Part of it was due to the recent rains, but I got the sense that these dirt roads are never in particularly good shape. We did pass through two distinct ecosystems -- pine forests on one side of the river, and rain forests on the other -- which was pretty cool. Unfortunately some nasty beetles brought in by Hurricane Mitch had destroyed most of the pine trees several years back, but it looked like they were starting to make a comeback.

After about an hour of frog-in-a-blender jouncing and bumping, we finally arrived at the park. Thank god! Jorge led us through a lush forest trail and gave us a history lesson along the way. He used rocks and stumps on the trail to illustrate the complex interdependencies, alliances, and wars between the largest Mayan civilizations of the region: Caracol in Belize, Tikal and Naranjo in Guatemala, and Calakmul in Mexico. Belizeans are quite proud of the fact that Caracol defeated Tikal, twice. After Jorge finished, we were all a bit dizzy with information overload. If you care to know the gory details, you can read more about Caracol here.

We spent the next two hours clambering over various structures: temples, a ballcourt, and some spooky dank tombs. There's a lot to see at this site, but it's still only a fraction of the entire city. As with Tikal and most other sites, the jungle has encroached over time and still covers most of the temples and residences. They have done a pretty good job of reconstructing some of the jaguar masks on the sides of the temples, which illustrate scenes from the various levels of Mayan heaven and underworld (Xibalba). And some of the stelae show representations of the most powerful rulers in great detail, including the dwarves which were considered sacred attendants to the king.

We had some lunch at the visitor center -- standard chicken-with-rice fare, which is pretty frickin tasty when you're ravenous -- and continued on to the Rio Frio cave and Rio On Pools. The cave was OK. No bats or anything, and we saw the entire thing in about ten minutes. We were hoping to get to swim in the pools, but with the recent flooding the river was dangerously high and all we could do was stand at the overlook and look forlornly at the lovely cool water below. Oh well.

All in all, it was a nice day, and felt good to be getting out and about in the world after several days of waiting around.
Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
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