A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Into the Belize Jungle

Animals, caves and chocolate, by Fraser

sunny 28 °C

There was lots to do in San Ignacio, Belize! We were there for three days.

My favourite part was making chocolate the Mayan way. We had to peel the skins from the cacao beans and grind the beans until they were a powder or paste. The grinding stone had a rough side and a smooth side and was rubbed against a slab of volcanic rock. Then we had hot chocolate. It was yucky without sugar. We added sugar or honey to make it better, but I still gave it to Daddy. The lady mixed in some cinnamon, allspice, and sugar to make Mayan chocolate. Daddy bought some finished chocolate that was made with Chile peppers. We got Snickers instead.

The next morning we went to the Barton Creek Caves. We went in a canoe through a cave with stalactites and bats. I sat in the front and held the light. The guide told us that the Mayans thought this was part of their underworld, called Xibalba. I liked the bats, but Mommy freaked out!


Later, we went to the Green Iguana Sanctuary. They hatch female iguanas because they need protection. They only have a few males, the boss was orange and they called him Oscar. We got to hold the iguanas and I had the longest one. Ailsa got to hold the first one, they like to grab on to the girls braided hair. The guide put all the babies on Mirren and Daddy. It was really fun!


Our last adventure was a chicken bus ride to the Blue Hole National Park. We hiked through the rain forest. We arrived to see a light bright blue pool that was very deep at one end. It was surrounded by rock cliffs. We swam with the fishes. It was refreshing.


Tomorrow we say goodbye to Belize and walk across the border to Guatemala.

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 12:15 Archived in Belize Comments (1)

Happy Go Luckie in Hopkins

Garifuna Drumming and Snorkelling on my birthday, by Mirren

sunny 32 °C

Happy Birthday to me! We just finished two weeks on the beach in Hopkins, Belize. It is a small coastal fishing village of a few thousand people. It is a Garifuna settlement, the people are descendents of shipwrecked African slaves and Island Caribs with a distinct culture, language and music; especially drumming. I am going to write about our experience in Hopkins while my Daddy helps with the details.

The day after we arrived in Hopkins, Ailsa and I had our hair braided. It took 5 hours! That night we had Miss Marva's Hudut - a Garifuna stew of fish, coconut milk and mashed plantains (we all helped them mash the plantains) - while we listened to a drumming concert. Our family got called to the front and had to do a dance that showed something we do at home, so we did a conga line pretending to shovel snow.


On most days we enjoyed swimming in the ocean at least once if not more, reading books and relaxing. It was very hot, but there is no ice cream store. Daddy made dairy-free sorbets for us. He made Coconut, Mint Dark Chocolate, and Pineapple flavours. My favourite was the Coconut.


On my birthday, we went on a snorkelling adventure to see the second largest barrier reef in the world. Our guide was Luckie from Happy Go Luckie Tours while Beaver drove the boat. They spoke Garifunian to each other. First we saw Bird Island, where the Frigate birds puffed up their red gullet sacks like a balloon to attract a mate. Then we went snorkelling near Carrie Bow Caye. We saw starfish, stingrays, a nurse shark, eel, sea cucumber, anemones, barracuda, and tonnes of colourful fish and reef corals. We saw hundreds of conch shells, and Luckie found a live one so we could feel the rubbery conch while it was still in its shell! We had a BBQ on Bread and Butter Caye for lunch before snorkelling again at Wee Wee Caye. It was my favourite experience so far on the trip.


On our last day, we all took a drumming lesson. Jabbar taught us different punta rhythms and beats. We still need a lot of practice.


Before we left we were each given a Horse-eye seed. In some cultures they believe the seeds are lucky. I think we were lucky to be in Hopkins.

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 06:03 Archived in Belize Comments (4)

Different as Day and Night

The Belize Zoo, by Norm

rain 26 °C

The Belize Zoo was high on the list of things to see on our trip. The 'Best Little Zoo in the World' is actually a rehabilitation and conservation effort. The Zoo exhibits indigenous animals only once it has been determined that they cannot be released back into the wild. Many of the animals were rescued from road accidents or as orphaned young. They run a Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation program to relocate nuisance animals away from populated areas to an area they will have a greater chance at survival.

We saw cats, tapirs, monkeys, and numerous birds and rodents (Shona's favourite!).


Fraser was excited to see Junior Buddy, a jaguar born into captivity who was ineligible for release into the wild. One of the first Early Reader books that Fraser loved was a several year old hand-me-down book about Junior Buddy's birth and first year of life at the Belize Zoo. After reading the book to Fraser at bedtime again and again and again... we wondered if Junior Buddy may still be alive and staying in the public viewing area of the zoo when we came to visit. How excited we all were when a georgeous adult male jaguar came sauntering out from behind a tree in the enclosure and the guide said "hello Junior Buddy!". He acts as a giant playful housecat that likes to lick bald people's heads (you could sit in cage inside his enclosure and have your head licked) and does somersaults. He did not fail to entertain us.


What made the difference at the Zoo was the night tour. Guides from the Zoo took us through the grounds at night to see the nocturnal animals. There were several animals that were active and visible that were curled up during our day trip. The animals know that the zookeepers give them snacks at night, so they came right up to the fence for feeding and a closer look. The guide also howled for a response from the howler monkeys, who made noise the rest of the night. Mirren held a boa constrictor, Ailsa fed and petted a tapir, and Fraser got to see Junior Buddy the jaguar up close.

We spent the night at the Tropical Education Center, run by the Zoo. We stayed in a pond house over water that is home to turtles and alligators. Mirren bravely and adamantly slept the night in a hammock in the screen-enclosed porch but did not see any alligators. (Shona did not sleep that night.)


This place was so impressive. We met a few people who were living and interning at the Tropical Education Centre. Ailsa is already planning her return trip when she is their age.

Next stop, the Beach!

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 20:56 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Ek Balam & Sak'awa Cenote

A local boy guides us to a beautiful underground swimming hole, by Ailsa

sunny 35 °C

After spending the night in a traditionally built palm-roofed hut we headed to Ek Balam to explore the ruins there. These ruins are smaller than Chichen Itza but we could climb the pyramid and touch the stones as practically nothing was roped off and the jungle was close on every side. We were the only visitors there for the first hour of the day so it felt really cool like we were discovering something in the middle of the jungle.


Once the tour buses began to arrive we decided to leave and look for a cenote to cool off in. There is one at Ek Balam, but it sees lots of visitors each day and we were looking for something a little less touristy. A few villages further on we met a boy about my age who said he would show us a private cenote. He rode in our car and gave us directions. I couldn't understand what he said his name was so we just smiled at him. We parked our car and paid the landowner, SeƱor Antonio, to visit his cenote. We took a long path through the forest until we reached a huge hole in the ground. There was a wooden staircase which we climbed down and when we got to the bottom we looked around and saw turquoise blue water surrounding a little island, lots of little fish swimming around and vines, moss and trees stretching down from the ground above us. We threw on our swimsuits and tested out the water with our toes. It felt so good because it was cold and we were really hot from climbing the ruins. We swam around and then noticed a platform that we used to jump off into the middle of the cenote. We swam for about an hour until our parents made us get out and get dressed again. I would have stayed there for five hours.


We climbed back out into the heat and got back in the car. We dropped our new friend off and headed to our next stop: Valladolid, to find our hotel and get some lunch.

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 14:02 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins cenote Comments (0)

Rhymes with chicken pizza!

Chichen Itza, by Mirren

sunny 30 °C

We checked into the hotel on the grounds of Chichen Itza but the site was closed to visitors for the night. Instead we got to go swimming in the hotel pool. I was cool with that! The hotel was really fancy and the huge breakfast the next morning was delicious. Here is the view of the Observatory at Chichen Itza from the window in our room:


The gates near our hotel opened early so we got to the ruins before any tour buses and had the whole place practically to ourselves. We made sure we had our sun hats, water to drink and our camera and went to meet our guide. Barrio has been a guide at archaeological sites all over Central America for the last 25 years and he told us all about the Mayans. Their human sacrifices, war strategies, ball games, calendar, religious beliefs and their building techniques. Only 4% of Chichen Itza has been excavated. The other 96% is still covered by the jungle.

The main pyramid was built so that on Solstice (longest day or shortest day) and Equinox (same length of day and night) the sun casts a shadow that makes it look like there are snakes crawling up and down the sides. There are four main sacred themes that were repeated on a lot of carvings on the buildings: jaguar (nighttime sky), eagle (daytime sky), snake (Mother Earth) and mask (mankind). At one special spot outside of the main pyramid we could clap and the echo sounded like an eagle's cry. It was pretty amazing!


The ball court was a bit like a quidditch pitch. And all the snake carvings made us think of Harry Potter! Very cool!!


By 10 am it was too hot in the sun for us and it was starting to get busy so we headed back for another swim in the pool!

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 09:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 6) Page [1] 2 » Next