Day of the Ruins

After seeing the underworld of the Maya, Amy and I decided it was time to check out some of the middleworld. Maya culture accounts for an underworld, middleworld, and upperworld. First we had to grab some breakfast, so we checked out Hanna’s which is recommended by Lonely Planet guide books. It lived up to its reputation fulfilling Alex and my appetites with giant breakfast burritos, Tyler with french toast, Nick with pancakes, and Amy with an omelette. Nick had a glass of watermelon juice, which got passed around the table with many gulps. After filling our stomachs we went to the bank and headed for Xunantunich (shoo-nahn-too-neech) near the Guatemalan border. Tyler got the pronunciation down quickly and helped the rest of us slow learners. Xuantunich is known as Belize’s most impressive archaeological sites. It lived up to its reputation. We were concerned the boys would be bored seeing the ruins and touring the site, but we were surprised by how into the history they actually were. They are fascinated by the stories and I think they like to hear the gory details about the human sacrifices that took place at these sites. I love to sit there and picture what life was like for the people of the city and what there ceremonies must have been like. Xunantunich may have been occupied as early as 1000 B.C. over 3000 years ago! The glory days for the city came between 700 and 850 A.D. when it help control the Belize River Valley. By 1000 A.D. it was all but abandoned after partially surviving the initial Classic Maya collapse around 850 A.D. The highlight and most dominating structure is El Castillo.

El Castillo of Xunantunich

It stands 130 feet high and was built as the ancestral shrine. All of us climbed to the top to enjoy the 360 degree views of Belize and neighboring Guatemala. One of the things you notice outside of the U.S. is the lack of extra safety precautions. Atop of El Castillo there were no safety ropes or netting. I guess they just figure you should have enough common sense to not fall off. While on top of the structure we eaves dropped on a guide talking about the rituals performed on the temple. One of the things the Maya did to appease the Gods was bloodletting. Bloodletting is when you puncture or cut yourself to pay tribute to your God or Gods. The elite female Maya would run a thorn studded rope through their tongue. Males would use a stingray spine as a lancet to pierce different body parts, like the king who would pierce his penis. OUCH! I guess it would not be good to be the king.

To enter and leave Xunantunich was another treat for boys in the form of a hand cranked ferry. The ferry would carry us across the Mopan River. The ferryman let the kids crank the ferry, which was a big hit.

Hand cranked ferry on the Mopan River

Once across the river we headed back to the hotel for some R&R and a swim. Like the title says this was a day of the ruins, so we headed down the road to another site called Cahal Pech. This one was only a walk away just down the hill from the hotel. We were curious to see if there were any differences between sites. Also, Emil had told us that the museum there was pretty cool. He was right. The small museum had many Mayan artifacts. What made this experience even more interesting was the fact we were visiting late in the day. The light was fading and the park was literally empty. We were the only people around. Talk about cool. Imagine being in the jungle at twilight surrounded by ancient Maya ruins dating back to 1500 B.C. Cahal Pech is the oldest Maya site in Belize. It was a totally different experience than Xunantunich.

Peaking into another time at Cahal Pech

At the end of the visit to the site we were treated to a flock of Collared Aracari’s also called little necklace Toucan. What a beautiful bird.

Collared Aracari

It was a perfect end to the days adventures.

-Tony 11/18/09

P.S. Thank you to everyone that has commented on the blog. We have received your messages and will get back to you when we can. The internet service is a little sketchy.

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