After our belated ferry crossing ride back to Belize city, which included a complimentary sea shower (especially for the poor soul sitting right up back in the stern starboard side), we arrived back on the mainland just the two of us once more, Ben and I. But it wouldn’t be for long as we met a friendly couple to share a taxi to the nus station with, who we would randomly bump in to many more times over the coming weeks.
Our intention was to get to the bus station and make the trip south to Hopkins, a small fishing village, to experience more of Belize and the Creole culture. Arriving at the bus station, things however changed very quickly when we realised the bus to San Ignacio was right there leaving now, or we could wait hours (?) for the next bus south to Hopkins only to be dropped at some indesciminite location on the highway 7km from town. With a quick glace of unanimous approval shared between us, both hungover and looking for the easy option, I’m sure you know which option we chose 😉
Our first chicken bus ride was quite the experience, backpacks piled high in the back, and me crammed three on a seat just in front of Ben. Not far out of Belize city, he mentions his need for a rest stop – there was no time for pleasantaries as we’d tushed to make the bus. The ayudante (bus attendant) tells us it’s not far, not far, however an hour later we are still yet to stop. You know someone is desperate for the bathroom when they jump out of a chicken bus just outside of Belmopan, with their bag remaining on board, on the promise that we would return “in five minutes”. I think we were gone just long enough for the poor guy to think he was stranded on the side of the highway, but crisis averted we were soon back on our way.
Arriving in San Ignacio with old friends Orio and Mikey, we set off up the hill to the Old House hostel only to discover they were full for the night. However, if it was okay with us, the very relaxed owners offered us to sleep on the rather comfortable looking couches for the night – offer accepted and a large number of the Caye Caulker crew were reunited once more!
We set off early for the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave adventure. At the end of a beautiful ride through the countryside, we geared up and were quickly up to our necks in freezing cold water as we trekked our way through the jungle to the cave entrance. Hanging on to your buddy or walking like Rambo was mandatory to hold your balance in the current of the river.
Descending down into the cave we weren’t quite prepared for what we were about to experience. Headlamps on, we made our way over and under rocks sumberged in the water, climbed up rickety ladders and squeezed through tight gaps until we eventually reached the inner cathedral chamber where our guide explained the Mayan rituals which were undertaken there, including leaving offerings inside large clay pots and even human remains which are still in place from human offerings to the gods (some of which were babies and children). Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed in the cave following an incident where a French tourist dropping a handheld camera and fracturing a 1,000 year old human skull.
Some three hours later, we finally emerged from the cave!
According to the guide books, no trip to San Ignacio is complete without a visit to the local market, the biggest in the region. Somewhat underwhelming, the highlight was observing the Amish people who inhabit nearby Spanish lookout, and giant Ben (who had to stoop to fit underneath all the tarpaulins) being told by the market stall lady not to walk around on his own as it is dangerous about here!
We decided on the way to the Guatemalan border that we would stop by the aptly named “tuna sandwich ruins” or Xanantunich. Climbing into two taxis with seven people and seven backpacks was an interesting feat, and afer completing the hand powdered ferry crossing and a short hike, we were able to climb the ruins and admire the 360 degree views.
Crossing the border was simple enough, however as soon as we left Belize we were immediately surrounded by young children selling us shuttle services, they start them young here! Fortunately for an unaware English girl on the same shuttle, we happened to mention to her on the bus that an entry stamp to Guatemala was necessary, she had only officially left Belize but not entered Guatemala, luckily for her there was time to go and make amends!
A short time later we arrived at Los Amigos hostel in Flores (to be continued…)