A Travellerspoint blog

May 2013

San Ignacio, Belize

Mayan ruins in a cave!

sunny 93 °F

Following the Mayan Route, we visited Xunantunich and the ActunTunichilMuknal (ATM) cave to get a little feel for the Mayans that lived here so long ago. Xunantunich is very accessible from San Ignacio, and has one of the largest castillos.We traveled to the site early one morning by bus and then hand cranked ferry.
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We found ourselves to be the only people at the whole site for the first hour of the day, before being swarmed by endless amounts of Belieze’s finest 3rd graders!Climbing the Castillo made for an epic view of the surroundings, including views of Guatemala.
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Our visit to the ATM cave included spelunking, wading and swimming through a beautiful cave.
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We snuck past the batsgoing 1.5k deeper into the cave to find Mayan remains, including huge pottery vessels and 15 skeletons believed to have been sacrificed in this entryway to their underworld.The cave is most famous for the Crystal Maiden which is a skeleton of a young girl in which the bones have calcified, giving it a glimmering look.
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We frequented the local farmers market and had a little culinary tour sampling lots of different foods including fry jacks, papusas, salbutes, panades, and garnaches!All are pretty much the same ingredients (corn with some filling) in lots of different forms :)
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 14:18 Archived in Belize Comments (1)

Placencia, Belize

Shoes optional!

sunny 93 °F

You don’t have to find a secluded island to live the island life, but you still might have to take a boat! With only an email reservation for a “ferry” with just one departure a week, we were happy to see the boat waiting for us at the Honduras dock… even if it was the smallest ferry we’ve ever seen! Belize had one of the most interesting immigration processes we’ve experienced. We docked at some unknown place about a 10min boat ride away from our destination (think Ellis Island) but weren’t allowed get off the boat. Instead, the immigration officer actually boarded our boat and did a role call from the passenger manifesto. Gringos were last, so we had plenty of time to prepare our passports and sneak a pic.
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The ferry was supposed to take 2 hours, but since one of the engines blew up after a half hour, our journey took a little over 4 hours, but it was worth the wait! Placencia sits at the end of a very narrow peninsula so everything is covered in sand except for the road out of town and the world’s narrowest ‘main street’, which is actually more like a sidewalk.
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Despite it’s size, this cute little main street had everything we could hope for – food stalls, hotels, tour operators and cinnamon rolls! – all possible to visit barefoot. The locals in Belize speak Kriol – which is like a mixture of severely stunted English, Spanish, and slang. It sounds very Rastafarian and was fun to try to figure out what people were saying. We took full advantage of the peninsula by watching both the sunset and the sunrise.
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One morning, we were chatting with a nice lady who introduced us to her neighbor, Francis, who offered to take us on a snorkeling/spear fishing trip. We decided to take him up on the promise of a fresh fish BBQ on one of nearby Cayes. Snorkeling suddenly took on a whole new meaning and instead of saying “look at that cute fish!” we kept asking “can we eat that one?” Heh heh. Luckily, Francis has been doing this for years and we ended up with quite the tasty BBQ.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 17:05 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

To go or not to go…

sunny 98 °F

Here is the description of San Pedro Sula from the USA state government website:

“…crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. San Pedro Sula is considered to be the world’s most violent city, with 159 murders for every 100,000 residents in 2011.”

A trip to Honduras is almost impossible without a stop in San Pedro Sula as it is the hub for all bus connections to the places we wanted to go - Bay Islands, Copan, and the ferry to Belize. So we planned ahead, made arrangements to be picked up at the bus terminal and spent two different one night stop overs and traveled to/from the city 6 times! Lucky for us, our hotel room had a TV with a music channel that played Gusttavo Lima’s Balada (Tchê tcherere tchê tchê) video a few times an hour!
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Many people we met were shocked and ask “Did you feel safe in Honduras?” The answer is, yes, mostly. Every one’s hometown city has its dangerous spots, even ours. If we had not been prepared by making prior arrangements for accommodation and transport, our answer may have been different. Had we selected countries to travel based on the state.gov’s warnings, we wouldn’t have been able to visit half the places on our route. That being said, we didn’t actually walk around through the neighborhoods freely. When we took a local bus, we had a fairly substantial drive through of the streets and saw a recently (as in that morning) torched minibus… while we were all asked out of the van to be searched by the military we were told that it was an early morning message from one of the gangs.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 20:31 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Utila, Honduras

Scuba Lessons!

Utila is one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras and is known for its PADI (party and dive in-between) certifications. It is a backpackers paradise as the certifications are relatively cheap and the diving is spectacular. Hands down this was the clearest water we have ever seen. We went down 40ft and had visibility all the way to the top and way further down!
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We had fun enjoying the local staple foods, one of our favorites were the Baleados (kind of like a stuffed quesadilla).
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Island life was just as you’d expect, we snorkeled just steps from our door step, people never showed up on time, and there were amazing sunsets!
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The only downside to Utila Island is that people drive recklessly through the one street town in golf carts, scooters, motorbikes, and quad bikes. Way to kill the serenity of an island getaway Utila! Luckily it’s easy to escape the small downtown and get to nice beaches and forests in just minutes. We took advantage of the quiet mornings to catch up on our exercises.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 17:32 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Copán Ruinas, Honduras

The first of many Mayan Ruins

rain 91 °F

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, and San Pedro Sula is considered the world’s most violent city… that being said, we survived our stay in Honduras without any problems. Luckily, the little town of Copan Ruinas is a pleasant town that is quiet and safe for tourists. On our first morning, we decided to go on a reckie (reconnaissance run) to the entrance of the ruins to get an idea of logistics for our visit the following day… we ended up on a very nice interpretative nature trail with the loudest scarlet macaws hanging out in an ancient Ceiba tree.
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We then headed to the interactive Casa K’inich Children’s Museum. It’s designed to teach young children about the Mayan Culture. Now THIS is the type of museum that we enjoy! It was interactive and had great displays explaining the ancient Mesoamerican ball game that was played by the Mayans. We tried out new skills at the real ruin site the following day:
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We arrived early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds, and can now take pride in the fact that we were the FIRST people to enter the site on that day. What probably most impressed us was how many temples are still hidden under mounds of dirt and trees. It really gives you an appreciation for how old they really are.
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To finish off our first Mayan cultural experience, we went to a tea and chocolate café for a few traditional Mayan made snacks and hot chocolate over sunset. We hope the ancients don’t mind that we spiked their raw chocolate drink with some local rum.
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Nearby Copan is a 375-acre jungle shade grown coffee farm for Welchez coffee. We didn’t have high expectations for Finca Santa Isabel but were blown away by the tour. First of all, we had our own private tour with a really knowledgeable guide. Secondly, we didn’t know that we would be served a three-course lunch in the heart of forest next to a babbling brook! We had a lovely walk through the mountain farm and were amazed by how the coffee integrated with the forest. The comparison of this large scale farm to the small one we saw in Panama was immense. Beans were washed through huge machines and sorted through several mechanical processes before then sorted by a lineup of real life old lady hands!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 19:23 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

León, Nicaragua

Volcanoes as far as the eye can see!

sunny 104 °F

Leon is surrounded by a string of active volcanoes. We climbed Telica on the evening of a full moon and could see seven volcanoes including two of them venting smoke against the setting sun.
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After the sunset we peered over the ridge of Telica and down into the bubbling lava 200 meters below. The volcano made an airplane like sound that was indescribable! Standing on a sheer cliff looking down into the cycle of earth regeneration was one of the top awe inspiring events of our trip.
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We also climbed Sierra Negro to give its infamous volcano boarding (aka rock sledding) a try… it made for an exhilarating way to avoid the normal knee crushing mountain descents.

Leon itself is a nice little city filled with markets and churches and is easy to walk around. We visited in Leon’s hottest month of the year (April) and the city hadn’t seen rain for almost 8 months! Needless to say, the hiking was dusty and dry with about 2-3 inches of fine dirt on all the trails.
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To beat the heat and dust we took a day trip to the coast to a deserted beach. The highlights of our beach trip included watching some cows stranded on an island trying to cross through rushing water, and drinking beer from a bag. Since bottles are for deposit, the locals drink their soda out of a bag with a straw… but since we don’t drink soda, the bartender had quite a laugh when we requested a roadie (cervesa para llevar).
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 20:05 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Granada, Nicaragua

It’s getting hot in here…

sunny 103 °F

Nicaragua has been a true test of our ability to withstand the heat, but while wondering the market we stumbled into a lady making tortillas over a wooden fire who put us to shame. It was quite inspiring to watch her working by the fire making tortillas in triple digit heat.
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After our trip through the markets of Asia we would only end up with little pink plastic bags, however here we randomly ended up with an assortment of items in a full R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. rainbow of plastic bags!
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We stopped in and tasted some cacao tea and cacao liquor at the Museo de Cacao where we learned how the ancient Mayans used cacao beans for currency! It was a nice complement to our hands-on chocolate making experience in Costa Rica.

We felt very comfortable in Granada and enjoyed walking around the old colonial city. The architecture inside the buildings was impressive and beautiful. Hotels, hostels, museums and restaurants all had big open ceilings and central gardens right inside the house! These open courtyards made for a great outdoorsy feeling when you were actually inside a home!
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 20:04 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

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