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Archive for the month “March, 2010”

Belize Day 5 – Cave Tubing and our last day

I woke up with sore calves! I make a mental note to go to the gym more often. “yeah right!” the other half of my brain said. But seriously if there is one thing which is evident from this trip , it’s the fact that I need to get fit. 

Okay it’s our last day here but I try not to dwell on anything. I resist the temptation to check my email while enjoying a hot cup of java. I can read the daily digest though, so I read Kathy’s review of Jalie 2908. It’s wonderful. Ok, back to Belize. 

After a quick breakfast we head out. I’ll be quick in this post. We drive for slightly more than an hour to get to the entrance of the place where we go cave tubing. I notice that most of the places here you are required to go in with a guide because it can be dangerous. Today’s activity was very relaxing though. We hike a little bit to get to the cave entrance. In our hike we spot a poisonous snake!! Thankfully Louis (our guide) pointed out, the bark of a tree which acts as an antidote to the poison is right there. Gagan sampled some termites (yes I said termites). I forget how he described them… lemony with a hint of mint… Weird. Louis said they are a good source of protein. So good if you’re lost in a jungle I guess.

The cave entrance is mesmerising! We jump into our tubes and the adventure begins.

It’s a beautiful day here. Crystal clear skies, warm tropical breeze and the water – cool and refreshing. “butts up” louis (our guide) says to us whenever we approach a shallow area to avoid hitting the stones and rocks. Unless you want a natural massage of course. I tried it and boy, nothing relaxing about that massage. So I religiously followed his command 🙂 

As we paddle through the cave we see some more amazing rock formations. We even saw a waterfall in pitch dark. This is amazing. Simply amazing. I am hoping the pictures will come out ok. It’s super dark in here. 

After about an hour or so we are out of the cave still in the river under the clear skies surrounded by the lush palm trees. Soft rapids guide us sometimes and we paddle through the rest using our arms which are sure to hurt tomorrow. 

The sun is a welcome change here as we are completely soaked here too. So we let ourselves just float and enjoy the warmth. This was really relaxing. 

I got stuck in one spot and was saved by my couragiuos husband 🙂 so no worries there. 

We were floating under the sun for about half an hour or so and it was really really fun. 

This is day five and one thing which comes across here. People are HAPPY!  I didn’t hear a single person complain, or be rude to us. Even on the streets. That’s pretty darn cool I’d say. There is not a single American fast food chain here. “you’re missing out” Gagan teased Wilburt. To which he said “my friend, there is nothing like going to the backyard and plucking a fresh juicy orange for breakfast !” We were speechless. 

Almost everyone here has atleast one fruit tree in their yard. We even stole a couple oranges on our way back from cave tubing. And he was right. They were delicious! 

Today is our last day here but I am not sad. I am happy! I am content and if there is one thing I learned from the land of never ending spring it’s this, SMILE!  

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Belize Day 4 – Cave Exploration

Day 3 – Cave exploration

I have no words to describe what I experienced today. No photo, video or documentary can do justice to this. It can only be felt or imagined. But I am going to try to do my best. 

Imagine…

700 AD – Mayan civilization. There is drought, famine and you feel helpless. The priest tells you the only way out is to perform a sacrifice to please the rain gods. And where do you do this? Deep in a dark, wet, scary unknown cave. The caves represented the underworld and that was the only way to the gods. So you go in there led by the priest and carry heavy clay pots with all the offerings. The cave is pitch dark. The only sound you hear is that of water dripping from the ceiling of the cave. There are openings in there through which you can pass only if you twist your body sideways being very careful not to bang you head against that rock hanging low from the ceiling, or else it’s you who gets sacrificed! 

As you move forward you find pots, human remains, evidence that there are others like you who were desperate, helpless and just trying to do whatever it takes to bring back peace and tranquility to your land. The priest says to you “if this doesn’t work,  are you prepared for the ultimate sacrifice?” you reply “anything to please the gods”. “very well then” the priest says. “Bring me a two day old baby”…

I’ll give you a moment to digest that. 

That was the time they lived in. And ATM was one of those caves we went into. Before we got to the part where we saw the remains, we witnessed nature at it’s best. Limestone is porous so when it rains it drips inside the cave, turns into calcium carbonate which forms these amazing structures inside the caves when evaporation occurs. Some of them are millions of years old! And some are destroyed by a mere touch of our palms because our body oils tranfers and stops the entire process. So Edward, our guide told us not to touch. A little difficult to do since I am hanging on to dear life in some places where the water in the cave is too deep to walk through. Did I mention I can’t swim? Of course that is not a problem for these expert cavers one of whom was with us. 

He has just gotten out from spending more than three hours in that dark cave. Two and a half of which you are wet. He is happy to be back in there with us with a smile on his face, guiding us, educating and helping us through the various tricky spots. 

Are you bored yet? I hope not…

My sandals have a great grip but they start to fall apart because they are not meant to be in water for that long. Thankfully we approach the dry chamber. So as a token of respect to the religious spot, we take off our shoes and slip on a pair of socks. There, Edward shows us the broken pots of All shapes and sizes. Some with a wide mouth, others with a tiny opening. They probably used them for liquids. Some of the pots are tucked in tiny spots. How did they manage to go up there? 

It’s dry here so Edward takes out our camera from his dry bag and offers to take a few photos for us. I felt silly taking pictures in what must have been a sacred spot back then. So I closed my eyes and prayed for a few minutes. I then took a few photos just because… And because I am a tourist and that’s what tourists do. Edward assured me it’s alright to take photos. “you need to take some memories back with you. Who knows when you’ll be back here again” 

Edward had us turn off our headlights and it was pitch dark in there. You could open you eyes or close them, it wouldn’t matter. If he left us there at that moment, that’s it for us. When I mentioned that, he takes out a snickers bar for a quick snack and jokingly says “don’t worry, it’s too early in the tour for a sacrifice”!

We are almost at the top of the cave where we witness the lady after which this cave was named. The positioning of her skeleton tells us that she was lying on her back and willing. It was a honor to be chosen for the sacrifice. I won’t go into the gory details of how the ritual was actually performed but you get the idea…

The cave itself is 5 miles long but they only let us cover the first few. We turn around and head back down. Going down the slippery stones was even trickier. And remember we only have socks on. “this is natural accupressure” I said to Gagan, who is in pain!

We reach the point where we took off our shoes and it’s time  to get wet again.  So we put our shoes back on and make our way back out. The water is refreshing and clean! 

On our way back we were quiet. I am filled with many thoughts most of which were of gratitude. For having experienced something so unbelievably or as they say here , “unbelizably” unique. Of admiration for folks like Edward who make it possible for people like us to experience it and of relief for coming back out in one piece! It was scary in there you guys! 

The journey back out of the cave was quick. we were out of there in half hour. But wait there’s more. 

I forgot to tell you that to get to the cave you have to hike through a thick jungle, cross three rivers which takes about an hour. The hike itself isn’t tough at all though. It was all very enjoyable. Except of course when Edward told us that there are 59 varieties of snakes in this region, 9 of which are poisonous! “walk behind me” , he said “some of the snakes are the color of mud so it’s not even possible to see them” oh boy, I might act brave but deep down I am a mouse!  “why are you scared, you love those horror movies!” Gagan Teased me. On screen when I close my eyes they all go away, here they won’t. 

While Gagan and Edward discussed politics, I followed silently behind watching out for those snakes! 

We were completely drenched but I did bring a spare set of clothes which I changed into when we made it to our car. 

As I sat in the car munching on some plantain chips, Edward pointed out the cieba tree. The Mayan believed the earth was flat and the cieba tree acts as the axis. The roots of this particular tree go down very deep and because of that it’s said to have connected with the underworld. The branches of this tree are super high, hence the concept of heaven. All so fascinating!

What a day! I don’t think I can ever forget this. We had left at 9 in the morning and it’s close to 6 now. We’re a little hungry so we stop for some mangoes! 

And that, amigos brings us to the end of day 3. I went a little nuts in this post but I figured I’ll write it while it’s fresh in my mind. Hope you enjoyed it. 

Tomorrow we go cave tubing. After today’s adventure that’ll be so relaxing. Basically we sit in a tube and go through a cave. Looking forward to it.

The chef in our hotel is preparing a surprise for us. Since we are the only vegetarians here, he is having fun making creative foods for us. And we can’t wait. It’s a treat to not have to “settle” for once. 

Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.      

Photos

Belize Day 2 – Xunantunich

Day 2 – Xunantunich

I am writing this sitting on top of an old Mayan temple 130 feet above the plains. The breeze up here is amazing  we are looking at a 360 view of the city. 

It’s a structure made out of stone makes me wonder how did they do it without the modern equipment. If I close my eyes I can try to imagine what this place must be like thousands of years ago inhabited by the Mayan.


See the carving on the side of the temple? They believed that the Sun turns into a Jaguar every night to fight with the demons in the underworld and in the morning it comes up from the underworld and goes to the heavens in the form of the Sun. The carvings on each side of the temple have figures to welcome the Sun. They are different on each side depending on the direction.

There are some interesting (not) conversations I hear from the fellow tourists but Gagan and I try to close our eyes and enjoy the serenity. Sometimes it’s best to just enjoy each others company while not saying a word. 

I must also mention that this is my birthday and our 11th anniversary celebration and being here right this moment I couldn’t be happier!

We Get a little hungry so we ask our taxi driver Jose for recommendations. We’re vegetarian so not a lot of options here. He took us to this really cute little open air type restaurant where we enjoyed rice beans with a side of potato salad and some corn tortillas topped with beans, veggies and a little cheese. Okay so I’ll be honest here. I was a little unsatisfied. The food was cooked in coconut oil which is not my favorite. But I treated myself to some ice cream which was delicioso! 

Back at our hotel we went for a walk in their organic vegetable garden which is what most of their produce comes from. Talk about being one with nature! Made me want to go back and start my own veggie garden. No wonder all the food we’re having here at the hotel is just out of this world. You can tell I am a foodie can’t you?

We spot some pretty yellow flowers on the way to the garden and i just couldn’t resist. I tucked it behind my ear. “it looks like you have three ears” Gagan said.


And minutes after that he started jumping strangely. Apparently he’d been bitten by a thousand ants. “serves you right!” I said. After enjoying a good laugh, I helped him shake off those tiny buggers from his sandals. 

I can’t remember when was the last time I was this relaxed. Can you tell from the posts?    

Belize Day 2 – Market

Day 2 – Market

Every Saturday morning there is a huge farmers market and people go there really early to get the best of the produce. Even though we weren’t there at the crack of dawn we still got plenty to see and sample. 

This was primarily a fruit and veggie market but you could find some crazy stuff here. Underwear, plastic cups and plates, radios, clothes, even jewelry to name a few. 



I gave in to temptation and bought these coconut shell earrings. Can’t go wrong for a couple bucks right?  

Oh and we did wine tasting here too! This is not your fancy shmancy winery. Since the climate is too mild for grapes, Belizians make their wine from local fruits, equally delicious. We sampled Ginger wine, cariboo wine. And in just two sips it got to my head. I am not kidding! We bought some tomato jelly from the wine lady.

At our hotel we had heard about cashew wine made from the cashew fruit. Apparently it has an effect the day after, especially if you under the sun. We did get some but I was too chicken to try. We have a very active day planned tomorrow, cave hiking and all so didn’t want to take  a chance. 

We talked to a lot of locals walking around, in our taxi and our hotel. That’s a great tip actually. If you want to see the real country, talk to the locals and share a meal with them. You’ll learn a lot more from them that any lonely planet guide book ( no offense). And you’ll be able to find inexpensive places to eat and shop too.

We bought some guavas, tamarind (super sour) and a few other snacks from the market. 

Next up Xunantunich – Archaeologists believe it was an old Mayan city. 
   

A funny one!

My camera fell into water yesterday. I am hoping it'll be ok. But it
may not 😦 got any ideas for me on how to save it? I did take the
memory card and battery right away.

I've decided that I want to wait until I come back to write about the
days in Belize because my photos will sometimes tell a story and right
now half of them are in the iPhone and other half in the camera. But
here's something I just couldn't resist. This was when we were
strolling through the hotel's vegetable garden.

Belize day 2 – morning

Day 2 – morning

A big part of travel for us is exploring the local culture and foods.
And when I get back home I try to recreate them in my kitchen.

So today we are going into the town of San Ignacio where there is a
huge farmers market. Language is not a problem here because everyone
speaks English with a little bit of a Creole dialect. On our way to the
Hotel yesterday we were lucky to have Wilburt as our driver. He is
actually a tour guide and was filling in for someone else. He educated
us and we were fascinated by it all! I even practiced a few sentences
of Spanish with him.

I noticed most if the houses here are raised above the ground level.

It's because they get more than 120 inches of rainfall a year. It's to
keep the water and the bugs away!

Speaking of land, there is so much of it. Wilburt told us that 45% of
the country is a reserve. Nothing can be built on it. When they turn
18 each belizian gets their own piece of land free from the government
to build their house on. How nice is that.

We stopped at a little cafe yesterday to have some light lunch of
arroz con freole.

These signs cracked me up!

So of course I had to get my picture taken here 🙂

Wilburt on left and Gagan on right.

More on the market later.

We made it to Belize!

Belize day 1

Well guys we made it to Belize! Yup, I am writing this sitting on the porch surrounded by bougenvilias, lush green trees and a beautiful view of the pool where a pet iguana soaks up the warm belizian sun. The only subtle sounds I hear are the birds chirpIng and if I listen closely a waterfall hidden in the woods. Get the picture?

You know before boarding the plane I had serious concerns if I’ll be able to tear myself away from work and shut my mind off for a few days. Of course the minute I saw the palm trees and felt the warm tropical breeze on my face, work was the last thing on my mind. There is a reason people come here to relax!

We are in the land of “Never ending spring” Belize!

And right now I feel grateful to be able to experience this all.

I plan to blog daily although I am not sure if I’ll be able to post daily but we’ll see. I’ll try my best to take you with me to all the wonderful adventures here, so stay tuned.

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