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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.

Off to Seattle…

I am off to Puyallup to attend the largest sewing expo in the country! I’ve been told there are 25,000 attendees!

If you are going, I’d love to meet you! There is a small gathering at the Sew Baby booth #500 at 5 on Thursday and at Sewitup.com booth #301 on Friday at 5.

I am bringing the PR Book proof with me to show to you guys. So excited!

I don’t believe it! Delta did it to us again!

What am I doing here still blogging? Well folks Delta did it to us again! If you don’t remember our costa rica adventure, you can read about it here or not…

Last night as we were packing, Gagan logged in to Delta to check in online and guess what we find out. The flight has been canceled! That’s it. No email no phone, they just canceled it. How can you treat people like this? I understand it’s a tough business to be in but can you imagine people who didn’t log in to their accounts, packed their bags and drove to the airport, paid a ridiculous sum for parking only to find out that the flight has been canceled. Yes, I do, because that’s what happened to us last time.

They booked us on a flight reaching Belize on 15th and coming back on the 16th! NICE! I understand the systems are automatic but can’t they build any common sense into their programs that for a person going on a 4 day vacation going for one day does not make sense?

And guess what? The resort we were staying at has a “NO CANCELLATION” policy. Which means we lose the money!

And of course none of their phone lines were working. I won’t go into the details of last night because it’s just going to make me mad again.

After being on phone with Delta and the Hotel we finally managed to cancel our trip for February and re-book it for March. So it worked out (or so I hope!) in the end. It was sort of a relief because I’ve been so sick the last few days, I am thankful to be home and get better.

All’s well that ends well I guess. I’ve decided that today I need to treat myself with a pair of fire red patent leather shoes to go with my New Jeans! Got any ideas for me?

Belize and a parting salad recipe…


Tomorrow morning, really early (3 AM) we’re off to a 4 day vacation to Belize. Jealous? Don’t be… I’ve been home sick for the last two days with a terrible cold and backache. I am feeling a lot better today so hopefully by tomorrow it’ll be all ok but it sure does dampen the spirits. I was going to do some vacation sewing, but I’ve been lying in bed all day today. In a few minutes, I have to get up and start packing but I thought I’d part with a quick moong daal salad recipe.

Sherril, I know you like to try different things so this one’s for you. Anyway, I grew up eating this for breakfast but now we make it for dinner or a light lunch.

You obviously have to sprout moong daal for this yourself. Don’t be intimidated by the sprouting process. You don’t need a lot of tools. You just need to plan ahead. This is so nutrious and delicious you’re gonna want to make it again and again. Let’s start with the basics.

Moong Beans or Daal. This is what it looks like. You can get these at any Indian grocery store or a chinese market.

Now the sprouter. This is what I use. A quart size mason jar. Take out the metal lid and cut a small circle from plastic canvas and stick it in and voila you have your very own sprouter! I can’t take credit for this idea. I read it somewhere online.

Closeup of the Lid.

Simply put your dried moon beans in the jar, soak and sprout. Sproutpeople.com have really great instructions on how to do it. They also have lids and beans.

Once you have your sprouts ready here’s how I make my salad.

Chop one small onion, one red or green pepper.
I like to add Paneer to my salad to make it a little more substantial. If you don’t like paneer you can add a boiled potato cubed or feta cheese in the end.

Heat some oil, when it’s hot, add some cumin seeds, add your onions and if using cubed paneer or potato. Add salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add your sprouts, red pepper put a lid on and let them steam for 5 minutes.

Squeeze out juice of a lemon and add at end. Garnish with cilantro or parsley. I also like to add jalapenos or green chillies but add them only if you like your food spicy! Oh and I also add turmeric but you don’t have to if you don’t have any. It’s good antioxidants!

Enjoy! Really good and good for you.

I’m taking my netbook with me but I doubt if I’ll have time to blog there. I may write about it so I won’t forget when I come back. And hopefully my corduroy and velvet will be here from FFC when I get back so I can get cracking on more jeans!

Stuff I got from India

So yes, I am back from a rather short trip to India to visit with my family and my new nephew! I bought the ticket on miles so there wasn’t much flexibility but I realize now that going thousands of miles away only for 12 days is not worth the travel hassles. Next time its two full weeks or nothing 🙂

I did enjoy blogging when I went last in April but since it was only 6 months ago, there was not much new stuff happening, other than my nephew! YES I have now become one of those people who constantly talk about their kids. This one’s not mine but how can I help it? He is adorable!!!

I thought that this time I’d share with you some of the stuff I brought back home with me. Most of these were gifts but some I bought in the few days I went shopping with Gagan.

There is a crafts bazaar which we always go to whenever we are in Delhi. I didn’t take pictures but this time there was this nice exhibit going on there in which award winning artists from all around the country came to sell their crafts. There were silk shawls, wood workers, jewelry artists, henna artists, pottery and so many other craftsmen, it was quite inspiring. It’s a shame that most people don’t think much of crafts these days in India, especially big cities, but for me it was HEAVEN! I was thinking of you at that market that how much you’d all enjoy it. I really should have taken photos.

Lets start with Fabric shall we? Because I travel a lot, I have a rule which I follow (most of the time). I only buy one piece from wherever I go. It keeps my stash under control and I don’t feel deprived. And because I only buy one fabric, sometimes I splurge. And that’s what I did on this one. It’s a hand embroidered piece of Tussah Silk. The photo doesn’t do justice to this lovely piece. It’s quite narrow but its 2.5 meters long. I am thinking that a lined version of the Built By Wendy tunic might show this fabric to it’s best. What do you think?

Note to self: Beware of the circles!

I also picked up 2.5 meters of this Sanskrit Fabric. I’ve been intrigued by fabrics like this. I liked the color and it was super cheap so I bought it. This will be another tunic, although not sure what style.

From the same Bazaar, I just couldn’t resist bringing home this little piece. How adorable are those little drawers. I don’t really know what I’ll do with it, but I just had to have it. The frame is wood and all the little drawers are ceramic. Isnt it cute? I am thinking, I’ll glue felt to the bottom of all the drawers and keep my jewelry in it.

Speaking of Jewelry, check out these adorable earrings my Mother in Law bought me…

This particular style of earrings is called “Jhumka”. It’s one of the many forms of classic Indian Jewelry. I have one in gold too which I got at my wedding. I’ll post a picture of those too later. You can see the similarity…

And these are not any particular style, just very cute…

Mary, a friend here in the office teaches pottery. She asked for some wooden blocks. Last time I went there, I couldn’t find any so imagine my surprise when I spotted not one but two vendors selling these blocks. They are primarily used for printing on textiles but can be used on many other surfaces as well. These are some of the blocks I picked up for her.

I got a few for myself too. I want to experiment with stamping on knit pants and shirts.

My mom gave me two saris and I know you’d love to see photos of the saris too but I still haven’t unpacked them. I promise as soon as things are more settled I will post some nice pictures.

And now, of course the reason I went!

Isn’t he a cutie? And he is wearing one of the sweaters I knit for him. Oh how I miss him! I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve just sat at my desk looking at the 100+ pictures I took capturing his every mood. I am a very happy aunt!

More later…

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