Belize 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010, Santa Elena, Belize, about 1500 CST (GMT-6)

We're off again on another adventure, this time to Belize. The mission of this trip is not completely clear to me, but in part Sandy wanted to travel and in part, Sandy's thesis advisor wanted some help setting up a geographical data base for his field school this year. Last year, we attended the Pambamarca field school in Ecuador, Sandy as a student and I as staff. We were in Ecuador for 6 weeks. This year, the field school is in Belize. I'm not yet sure what they are digging up, but the school just started on Monday. We're not formally part of the school this year but we're here anyway.

Belize used to be British Honduras before it became independent. English is the formal language, but others are spoken. All signs are in English and the roads use the American system as opposed to the British system.

Our flight left LAX at 0125 on July 1, 2010. I didn't get a lot of sleep on the airplane. We made a connection on TACA at San Salvador and arrived in Belize City sometime before 0900 local time which is just one hour ahead of PDT. It's actually two time zones but they don't do daylight savings time here. We got a $25 US cab ride from the airport back to the bus terminal in Belize City and got on a local bus to San Ignacio. The ride was about 3 hours long and it stopped for everybody that flagged the bus down, but it only cost $3.50/head US. The Belize dollar is 2:1 for the US dollar but US dollars are taken everywhere.

100701_belize_bus_ride_8719.jpgI didn't take many pictures from the moving bus because those often don't turn out to well, but I snapped this picture of a somewhat beat up house. When I reviewed the picture, it noticed the Internet sign out front. Some houses were nicer than this one, most were much worse. Some were no more than shacks. This is not a rich country and people make do as they can.

The terrain was mostly flat until we got near San Ignacio. It was mostly swamp near Belize City, transitioning to scrub, then to a mixed low forest and finally hilly country with either mixed forest or jungle. Much of the land along the road did not appear to be developed in any way at all.

The distance wasn't so long, maybe 75 miles, but the bus stopped constantly to let riders on and off.

By the time we got to San Ignacio, my backside was pretty sore from sitting on a poorly padded bus bench seat for 3+ hours. We got a cab for $5 US from the bus terminal in San Ignacio to the Maya Mountain Lodge, which is where we are now.

100701_belize_maya_mountain_lodge_sandy_in_room_8724.jpgSandy collapsed onto the bed as soon as we got into the room. It didn't take her long to fall asleep. I wandered around the lodge taking pictures and trying to arrange contact with the field school project. That hasn't happened yet, but about dinner time we are going to get a cab to the hotel where the UCLA part of the project is staying to see if we can get some face time with the project leader, Dr. Sam Connell.

100701_belize_maya_mountain_lodge_cottage_8725.jpgWe have a more or less standard hotel room with AC. For $10 more, we could have rented a cottage like this one. The whole place is set into a tropical forest environment There is a pool which I think that I am going to take advantage of shortly after I finish writing this part of the page. It's about 90°F and probably 80+% humidity outside so it is fairly uncomfortable. The pool will feel good.

Thursday, July 1, 2010, Santa Elena, Belize, about 2130 CST (GMT-6)

Instead of going into the pool, we elected to get a taxi to the other side of town. This is actually two towns, Santa Elena is on the eastern side of the Mecal River, San Ignacio is on the western side. The Midas Resort, where the UCLA students are staying, is at the western edge Santa Ignacio. We took a taxi over there (too far to walk) and met with some old friends. We didn't find Sam Connell because he was holed up in the house he is staying in writing a presentation that he has to give tomorrow. Almost next door to the Midas Resort is Hode's, a restaurant and bar. It is a big place, capable of seating at least 200 people. We stopped there for lunch on a tour the last time we were here. It was good. We had dinner there tonight and that was good too.

Tomorrow, we are going to move over to the Midas Resort. It will cost us less, especially for food. There is nowhere to eat anywhere near here except for the Lodge dining room and that is $30/head/day. Hode's is about $4 to $10 US per full meal. A good hamburger is $2.50 US. The Midas Resort is not in as nice a setting as the Maya Mountain Lodge but the room will cost $35 less and the food $40 less (US prices). We will also be right with the UCLA students and staff. It is also walking distance into town and there is a supermarket of sorts there.

Tomorrow, there is also a conference on Mayan Archaeology so the students will be listening, not digging. They've just started marking off their units, and have not actually gotten dirty yet. There is a field trip planned for them on Saturday that doesn't include digging and Sunday is an off day so they won't start really working again until Monday.

Sandy and I have tentatively planned a trip across the border into Guatemala on Sunday to go to Tikal, the tallest Maya structure yet discovered. Starting Monday, Sandy will probably get down to work on the GIS (Geographical Information Systems) stuff. What I do while Sandy is busy working on their mapping software is TBD. I may go into the field just to look around and perhaps help some of the students.

After we'd had dinner and reserved a room at the Midas Resort, we called a taxi for the $5 US ride back to our hotel to spend the night. Sandy will probably take a taxi early to the conference and I'll hang out here until close to checkout time and bring our luggage (there isn't a lot of it, two carry on suitcases and two backpacks) over to the Midas Resort in another taxi and check in.

I didn't sleep much on the airplane last night and traveling is exhausting anyway so I am beat. It will feel good to get a full night's sleep tonight.

Friday, July 2, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1030 CST (GMT-6)

100702_belize_maya_mountain_lodge_8727.jpgSandy got up early this morning and took a taxi to town to attend the presentations. I slept in and then lounged around the Maya Mountain Lodge taking pictures like this one from just outside the building that our room was in.

100702_belize_midas_resort__cabin_8_8735.jpgLater, I checked out and took a taxi to the Midas Resort and checked in. Our room is $26 less expensive, we don't have to take taxis to get anywhere and the rest of our group is here. Hode's is virtually next door so we can get meals. The resort is not quite as nice as the Maya Mountain Lodge.

100702_belize_midas_resort_room_8_8736.jpgThe room itself is a little nicer inside than the one at Maya Mountain. It is larger, wood paneled, has AC and a TV. The bed is larger too but not quite as firm.

The one AC outlet not used by room appliances is above the bed within reasonable reach to get to a small table on either side. The only one at Maya Mountain was underneath the bed.

Right now, I'm sitting inside on the bed with the flow from the AC blowing right across me. It's not too comfortable outside.

100702_belize_midas_resort_iguana_8733.jpgThere are iguanas all over the place of all sizes. I've already seen them from this big to ones that are an inch long. The little ones may not be iguanas but they are lizard like nonetheless. The iguanas get much larger around here, we saw some really big ones the last time we were here.

We've been in Belize for 24 hours or so and I haven't mentioned the bugs yet. This is because there aren't many. There are some mosquitos that bite, but not many and the bites don't itch for long. There are all manner of ground dwelling insects, especially ants, but they don't seem to be a bother either. Perhaps it will be worse out in the working areas.

Sunday, July 4, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1700 CST (GMT-6)

100702_belize_san_ignacio_hode_s_0191.jpgI took a nap under the AC and woke up about lunchtime. Sandy came back from the conference about the same time we walked over to Hode's for lunch. This is Hode's, our primary source of food. The project is providing us meals as we will be doing work for them. We're paying for and our own room. Transportation on non-project activities is also on our dime.

The plan forward was to relax for the afternoon but we took a walk into town to find a market for some non-perishable food and to look around. San Ignacio looks pretty much like any Latin American town, a little rough around the edges but functional.

Saturday, the project took a field trip to Caracol, a Maya ruin south of San Ignacio in the Maya Mountains. This was a LONG trip, it took all day. We didn't get back until well after dark and just getting dinner consumed the rest of our energy. We just crashed.

It's now Sunday morning, an off day. We had planned to travel to Tecal, a large ruin across the border in Guatemala, but we were so tired that we elected to cancel it for today and just regain our strength. We'll try to fit Tecal in later in the week. Tecal has the tallest Maya structures and it is reported to be quite impressive.

Caracol is a very large Maya city, perhaps hosting 100,000 or more people around AD 840 or so. It was only discovered a couple of decades ago and the excavation and rebuilding has been going on for a little more than 10 years. Caracol contains the largest Maya structure by area. This temple is also the tallest building in all of Belize today. We were guided through Caracol by the archaeologists, John and Mo, that guided the excavation and restoration of Caracol.

100703_belize_map_8769.jpgI found this map of Belize in a travel magazine that was in our room at the Midas Resort. There are really only three major roads in Belize. The all radiate from Belize City which is centrally located on the Caribbean coast. The Northern highway goes to the north into Mexico where is connects to a Mexican highway that goes a long way west cutting through the south end of the Yucatan and a lot of nowhere. The Hummingbird/Southern Highway goes south toward the border to Guatemala, but may not go much further than that, at least the maps that we have don't show any roads. The Western Highway cuts southwest to San Ignacio and the Guatemalan border. This appears to be the major land route into Belize.

A highway here is a two lane road with a stripe down the middle (in most places). There are other roads too, but many of them are dirt, as we were to find out.

100703_belize_bus_to_caracol_busses_8741.jpgTo get from San Ignacio to Caracol, we boarded some school busses at about 0830 on Saturday, July 3. These were clearly set up for children as the seats were so close together, I couldn't get my knees in except at an extreme angle. I was either hanging out into the aisle or impinging on Sandy's space. We were in the larger blue one, an American made Blue Bird bus. A lot of the intercity and local busses are the same kind, they must be popular. Ours was a 1987 model that had obviously served somewhere else before it came here.

We took the Western Highway back east for 10 miles or so and then turned south onto a road marked in black. It was paved for about half a mile and then turned to dirt. The road was quite rough in spots, deeply rutted and washboarded. The bus shook and shuddered quite a bit but seemed to hold together. The trip to Caracol took more than 3 hours, we got there just before noon.

100703_belize_bus_to_caracol_brit_helo_8742.jpgAlong the way, we stopped at a checkpoint and this British Army Huey flew in overhead and landed. Several helicopters dropped off troops in full gear and picked up more of them. I assume that they were doing jungle training. There was an encampment a little further down the road guarded by armed guards.

The last 10 miles of the road to Caracol was paved. Apparently, the government started paving the road from the end first, then ran out of money to finish the job. We were grateful for the good road though.

100703_belize_caracol_8749.jpgThis is the largest structure at Caracol, the main temple. When this was originally found, the archaeologists hiked up and down a "hill" without actually realizing that there was such a large structure underneath. Nobody expected to find such a large complex this far away from the nearest source of water, a river about 10 miles away. This is not the condition that this structure was found in. It was a rubble heap. 165 men worked for 365 days to dig it out, clean it up and rebuild it in approximately it's original shape.

100703_belize_caracol_8754.jpgThis is another smaller structure that was rebuilt in somewhat the same fashion. These structures tended to be built around large flat courtyards, at least there was nothing found in the courtyard areas to indicate that there were structures in them.

There was a stone marker set in the ground in one of two ball courts that indicated a date of AD 564 (I think) on our calendar which commentated some important event. This was an important find, but it was unfortunately somewhat damaged because it happened to be in a truck road before anybody noticed what it was. The whole area was dense forest when it was found and nothing in particular stood out as indicating an important Maya site. The archaeologists had no clue how significant the site was until more and more of it was excavated. They just kept finding more and more stuff all around the site. There is still active excavation going on with major new finds each season.

100703_belize_caracol_work_camp_and_cisterns_0294.jpgThe archaeologists lived on site for months at a time. Access was very poor for a long time so that when they got there, they stayed there with supplies coming in every few weeks or so. Their source of water was rainfall off the metal roofs into these large tanks.

100703_belize_caracol_rio_del_on_8767.jpgAfter a long hike through the extensive complex we boarded the busses for the return trip. About an hour's ride back down the road, we stopped at the Rio On pools, a spot where a river flows over some rock formations and makes small rapids, falls and pools. This has long been a favorite swimming spot and the whole group got into the river to play. The water temperature was just right and the rocks were very slippery, resulting in some fun rides down the small rapids and then swimming in the larger pools.

We got back to San Ignacio well after dark, got some dinner at Hode's and simply crashed.

This morning, Sunday July 4, we slept in and then got breakfast on our own (rolls we had purchased in town a couple of days before) and then settled down to download and sort photos and write our blogs before we forgot what happened.

Sandy and I took a walk toward the back of the Midas Resort, past the last cabins through some mosquito infested grassland and forest to the river that flows through San Ignacio. The resort claims that river swimming is a "feature" of the resort, but I would not swim in that muddy river.

The work plan for the upcoming week has been posted. Breakfast is at 0600 and we leave for the various sites at 0700. Return is in the late afternoon and dinner is at 1900. Some evenings have a lecture at 2000. We'll have to get up at 0530 to make breakfast so I assume that after the lecture and then a shower it will be time to hit the sack.

If things go like last year, several of the students will be drinking late into the night and then they will be nearly useless the next day.

There have been mosquitos around, we are getting bit a few times each day. If it doesn't get any worse than that, we will count ourselves lucky. Kaiser prescribed an anti-malaria drug of some kind, we've been taking it since 2 days before we left. Malaria is not a big problem around here, but it does exist and getting it is bad.

Sandy bought an electric bug repellant device that she found at Costco. It has a little insert that evaporates a small amount of fluid and then a battery driven fan exhausts the stuff in a vapor cloud around the wearer. We'll see how well that thing works tomorrow. It's supposed to be effective for 12 hours of use. I don't know how long the AA batteries that run the fan will last. In case it is ineffective, I have a bottle of 100% DEET too. That WILL work but at the cost of getting a little sticky. A DEET covered body collects dust big time. I learned that last year.

Monday, July 5, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1800 CST (GMT-6)

Today was the first work day since we got here. The schedule was up at 0600 and over to breakfast by 0630. At 0700, the busses left for the various sites that are active this year. There is a break for lunch and then home late in the afternoon.

100705_belize_el_aguacate_site_shed_8771.jpgWe drove in that same blue bus for close to an hour to get to the site which is on a forested hill in Mennonite farming land. The site is called El Aguacate. We got off the bus and were attacked by swarming mosquitos. We had to walk through the swarm for about a half a mile to get to the site. The further we got, the few mosquitos we found, but there were still a lot.

There was a simple rain shed at the site and another under construction. The forest was pretty tall and there was little direct sunlight.

aguacate.aerial.jpgThe El Aguacate site is in a small section of forest surrounded by Mennonite farmlands. The lake in the UCLA UMAP (UCLA Maya Archaeological Project) photo is the primary source of the cloud of mosquitos at the site. I found this photo on the UMAP website. More information about the project can be found at the link.

100705_belize_el_aguacate_site_op_11__subop_a__unit_1_8772.jpgI got assigned to this unit. The students were first assigned to lay out simple 2 x 2 meter units on a flat patch of ground for time trial practice. I helped one group through the first one, then stood back and watched them on the 2nd pass. They were quick studies. Then I helped Mo and Joe extend the real 2 x 2 unit into a 2 x 5 unit that was placed in the assumed entrance way to a potential Maya structure. The structures are buried under mounds that have a very peculiar shape and are unlikely to be natural, but nothing of the structures shows now except for a few suspicions looking surface stones. The palm tree stump was quickly removed and the students got down to work. From the immediate finds of pottery shards and other small artifacts, it is pretty obvious that there is something here.

The students were pretty adept at excavating and really didn't need help. Besides, I found that my back wasn't going to let me to much useful work. Instead, I walked around the site with Sandy's GPS data logger and an iPod touch running Sandy's data logging software to mark and record GPS coordinates for the master and two other secondary datums for the site. I also recorded the southwest corner of all five units that had been opened. The site has already been shot with a Total Station surveying device so that the project knows the relative positions of each of the units with much better accuracy that GPS could provide, but this data will serve to test Sandy's software and methods for logging GPS data.

100705_belize_el_aguacate_site_bullet_ant_8789.jpgThere were lots of "bullet" ants on the site. They guys are pretty big as ants go, those ropes are about 1/2". They are called bullet ants because that is what is said that they feel like of one gets bit. I declined to test the claim.

There are also much smaller fire ants here, but we didn't run afoul of any. I also found some trails of leaf cutter ants. These ants cut little roadways about 3" wide in the forest litter and then haul little bits of green leaf material down their roads back to their nests.

100705_belize_el_aguacate_site_smoldering_termite_nest_8775.jpgThe mosquitos were pretty bothersome. Lots of DEET was in use to ward them off. However, the local laborers have another method. This is a smoldering termite nest. These termites build there nests on the trunks and branches of trees and the nests are easily cut down. When set alight, the smoke tends to drive off the mosquitos. Just standing in the smoke for a little while will get enough smoke into your clothes to provide some protection for maybe an hour. It seemed to work some. I was also wearing a little fan powered device that enveloped me in a cloud of repellant vapor. That seemed to work too as I didn't have the swarms around me like some of the students did. I also covered all my exposed skin with 98% DEET. I still got some bites though.

100705_belize_el_aguacate_site_monkey_8790.jpgA group of monkeys moved into the canopy above us. This is a howler monkey, there were about 8 of these. There was also a smaller, and faster, spider monkey in the group. He was much harder to take pictures of as the spider monkeys move much more quickly than the howlers.

About noon, Sam brought Sandy around to see the site. I took advantage of the visit to hitch an early ride home as my back was staring to get pretty sore from standing all morning. I guess that I am not cut out for much more field work.

We came home, stopped by the lab to pick up the stuff that Sandy left there this morning and then walked a half mile or so back to Hode's. Sandy ate her lunch and got a cold beer. I had eaten my box lunch at the site and just got a cold grape Fanta. We walked back to the Midas Resort and promptly crashed.

A thunderstorm came through about 1700 and the thunder and rain on the tin roof woke me up so I settled down to write in this blog.

I think that tomorrow I'll offer myself up for lab duty where I can at least sit for awhile and not do any heavy lifting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 2000 CST (GMT-6)

100706_belize_umap_lab_sandy_8800.jpgThe reason that we came here was for Sandy to help the project with their mapping database. She is hard at work in the lab dealing photos here. Much of the mapping work will be done after we get home as she needed a bunch of files from the project computers. I was in the lab today because my back hurt from all the standing at the site yesterday. I was still pretty sore. I hurt my lower back last year and it hasn't completely recovered yet.

The lab itself is just a two story house that the project rents all year around to use as a lab while the project is active and to use for storage during the rest of the year. Nobody actually lives there. The lower level is a basement where the excavation equipment is stored when not in use. The upper story is where most of the work gets done. It can also be used as a domestic residence for a few people during the periods just before and after the project is active.

100706_belize_umap_lab_washing_artifacts_8802.jpgSince I was there, I went to work washing artifacts that had been collected yesterday. There were two other students there working on lithics (stone) and bone samples. I was doing the ceramic samples, all pot shards. In that tub is a pile of broken pottery soaking to soften the dirt attached to them. A few minutes after this photo was taken, I used my fingers and a toothbrush to clean off all the dirt and crud from each piece so that they could be counted, weighted (as a group), categorized and cataloged. Most of them will go into storage. Vanessa, the staff member running the lab, will be attempting to reconstruct some of the samples into a partial pot. Yesterday, one whole side of a pot was found in situ as a pot smash in the unit pictured above. She'll be trying to put that one back together.

100706_belize_umap_lab_artifacts_drying_8803.jpgI had cleaned most of the samples earlier and they are sitting on a drying screen in the backyard of the lab. Many of the pieces are not very big and most don't have a lot of value as they were not associated with other pieces. However, the quantity of pieces that came out of the unit provides some information as to the type and intensity of occupation that existed based on the pieces that were left behind.

100706_belize_umap_lab_george_wearing_mosquito_net_0404.jpgAfter all the artifacts were done, I sat down to make some mosquito masks out of a large mosquito net that we had and didn't need. I am not much of a seamstress, but I managed to make two masks, a small one and a larger one, that may be serviceable in the field. I gave them to Mo and Joe during dinner for them to test. We have lots more material if the students want to make more. I stitched them using mint flavored dental floss.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1500 CST (GMT-6)

Last night at dinner, I gave the two masks to Mo and Joe to test at El Aguacate. This morning, they scared up some more mosquito net and apparently there is a plan afoot to make more.

I spent the day in the lab again sewing five more mosquito masks. There were enough students there to do the cleaning and cataloging so I didn't mess with any artifacts today.

Sandy is building a database of project material. She spent much of yesterday sorting through photographs from last year and identifying what they were. Today, we fired up an HP scanner, which worked fine with her MacBook, and she started scanning hardcopy from the reports left from last year. The plan is to put this stuff into Google Docs in some fashion to make access to the material much easier. I came back o the room at about 1400. Sandy will stay there until the lab closes scanning the archived material.

Just before the lunch break, Sandy and I took a walk into Santa Elena to a bakery just a little ways from the other end of the "low" bridge across river. We got some rolls and other pastry stuff and walked back. It was probably about a mile each way from there to the lab and it was hot. However, the freshly baked stuff was worth it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1430 CST (GMT-6)

It rained pretty hard last night and for much of the morning. It's really loud on a tin roof.

Today was much the same as yesterday, except cooler and more humid. Sandy and I went to the lab after breakfast and did pretty much the same things as yesterday. She was scanning hardcopy of project records from last year and I was making more mosquito masks. Last night, I got a report back from the field that the two initial ones worked well and I got "orders" for 10 more. I had already made five yesterday, those went to the field today. I made eight more today. I can make 4 or maybe 5 more with the materials that I have.

I left Sandy in the lab to work on more scanning and I walked back to Midas to shower, dry off and relax. I am currently soaking in sweat and a cold shower will be coming up right after I upload this update.

Friday, July 9, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1600 CST (GMT-6)

Sandy and I spent the morning of our last "work" day with the project back in the lab doing the same stuff as yesterday and the day before. I made up the last 4 insect masks from the material I had. Sandy finished scanning much of the material that was left over from last year. After lunch, with the lab work done, we elected to visit Cahal Pech.

100709_belize_cahal_pech_sandy_8807.jpgCahal Pech, or "city of ticks" (because it was in a cow pasture that was full of ticks) is a smallish site that has been in work for several decades. It sits on a hill just south of San Ignacio. The site was in use for a long time but appears to have been abandoned around 850 AD.

We didn't know exactly where the site was so we took a taxi from the center of town to get there, a $2.50 US ride.

100709_belize_cahal_pech_maya_sites_map_8809.jpgThis map shows the locations of sites in this area. Caracol is not on this map, it is too far south. We've been to Cahal Pech and Xunantunich. El Aguacate would be underneath the map key or slightly north. Tikal is in Guatemala, off the western edge of the map.

100709_belize_cahal_pech_site_map_8816.jpgCahal Pech is typical Maya, with squarish plazas surrounded by temples and domestic structures. The tallest structure, probably a temple, is just south of Plaza A.

There are several unexcavated mounds around some of the plazas that clearly have structures underneath. I have no clue if there is a plan to excavate them.

100709_belize_cahal_pech_plaza_a_temple_8829.jpgThis is the temple as viewed from the north side of Plaza A. The rest of the plaza is ringed in domestic spaces.

100709_belize_cahal_pech_plaza_e_8823.jpgA typical domestic space is a doorway facing the plaza and a small area with a stone bench inside. There would be some sort of bedding on the bench. The unit was probably used mostly for sleeping as there isn't room for much else. Cooking was probably done out of doors. It is not known how the open units were all covered. There were some domestic units in other parts of the site that were covered with a corbeled stone roof, but these were clearly rebuilt as there were timber lintels above the doors.

100709_belize_cahal_pech_active_unit_8830.jpgThere is still some active archaeology in process at Cahal Pech as there are several open units on one part of the site. The tarps are probably to protect the units from heavy rainfall.

After we left Cahal Pech, we elected to walk back into and through town to get to the Midas Resort which was on the north side of town. It was a 2 mile walk, mostly downhill, back to Midas.

Saturday, July 10, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 1700 CST (GMT-6)

100710_belize_san_ignacio_market_taco_guy_0425.jpgToday we got up at 0600 again and went into town early for the "special" Saturday market. There is a farmer's market in San Ignacio every day, but Saturday is the "big" day. There is usually just produce there, on Saturday, all the local vendors show up.

This isn't like the flea markets that we usually gravitate to on these trips. This one is for the locals so that there are no tourist trinkets there but stuff that the locals would buy, like a stand full of bras.

There are also prepared food vendors there too in large numbers. They guy was cooking tacos. I had the very best pork taco I have ever had for breakfast today.

Then we walked a short way back to Hode's to meet some folks for a day trip to Tikal. Tikal is a very important Mayan site located in Guatemala. It is a somewhat involved process just to get there so we were planning on going with one of the groups from the project going to Tikal. Most of the project was going to stay over two nights in Tikal. We couldn't do that because our flight home would leave before they got back. We went instead with a smaller group that was staying overnight. We had planned to go part way with them and then split off for our own day trip. We ended up going as far as the western border with them where we split as one of them had to return to San Ignacio to retrieve her passport.

The cab fare to get that far was $12.50 US. We had to pay $37.50 US as an exit fee to get out of Belize. We'll have to pay that again tomorrow at the airport. Then we had to pay $6 US for a Guatemala entrance fee. Then we hired a private cab that would take us there, wait for us and take us back to the border. That cost $70 US for the round trip. It cost us $42 US to get into the park. We had lunch after the tour of Tikal that was good and cost $16 US. I tipped the cab driver $10. Then there was another $12.50 cab ride from the border back to town. This was not a cheap day trip.

100710_belize_trip_tikal_site_map_0450.jpgThe Tikal site itself has been under excavation for about 50 years and it is big. Some of the trails were marked in with walking time, the trail up there was 25 minutes from the ticket booth. We ended up making a loop that took us just over 3 hours, just as much as our feet would stand.

100710_belize_trip_tikal_guatemala_temple_1_backside_8834.jpgAfter climbing jungle trails for about a half hour, the jungle opened up and we saw this, the back of Temple 1. This thing is over 100 meters high and has been here for some 2000 years.

100710_belize_trip_tikal_guatemala_temple_1_taken_from_temple_2_8851.jpg This is the front side of Temple 1 which faces the Grand Plaza. The shot was taken later in the day from near the top of Temple 2, which also faces the Grand Plaza. Climbing on Temple 1 was not allowed.

100710_belize_trip_tikal_guatemala_temple_2_8836.jpgTemple 2 has wooden stairs up the left side to a platform near the top. I climbed it later in the day after we had walked most of the site. I didn't want to blow out a knee before I had seen the place. As it turned out, it wasn't a hard climb as the handrails helped a lot.

100710_belize_trip_tikal_guatemala_temple_5_8850.jpgTemple 5 is another big one. This one also has stairs but they were steeper and taller than the ones on Temple 2. I didn't even attempt to climb it.

There were lots of other smaller structures scattered about, some 60 of them have been identified and there are clearly more to find under obvious mounds. We walked among them for about 5 miles within the park according to the reading of my pedometer.

We had lunch before we got back in the taxi to ride the 125 km back to the border. Part of the road was dirt, but fortunately most of it was well paved. It started to rain part way back and the rain followed us all the way back to San Ignacio. At least the weather was good while were at Tikal.

Tomorrow, we get check out at noon after getting some lunch at Hode's. A taxi will be waiting for us at noon for a direct trip to the airport for $75 US. We're not going to mess with the public bus this time. It only runs every hour, or maybe two, on Sunday and it'll be crowded and would probably take 3 to 4 hours including the taxi ride from the Belize City bus terminal and the airport. In the taxi, we'll get there somewhere around 1400 to catch our 1720 flight on TACA.

Sunday, July 11, 2010, San Ignacio, Belize, about 0830 CST (GMT-6)

We're packing up to leave today at about noon. It is cooler today than it has been, primarily because of the thundershowers. We expect intermittent rain all the way to Belize City. This will be last entry in this blog until a wrap up sometime after we get home about midnight PDT tonight.

Monday, July 12, 2010, Torrance, CA, about 0900 PDTT (GMT-7)

We checked out and met our taxi at noon after getting some lunch at Hode's. The ride to the airport took a little less than two hours so we had still three hours to wait for the flight. Our flight on TACA was the 2nd to last flight out of the airport that day so that before we left, the airport staff was closing everything down. The flight left about 20 min early so everybody must have showed up.

We had to go through security again in San Salvador and they took my empty water bottles. They were just reused plastic bottles, but I was still irritated. They also insisted on checking my carry on bag but when we got on the plane, there would have been plenty of room for the dozen or so bags that they checked.

We got home about 0100 this morning and I crashed virtually immediately. Sandy's watch alarm was not turned off so it woke me up at 0500 and I didn't get back to sleep so I just started putting my home life back together before going to work.

It was a good trip overall. This place is COLD in comparison to Belize but it least it isn't humid.

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© 2010 George Schreyer
Created July 1, 2010
Last Updated July 12, 2010