Scenes from my first weekend in Belize could have come straight out of The Jungle Book movie! It was absolutely incredible! The weather was perfect; not even one rain drop! Honestly, I would be perfectly fine with rainy school days if we could have beautifully, sunny days like these on the weekends!
After a nap when we got home from our first full week of school in Belize, Leah and I went out to dinner with the whole August family! We went to a cute little shack called the Pupusas Shop, which sold authentic El Salvadorian food made by a woman from El Salvador. We ordered plate after plate of pupusas (round tortilla pockets filled with cheese and beans), garnaches (fried tortilla covered with refried beans, cabbage, carrots, and cheese), and ponades (fried triangular tortilla pockets filled with cheese, beans, and chicken). The food was washed down with a yummy drink called Horchata, made of water, rice powder, and sugar! EVERYTHING WAS DELICIOUS! And so cheap! Everything, drinks and all, only US $13!! We’ll definitely be going back there! After dinner, Leah and I had the pleasure of meeting Alberto’s mother and sister! They were such sweet people!
The first day of our weekend began with yummy scrambled eggs with sausage and peppers made by Valerie! She offered to be our tour guide all weekend and what a great tour guide she was! WE ARE SO SO SO THANKFUL FOR HER!!!! After breakfast, we scooped up Meghan and Brandi from their house and headed down the road to The Belize Zoo! Here’s where I turned into the girl version of Mogli! The people who opened the Zoo pretty much dropped fences into the jungle and created enclosures for animals! Everything was outside and under the cover of beautiful jungle canopies! There were structures you could climb that would give you different views of the animals in their natural-like habitats! All of the animals in Zoo could actually be found in the wild Belizean jungles; so NO IMPOSTERS! Most of the national symbols of Belize could be found within the Zoo boundaries! I think the Tapir, the national animal of Belize, looks like a cross between an anteater and a pig, when really it’s in the horse family! Can’t imagine that? Check out my Facebook (link at the bottom) to see pictures! The Spider and Howler Monkeys played in the trees and showed off to keep your attention! They were so cute hanging upside down from their tails, but the Howler Monkeys were not so cute when they howled! The sound that came from those tiny animals did not match at all! It sounded like a roar from a lion! WOAH! And to talk about Woah, the Jaguars were next! JR Buddy and his other jaguar friends kept us entertained for quite a while! They would sniff you through the fence, roll around, play with their tails, and eat snacks from the Zoo keepers! I could have watched them all day! At one point during feeding, one of the jaguars got too close to the electric fence with her wet nose; she leapt back into the brush and didn’t come back out for a while! Poor thing, but at least it keeps them at bay! In addition to all of the other wonderful animal exhibits, there were also Zoo Adventures you could take (and so cheap, only U $5). First we fed Runt, a Toucan, which is the national bird of Belize! Would you think Toucans liked raisins? I didn’t, but Runt scarfed them right up! When Runt was a baby, the tree where he lived collapsed and fell on him, causing him to be blind in one eye. I had to hold the raisin up to his beak on his good side! His beak felt like really thin plastic! However, my most favorite Zoo Adventure had to be high-fiving Lucky Boy, a Black Jaguar! In July 2013, Lucky Boy was rescued from a resort in a Belizean costal town, where he and another Jaguar served as entertainment. Months before the rescue, the American owner abandoned the resort, leaving Lucky Boy and another Jaguar to die. When Lucky Boy was found, he was skin and bones, and had ground down his four front long teeth trying to escape his cage (in the pictures on Facebook, you can see that he has no front teeth). The other Jaguar was not so lucky.. But now, Lucky Boy is healthy and happily giving high fives to anyone brave enough to enter his cage! But no fear, there is a small cage inside of his cage where the adventure takes place! The experience of being that close to a wild cat was exhilarating! I TOTALLY recommend it! Along with everything else at the Belize Zoo! I will always be Team USA, but Belize wins in the Zoo category! HANDS DOWN! So cool!
But our Saturday wasn’t over yet! From the Zoo we went back west to San Ignacio! San Ignacio is a much faster paced town than Belmopan! From the moment we crossed over the bridge from the neighboring town into San Ignacio there was constant motion! There were busy streets full of people bustling about, enjoying their Saturday! Block after block of shops and restaurants, and too many street carts selling odds and ends to count! We parked the car and went off to explore Downtown (kind of like the town square). We wandered through the shops and checked out a Punta (Garifuna music) festival! We ate at a new restaurant right on the square called Fuego! From our table on the porch we could people watch and see the kids playing in the fountains! And the food was delicious! I ordered a round of fried plantain chips with a yummy dip and for my entrée I had lime spritzed shrimp skewers! Great meal and great company!
After dinner we headed up the mountain to tour the oldest Mayan temple in Belize, Cahal Pech! We got there at the most perfect time. We were the only people there and the sun was beginning to set so it wasn’t too hot! Inside the information booth there was a scale model of the site, but it didn’t do the real thing justice AT ALL! Thankfully there was a guide to show us around the site! Valerie said she was glad he was there because even though she had been there before she wouldn’t have been able to give us the information like he did. I learned so much! The beginning of the tour was a long walk up the side of the mountain. What looked like just a grassy, tree-lined hill was actually the exterior walls of the temples! When the Mayans abandoned Cahal Pech, they filled in all of the rooms and covered everything with dirt and rocks so the site appeared to be just a natural hill. Only after archeologists began digging around did they realize that there were actually temples under the dirt! They left the exterior walls covered to show the natural looking hill. The view when you rounded the hill and entered the first plaza was absolutely breathtaking! Huge, intricately built temples rose from the ground all around you! The tour guide led us through all of the different plazas, pointing out the commoners’ plaza and how it was separated from the royal plaza! He showed us the King’s temple and living quarters! I even got to sit on the King’s throne and see his view of the royal plaza from the throne (pictures are on my Facebook)! The guide led us through the rooms in the kings living quarters, explaining every little detail the Mayans considered! They thought of everything when building the temples; so far as doorways tall enough for the King to walk through with his huge headdress on! So clever! We walked through the kitchen and the area where sporting events and sacrifices took place! The coolest part of the whole experience was that archeologists are STILL excavating the site, so over the years more and more of the temples and the grounds will be discovered and more will be learned about the lifestyles of the Mayans! I can’t wait to see the other sites in Belize!
Before heading home, we stopped at the beautiful Cahal Pech Resort! The resort sits on top of the mountain and overlooks San Ignacio! The view from the pool deck is amazing! We are definitely going back there to stay this month! Or at least to swim; a day pass is only like US $5!!
From the Cahal Pech Resort, we headed home to rest up for Sunday because we would need all of our energy to ZIP LINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For those of you who, like me, had never zip lined before, YOU HAVE TO ZIP LINE YOUR FIRST TIME THROUGH THE JUNGLES OF BELIZE!!!!! WOW! There is no way anything is better than it was yesterday! The four WKU students, Valerie our tour guide, and even her 4-year-old daughter Kalina went to Caves Branch Outpost in St. Matthews to zip line on 8 different runs! They ranged from bunny runs to 1000 ft. long runs over a rushing river! It was a beyond exhilarating! We had two guides during our adventure: Jose, who always went first to meet us on the next platform, and Rafael, who stayed on the platform to hook up your pulleys and then carry little Kalina across. Some of the cables were positioned so that the run was slow but some were really fast! The fourth run was 700 ft. long and really steep so once you got close to the platform you had to really put pressure on the cable to stop. I apparently wasn’t applying enough pressure on the cable so I came flying onto the platform and Jose had to apply the emergency brake system to stop me!! The mixed emotions on my face of sheer terror and then hysterical laughter can be seen in my pictures on Facebook! The whole thing was quite comical, even Jose got a kick out of it! The 1000 ft. run over the river was eventful also! It’s obviously very long and straight, and with an added bonus of going against the wind; so if you’re not going fast enough at first, you won’t make it all the way across. Jose had to guide me through manually pulling myself the rest of the way to the platform! But the view I got to see of the river and mountain side while I pulled myself in was incredible! I wish I could share my mental pictures with you!!! Before each run, Meghan and I took turns going first so we could get pictures of each other taking off and landing on each platform! The platform views of the mountains and clear blue skies made for some really pretty pictures, too! After zip lining, I treated myself to my first Coca-Cola Light (like US Diet Coke) since leaving the States! For those of you who know me, you know an entire week without Diet Coke is HUGE for me, so it was definitely a treat!
From there, we went to Meghan and Brandi’s house for a yummy lunch made by their Belizean Mom, Jenn! On the way there we stopped at a little fruit stand on the side of the road! The sweet little lady talked me into buying two huge pineapples and more mini bananas! YUM! Then for the rest of the day we laid around at home to rest up for our second full week of class here in Belize!
I could not have asked for a better first weekend in Belize! Everything was perfect and I know it will only get better! And, as an added little tidbit, I am currently typing this blog while laying out in the sunshine on a hammock on the beautiful hand-built back deck at my pink house! THIS IS THE LIFE!
Until next time, Adios!