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Weekend in Guatemala

May 19, 2010

On Friday my new friend Tamera and I took a half day bus trip to the town of San Ignacio near the Belize/Guatemala border. We checked in to our beautiful suite, with a breezy balcony overlooking the town, then took another bus up to some of the local ruins. Cahal Pech was an impressive maze of stone structures, and we climbed on top and inside them all. Then further down the road is Xunantunich, where you take a ferry across the river, then hike a mile uphill to the complex. Iguanas scurried by while we were hiking, and howler monkeys swung from the trees at the top. The ruins were beautiful, and I ran up the hundreds of stone steps like Rocky training for the big fight.

The next day we had a “tour” to Tikal, where a driver took us to the border, handed us off to another man who got us swiftly through the border, who handed us off to a different driver, who took us the two hours or so to Tikal, where we picked up our guide, Ronnie. Ronnie’s job was to tell us all about the plants and animals and history of Tikal, but he wouldn’t walk and talk at the same time, and Tamera and I got restless pretty quickly. He got the hint soon enough, and we were bounding up stone steps again, racing to the tops of the ruins for spectacular views of the temples and the surrounding jungle. The steepest structures have wooden staircases built up the sides of them because people have fallen and died. The wooden stairs/ladders were pretty scary as it is, especially because they were slippery in the pouring rain. We also got to see all kinds of interesting wildlife, which I will post pictures of later. We walked right past a “Danger Crocodiles!” sign into tall grass and muddy ponds, where Ronnie swished a stick in the water in hopes of attracting some for us. Luckily the crocodiles were all taking a siesta.

Our adventure continued on Sunday, first with ziplining through the jungle, which was so much fun. Then cave tubing, where you sit in an inner tube and float down the river through pitch black caves with bats and waterfalls and stalactites. From there we explored the Belize zoo, and spent quite a bit of time with the jaguars, which was very cool.

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Tags: belize, guatemala, tikal, travel

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Digging in Belize

May 12, 2010

I arrived in Belize on Mother’s Day, after an exhausting series of flights from Honolulu to San Francisco, to Houston, to Belize City, then on a small plane to Punta Gorda. I got situated in the little cottage I’m renting, then had a wonderful dinner with the crew, cooked by the daughter of our landlord. I started work bright and early the next day, excavating a Mayan tomb complex and immediately smashed my thumb, breaking my nail in half. It was an awesome day nonetheless; the site is near a Mayan village, with thatched houses, pigs, horses, chickens, and happy children running around, all in the midst of a deep green jungle, plots of it on fire for slash and burn farming.

The last two days I’ve been working at a different site in the mountains, which requires a one hour hike to get to. We’ve compared the hike to working out on a stairmaster in a sauna. I love it anyway, there are leaf cutter ants that are so cool, and butterflies of brilliant yellow and dazzling blue. My unit up in the mountains hasn’t produced much except lots of big, fat bugs and a scorpion. I did get a couple pieces of pottery, including some rim sherds. The two workers assigned to my unit are both named Santiago and I have to say they are faster excavators than me. I asked the Santiagos what kind of scorpion it is that I found, and they replied "the bad kind." I guess that's all I need to know. Today at the tomb complex they’ve uncovered the first non-looted tomb in the area and have posted guards there for tonight. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and am so excited to visit Tikal this weekend.
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