Belize: Tikal Adventure

We were only there a month ago, but it really feels like so much has happened since our Belize adventures! I want to wrap up vacation posts (finally!), so today I’ll share a little bit about our trip into Tikal, and tomorrow I’ll finish up with some gorgeous beach photos.

Guatemala

Guatemala

I wrote a bit about touring the ATM cave, which is sincerely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. In an effort to cram as much adventure as possible into three days, though, we following our cave tour with a little trip into Guatemala, to visit Tikal. Tikal is one of the largest and most excavated sites on the Mayan civilization, and is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. If I recall correctly, and I may not, Tikal was most active between 300 and 700 AD. It’s comprised of a number of temple groups/plazas, and six huge limestone pyramids that can reach about 200 ft high.

Pyramid

I made reservations a few days before we left the states with BZM Tours, and could not have been more thrilled with their service. Albert was great via email, and arranged for us to meet up with him locally, then drove us over to the Guatemalan tour. Two great things- first, Evan and I were the only ones on this tour, which I loved! I think many times tour companies cancel if a tour isn’t full, so I was pretty thrilled that we were able to have our tour with just us. Secondly, Albert handled everything at the border, so all we had to do was hand over our passports for a stamp- it’s my understanding that crossing can sometimes get a bit hectic, but ours was really smooth.

Pyramids

 So, once we crossed the border we met with our Guatemalan driver, and all four of us left for the park. The drive was about an hour and a half, and then we met with our guide at Tikal. Luis was amazing, and shared tons of knowledge with us regarding the history of Tikal…and offered me some allspice oil when I got a few mosquito bites, which was incredibly welcome and surprisingly effective.

Complex

The tour itself was pretty long- I would say that we were in the park for about three or so hours. We climbed several of the pyramids, and got an extensive lecture on Mayan astrology. Then we still had to drive two and a half hours back to our lodge J Even though we were exhausted, I’m really, really glad that we went- these were some of the most impressive ruins of the Mayan civilization, and I’m a history person. I thought it was great!

Lemur

Belize: ATM Cave Tour

Howie is an expressive beast, and I can always feel his judging eyes on me when I neglect this space.

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Before life got in the way, I was writing about Belize, and I definitely wanted to talk about two of our amazing adventures that we embarked on during the Jungle Portion. First, we took a tour of Actun Tunichil Muknal, an ancient cave used by the Mayans around 700 AD for ceremonial purposes…and ritual sacrifice (what??? I always forget that this is a practice that actually happened). Touring this cave might truly be the most amazing thing that I’ve experienced, thus far- it’s right up there with Egyptology studies.

Belize is pretty lax with regulations and laws, but one restriction they really do enforce is no cameras in this cave (allegedly, a tourist dropped a camera on one of the sculls a few years ago). So, I borrowed some photos from the interweb, to give you an idea of what ATM was like:

We walked for about forty-five minutes through the jungle, crossing through the river three times; the river was perfectly warm, and never more than waist-high. After we took a quick break to grab a snack, we walked to the mouth of the cave. To enter, you had to swim through a pool of some of the clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen- deep enough to jump into, but you could see all the way down.

Then we spent three hours in the cave, travelling about a mile and a half. Nearly the entire tour was in the water, which I didn’t realize, and the cave was pitch black, illuminated only by our headlamps. About halfway through the tour, all I could think about was the movie Anacondas. Luckily, though, the water was perfectly clear throughout the cave, and the only creatures I noticed were the occasional bats.

There are a few amazing things that I need to share. First, the cave was enormous, with ceiling heights over a hundred and twenty feet, at times. Second, there were no safety precautions whatsoeve-r we were swimming, scaling 20 ft rock faces, barely cramming through tiny spaces between sharp rocks, with no equipment whatsoever, save for a helmet. Evan commented that, had anything happened to anyone, it’s not like Belize’s non-existent EMS would even be able to get to them…fellow tourists would have to carry someone out of the cave, and a helicopter would need to get to the middle of the jungle.

 The other amazing thing about ATM was the ridiculously free access to the artifacts…and skeletons. As we neared the end of the cave tour, we came to the ceremonial chamber where most of the pottery is found. At this point you’re required to remove your shoes (socks only!). I sat down on a ledge and started taking off my soggy gym shoes and noticed that I very nearly set them on top of a tiny vase! Looking around the chamber, I noticed that they clay pieces were (sort of) haphazardly marked with colored tape, to discourage people from stepping on them.

Similarly, when we reached the complete skeleton that people suggest is the highlight of the entire tour, there was a bit of twine “roping” it off but, as I sat to listen to our tour guide, I could have easily reached out a touched it. I asked about why these items haven’t been excavated, and our guide said that excavation would ruin the artifacts and the cave, since many of them had been calcified over time, so Belize had decided to leave the cave as a living museum.

So, overall, this was one of the most awesome things I’ve been so fortunate to experience. To be able to go through such a remarkably beautiful and well-preserved ancient ceremonial site was ridiculous, and something we would never be able to do in the States. I would absolutely recommend this tour to anyone who is planning to visit Belize!

Some Spring Planting

Great, great news- I’ve finally broken through the most chaotic month of the year! Seriously- we had a bachelorette party that I was in charge of feeding, a glorious Belize adventure, an unexpected bout of sun poisoning, which was gross, a baby shower that I helped throw for my sister-in-law, then a twenty page term paper on electoral reform. Not a bad month, by any means, but certainly a month where I relied pretty heavily on my planner, my to-do lists, and coffee applied intravenously. Anyway, this weekend was a rare weekend where Ev had both days off and we didn’t have any obligations, so it was perfect for doing some spring planting! Now, I’m not a gardener by any means- mostly, I plant things and then cross my fingers that something grows. Last year, I had about six wildly successful tomato plants, so I gained some confidence. This year, I decided to try some early spring planting, with kale. Inspired by a Home Depot commercial, I grabbed a hanging planter, some potting soil, kale seeds, and a flat of posies. IMG_4451

I had six flowers, so I cut six evenly space vertical slits in the coconut liner and inserted my posies so the flowers were outside of the liner, and the roots were inside.

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Then, I filled the rest of the basket with potting mix, and sprinkled in my kale seeds. I used two packets of seeds, regular and heirloom kale. The heirloom was purple and  gorgeous, so I went with it. My planing was pretty scientific- I sprinkled each batch of seeds evenly across the basket 🙂 Then I covered the entire thing with another thin layer of coil, as directed by the seed packet. IMG_4456

If everything goes according to plan, I should see growth in about ten days…exciting! My main concern is what to do when (if?) kale starts growing. The packet suggests that plants ought to be thinned to 18 inches, which I believe means that every plant need to grow about 18 inches apart. If that’s truly the case, I could probably only grow one, maybe two, kale plants in my basket and would need to move the other plants. To an undetermined location. So…we’ll see how that goes. In the mean time, here’s hoping that we have kale in a month or so!

IMG_4461Also important to note that we didn’t actually have a hook for a hanging basket on our front porch, which I really thought we did. So, temporarily, this basket is sharing space with our UD flag.

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Also, in unsurprising news, Howie kept a very watchful eye over this entire process. He fancies himself the ‘neighborhood watch’.

I hope everyone else is getting excited for Spring! It’s finally on its way, I’m certain of it!