Saturday, August 5th, 2017
After the shenanigans yesterday the flight was pretty uneventful. We discovered nothing good in the San Jose airport is open for breakfast that early, but the flights were fine. The Belize airport is pretty small. We walked over to the car rental area but there was nobody there to rent us our car. Island time I guess. A woman finally showed up and we got our little SUV and set out for the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. The drive was fine, but we had a little trouble finding the resort because the reviews and photos had shown the hotel on a jungle-like hill, so we figured no way was the GPS giving us good directions when it drove us straight into town. Turns out the front of the hotel is on the main road but they have a lot of property so that accounts for the views. We checked in and got to our room and headed to the pool to cool off and had dinner at the hotel.
Sunday, August 6th
We decided to explore the close-by ruins of Xunantunich by continuing along the road the hotel was on outside of town for about a half an hour. We were provided the opportunity to hire a guide right before we got on the little raft ferry that would take our car across the river. Imagine our surprise when once we agreed, the guy that made the offer jumped into our car! Silly us thought we were agreeing to join a group once we got to the ruins. He was a pretty affable guy, and the first to tell us “It’s unBelizeable” (he definitely wasn’t the last)! We enjoyed the ruins, except it was a bit too much sun for me so I had to spend some quality time inside the pyramid temple thing when the world started to go black as it will do right before you pass out from sunstroke. That would have been a bad thing to happen at the top of the pyramid. I took the steps a little slower after that!
We had the best dinner at Crave House of Flavor! Total bougie foodie place and everything was so good and totally unexpected for a small town. Highly recommend. Also interesting, on our way down the hill and into town a guy totally stopped us and said thank you for coming to our town. Everyone was really glad to see tourists. Nice for a change!
Monday, August 7th
We were getting ready for the day when the front desk called our room. The tour desk needed to reschedule our Tikal tour from tomorrow to today because of the impending hurricane. Yikes! The person on the phone arranged breakfast for us and the tour desk called the chocolate tour people (we’d booked separately) and rescheduled them from today to tomorrow so we could do the switcharoo. Threw on clothes and scarfed down breakfast and made it to the tour bus on time. The van took us to the border where they escorted us through Guatemalan customs and then onto another bus that would take us to Tikal. Armed guards everywhere and it was a bit intimidating so I’m glad we had them along to help. Our group boarded the other bus and we stopped at a roadside gift shop where we got some stuff and had lunch. Guatemala is much greener and lusher than Belize, they have not cut down as many trees for cattle ranches. Which makes the animosity the Belizeans have for the Guatemalans even more strange (“they sneak across the border and steal our trees”).
We made it to Tikal and met our guide, a very nice young guy with a good sense of humor. The site is amazing! So much to see. Probably the strangest thing we saw was a snake, eating a snake, eating another snake. So weird and kind of gross and fascinating and of course the largest snake was a total target himself for another predator the way he was just in the open trapped with two snakes in his mouth. Genevieve also got to hold a giant cricket, so that was good. Then it started to rain and we got a bit wet but we were lucky we went when we did and it’s so worth the trip. The bus ride back was uneventful. We left our gifts from the shop on the bus and we were on the other side of the border and couldn’t go back but our guides snuck around and back into the bus and got our bag for us.
I would totally recommend this tour and I would totally recommend you not try to do it alone. I’ve heard it’s not safe but even beyond that it would be tricky to get there and cross the border by yourself and just so much easier to let a tour company deal with it.
For dinner we went to the Guava Limb, another great restaurant. San Ignacio was quite a surprise in this regard, there are just so many good food choices.
Tuesday, August 8th
Well, this was supposed to be the day of the big tropical hurricane but the hurricane apparently didn’t get the memo and gave Belize a pass. So that was good as it made our Mayan chocolate tour better. We showed up at the chocolate shop and got driven to where the chocolate beans are grown. Apparently, Belize is not great for chocolate because the soil lacks the right nutrients, so what they do is grow compatible plants nearby to provide them. It’s a lot of work! We returned to the chocolate shop and joined a larger group of people where we got to grind our own beans and taste what that’s like and then taste the rest of the chocolate. Yummy.
We went to Ko-Ox Han nah for lunch, another good restaurant, this one less fancy and quicker (and cheaper). And then we returned to our hotel up the reasonably steep hill. At the San Ignacio Resort Hotel they also have the Iguana Project so we booked a tour. As we were waiting to go, the guide pointed out Bradford, a large male iguana who had been a breeding iguana at the iguana project but had been released to the wild. Bradford decided he liked it just fine at the San Ignacio Resort so he hangs out by the pool when he’s not trying to break back into the terrariums.
We also learned about Stargazer, a “special” iguana. Special how, we asked. You’ll see said the guide. Seems Stargazer had suffered a head injury and that’s why he was turned into the project and now he just kind of stares up and every now and then falls off of the walkways. But he eats and he’s taken care of so what more could an iguana want. There were iguanas everywhere and you could just pick them up or feed them. Really cool.
After our tour we hung out by the pool and then returned to Crave for dinner because it was just that good.
Wednesday, August 9th
Because the tour desk was so awesome we booked the cave tubing trip with them. We joined another family and got taken most of the way back to Belize city where the cave and river were. It’s quite a facility they have there, tons of tubes and tours and all that. We got our tubes and our helmets and hiked to the put in place where the guides lashed our tubes together to make a giant raft. Then we entered into the cave, where we realized what we were doing was not at all dangerous, we just needed the helmets so we wouldn’t hit our heads on the roof of the cave. We floated through the cave and out the other side, really nice and relaxing. When we got close to the end they gave us the option of just swimming back so we took that and it was fun too, we were wearing life preservers so it was just a float of a different kind.
We returned to the hotel and drove to the nearby ruins of Cahal Pech, where we walked around. Nice small little place! We had dinner somewhere but I couldn’t tell you where so it must not have been that special.