As we travelled closer to the Belizean-Guatemalan border we stopped a couple nights at San Ignacio and stayed at an eco lodge on the outskirts of the town to break up the journey. That evening Hurricane Otto made it’s presence further south in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, although we weren’t in it’s path the storm brought a lot of rain during a final nights in Belize.
Set in the jungle, the eco lodge is divided into small wooden cabins each with twin beds and mosquito nets. Shared outdoor style bathrooms, with no hot water (something we were slowly adapting to as hot showers are rare in Central America).
We had a dinner that evening with the group at the lodge’s restaurant, we ordered the tasty ‘Belizean Favourite’ rice and beans served with Chicken and plantain.
The activities that are available in this area includes caving, cave-tubing, hiking and exploring the local Mayan ruins. One the most famous caves reachable from San Ignacio is the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave at the Tapir Nature Reserve. The Ancient Mayans saw the caves as sacred places, a passage to the underworld and they performed human sacrifices and ceremonies with human remains still visible today. The Crystal Cave at the Blue Hole National Park, 40 miles east of San Ignacio (not to be confused with the ocean sinkhole) is filled with natural crystalline formations as well as old Mayan remains. Local tour companies can organise visits, which usually involve a combination of energy burning activities to reach the caves. The Crystal Cave is the most strenuous but rewarding, with a hike to get there and then entering the cave system through narrow passages, some of our group members participated in this tour and they looked absolutely shattered afterwards.
Just down the road from our accommodation, we ventured into the sleepy village of San Jose Succotz to grab some lunch at Benny’s Kitchen, before making a visit to Xunantunich Maya Ruins. To reach the ruins, we had to cross a wide river using an intriguing ‘moving bridge ferry’, it’s essentially a covered barge carrying cars, people (and horses) across the river using a hand driven pulley system. It’s free to cross to use, but tipping is welcomed.
Once on the other side, it’s a mile uphill along a road to reach the ruin entrance (Admisson is $10 BZD, open daily closes by 4pm – on your return, ensure you leave enough time to catch the ferry). The site is split into four zones (A-D), containing several ruins and mounds with only a small handful of the temples excavated the most prominent of these is El Castillo (A6) standing at 40m high, you are able to climb it’s steps and reach the top.
The next day we cross the border and head into Guatemala.