So our time was up in Caye Caulker, and it was time to head off to mainland Belize. San Ignacio was to be our next stop, and it was right across the country, in West Belize, near the border of Guatemala.
So, we got up early for the boat to Belize City, and from there, we needed to pick up the bus all the way to San Ignacio. Upon arrival in Belize City, we took a 5-10 minute taxi ride to the bus station. This was pretty scary. The cab itself was falling apart at the seams, and I wasn’t sure we would even make it to the bus station in this poor excuse for a car. This of course would have been a disaster. It seems Belize City is not the sort of place you ideally want to be stranded in from what I could gather after looking out of the window! Plus, everyone we have spoken to so far that has been to Belize City, told us to avoid like the plague! Anyway, luckily, we made it to the bus station in one piece! After dragging our bags out of the cab, and into the bus station, it was
clear this wasn’t going to be straight forward, as there was no one at the ticket booths for us to buy a ticket? So we carried on and finally a guy came up to us shouting ‘San Ignacio’ in our general direction. He didn’t look very official however; he seemed to know what was going on. Donna and I looked at each other, and then back to the guy, and meekly said ‘We’re going to San Ignacio’. This prompted him to point out the bus behind him, currently reversing out of the bus station saying ‘you need this bus, get on NOW’. We asked if it was the express (we had been told to get this as it doesn’t stop and pick up everyone on the way, and takes half the time), to which he replied, no, the next one is at 3pm. Being that it was currently 9am, we didn’t really fancy waiting round that crazy bus station in the middle of Belize city til then, so decided to take a leap of faith on this seemingly random guys advice, and jump on to this heaving, sweaty bus to San Ignacio, that by now, had pretty much all but
pulled out of the station prompting us to run after it, and jump on.
It turned out to be one of Central Americas Chicken buses that we boarded, and was a pretty eye opening encounter (Mexico buses – In take all the bad stuff I said about you back…I love you!). These buses are basically old USA School buses that have been ‘done up’ with paint jobs, sub woofer speakers, with Jesus stickers everywhere. People wedged themselves in every nook and cranny they could, and just hit the roof when they wanted to get off whether this be the conventional way of the front door, or just waiting for the bus to slow down enough, so they could jump out of the back!. Health and safety isn’t a big deal here!
So we finally made it San Ignacio after stopping on average every 5 mins to pick up and drop off half of Belize it seemed.
San Ignacio isn’t a very big place, consisting of 2 streets, and on first impressions, you wonder whether this really is the correct town. Turns out it was though, and after a wander, some food, and getting a tour booked,
we hit the sack.
The next day, we went on a tour that I can confidently say, was one of the best tours we have ever done. Atm or Actun Tunichil Muknal giving it its real name, was a 45 min trek through the jungle in order to reach a cave which was filled with small pools and running waters, as well as the added bonus of being pitch black! The cave itself was used by the Mayans over a thousand years ago in order for them to produce offerings to the 9 gods of the underworld who they believed would help them out in times of crisis such as drought, famine etc… So, after being bitten twice by a leaf cutter ant on the toe (it proper hurt, although they carry no venom, so I survived!), we arrived at the cave. Once inside, our head torches were our only source of light, and we spent a good 3 hours swimming, climbing, and battling our way towards the chambers. On our way through, we encountered some ‘Troglobites’, which are creatures that only live deep in the caves, and have evolved to lose their eyes, but use other senses in
order to stalk their prey. We were ‘lucky’ enough to see a Troglobite Spider with huge antennae chase a blind cricket round the cave, which was something we never assumed we would see! Once inside, the remains really were quite remarkable. There are pots, and ceramics in there that are over a thousand years old that have been left in the same position they were found many years ago, as well as plenty of other amazing things, including human skeletons. It is said that the Mayans in their time of need were offering first food, and burning incense, but as their woes grew, the sacrifices got more and more desperate, and eventually, they started to sacrifice animals, and then eventually humans. The finale of the cave was located in the highest part of the chamber, as well as being the farthest away from the entrance, and boasted a full human skeleton of a woman, that had not been touched since about 900ad….It was all intact, and truly amazing to see something like this where it was found as opposed to in a museum. Anyone coming to Belize reading this, I would thoroughly recommend this tour, and if possible, do it
with the company Maya Walk, as all their staff from the boss Jimmy to the tour guide Aaron, and the barman Smokey were absolutely top drawer, and made us feel really welcome, as well as providing amazing tours. The day of the tour turned into the night of independence eve (our second independence celebrations since being away!), and a fair few Rum and cokes were consumed with Smokey, and the guys from Maya Walk.
The next day, we headed on another tour to do cave tubing, again with Maya Walk, where you float down a pristine river through caves on an inflated inner tube from a trucks tire. Once in position, you generally just sit back and chill whilst watching the beautiful scenery float by. It was here we saw our first wild Tarantula which was HUGE, whilst hiking up the hill to the start point which was pretty hair-raising for any non-spider lovers like ourselves, although this one couldn’t even kill you, so there was nothing to worry about apparently!.
After the cave tubing, we got back in the afternoon in time to watch the Independence parade of Belize, which was really cool to see all the
floats and mayhem go through the tiny streets of San Ignacio! Everyone watching was in high spirits, and were all really friendly. They were also more than happy to talk you through what was going on, and explain anything we didn’t understand, which was really handy. That evening a few more rums were sunk, as we readied ourselves to say goodbye to another country, and say hello to Guatemala……..
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