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Published: January 27th 2018
San Ignacio: Our First Belizean Destination
On the 7th
of January of 2018 we (Cheryl, Chuck, and Leila) flew from Minneapolis to Belize City with a stop in Chicago and plane change in Houston. We flew with Southwest for $500 per person. This as well as the last time we flew to Belize the flights departed Minneapolis at 6 in the morning, which means you need to be to the airport at a lovely 4 am, making for a long day of travel. Remember to focus on the warm weather to come!
We arrive to Belize City at 4:40 pm, go through immigration, get checked baggage, go through customs, and head to the car rental company. Happily, this all went quite quickly. Get the rental and go like a bat out of hell to get to our destination, San Ignacio, about two hours drive away, before dark (sunset was 5:30 pm) even though we were all well aware that we would never make it there before dark. Can’t blame a girl for trying, right?! I (Leila; aka Errand Girl) learned or rather acquired the skill to drive in Latin America while travelling about in Mexico.
After a few break downs on the roadside over the years with many tears and hysterical cries for help, I now am a fully functional Gringa Latina Conductora Loca (crazy white girl Latina driver). One of our rules of travel is that we try to avoid driving around after dark, especially in unfamiliar places. Doing so just increases the number of potential problems that might occur.
Needless to say we arrived to our destination after dark and as a result looped around town a few times trying to locate our place of lodging. So, we stopped for directions and received the infamous “todo derecho”, which roughly translates to “keep going, you’ll find it”. More accurate directions from a local officer included a rough drawn map, visual aids, and lots and lots of explanations. Basically, go back a few blocks turn right, and we’d drive about right into the place. Super easy in the daylight, but it wasn’t daylight and it had been a long day of travel. In the end, we arrived to our place of lodging and went for a nightcap; aka Rum Punch in Belize.
While in San Ignacio we stayed at
Midas Tropical Resort. Although I thought we had made our reservations well in advance, all of the single (and cheaper) rooms and cabanas were already taken three months ahead of time. When Chuck and I had taken our four-month trip nearly ten years ago, we found and stayed at Midas Resort while in San Ignacio. It is located on the edge of town, so it is quiet and within walking distance to markets, the bank, and food. This time around we ended up renting their Casita Verde for $155 USD per night, a two bedroom house, because it was what was available that would work for our little group. We really enjoyed the place (both times)! All of the staff at Midas was friendly and welcoming, and willing to help with area advice and tips. And, they were genuinely sincere; Chuck came down with the flu while we were in San Ignacio and when I asked for a recommendation of a place to get good chicken soup, we were instead offered a big bowl of their own fresh and homemade chicken soup (cooked with bones and all). Very nice! I should clarify that Midas only offers breakfast. They had the
best Huevos Rancheros I had ever had, so I had them for three days straight!
Our first day in San Ignacio we visited the ancient Maya site of Cahal Pech or Place of Ticks. Apparently after the Maya abandoned Cahal Pech and during the Colonial Era the area surrounding and including Cahal Pech was known for being a place infested with ticks, and so it came to be known as the place of ticks or in Maya, Cahal Pech. Fortunately for us, we did not happen upon any tick infestations while there. Our Belizean bug problems would occur later in our trip… This was the first ancient Mayan site Cheryl had visited and I was happy to see her enjoy exploring a site as much as we always do! While at Cahal Pech we were able to meet a resident archaeologist as well as a number of students and volunteers working to excavate and document areas of the site. In one area that day they found potsherds, a projectile point, and a piece of pottery that might have been a part of a musical instrument. It was really very interesting and fun to hang out and watch their slow
progress for a short time. And, Cahal Pech is a site we enjoyed visiting; it is easy to get to, but it is smaller and comparatively primitive or unexcavated so not overrun with swarms of people.
The same day we visited the Green Iguana Project at San Ignacio Resort Hotel. On the grounds of this hotel is a protected area for green iguanas. Iguanas that have been injured or raised in captivity have a home in the protected area on the hotel grounds. Injured iguanas are cared for until they are recovered well enough to return to the wild. Of course, iguana hunting is not allowed on the hotel property, so iguanas are seemingly abundant in the area surrounding the hotel property. The hotel offers hourly tours every day between 8am and 4pm with the goal of educating the public about the green iguana, providing a place of interaction, and raising funds through tour admissions and donations while also increasing awareness. It is a unique experience to be informed about the green iguana while at the same time interacting with them. I should add that only those iguanas friendly to humans are allowed to interact with the
"let's go eat"
humans so no worries about having your face scratched off (that’s a relief).
Next we walked through the market and the downtown area of San Ignacio before ending our day with supper at Ko-Oh-Han-Nah (Mayan for “let’s go eat). It was a small restaurant with only a handful of tables that received great reviews in both of the Belize guidebooks we had with us, Moon and Rough Guides. The food was great, service was good, and prices were affordable. Apparently we showed up at the perfect time. When we walked in there were two open tables. When we left there was a line down the street waiting to get in. Just in time too since Chuck was starting to feel a bit under the weather.
The next day was the day for Chuck and Cheryl to go on the ATM Tour. This tour involves walking and/or swimming through several rivers. Since I swim like a rock, I opted out of this tour. Hint; rocks sink, not swim. This is also the day that some freakish Belizean flu, strengthened by walking and/or swimming through several rivers before inhaling bat guano in a cave for a
length of time, knocked Chuck to his knees for the next couple of days. This is when we became very grateful to the folks at Midas Resort for sharing their homemade chicken soup with Chuck!
In the meantime while Chuck and Cheryl went on their tour, I chose to join a group of medical school students on the medicinal plant trail also on the grounds of the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. The San Ignacio Resort Hotel sits on a 17-acre private estate allowing them to both protect and represent the area flora and fauna to visitors. On the trail we were introduced to the Black Poisonwood Tree, which has effects similar to Poison Ivy or Poison Oak. Interestingly, this tree always grows in close proximity to the Gumbo-Limbo (or gringo) Tree, so named because its dry papery bark is red and peels off like the skin of white tourists. The interesting part is that the Gumbo-Limbo also provides the antidote to the Poisonwood Tree. Also featured on this trail were Allspice (an anesthetic), Asian Oregano, Culantro (quite similar to cilantro and with similar uses), Aloe, the Ceiba (apparently related to the Cottonwood), Cahones de Caballo (relief for
the bot fly), and termites (for protein when you are very hungry or on a medicinal plant tour). Just FYI; termites taste like a mix of carrots, celery, and pepper, or chicken bouillon.
After two days in San Ignacio we left for Tikal, Guatemala.
Tot: 0.046s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 13; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0077s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
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