The Race to Lamanai...and Back!

Published: March 12th 2017
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The ship tendered a few kilometres off the coast of Belize City, and we were on the first boat off. It took about a half hour to reach land, and once we did, we quickly found Roberto who was our contact to visit some Mayan ruins further inland. I hated being on a timer but sadly that’s the reality with this kind of travel and we had to be back by late afternoon or our ship would be off without us. We had some time to wander near the port because Roberto was still waiting for some others to join us.

Belize is a small Central American country that was once ruled by the British. About 330 thousand people call it home and once one leaves the Caribbean coast and reef filled waters, and heads west, dense jungles begin to appear. Today marked Belize’s Independence Day, making the city congested full of people celebrating. On the flip side, this could mean that traffic wouldn’t be as bad in some places. We checked out some of the closer festivities near the port and then finally Roberto rounded us up with the late arrivals and we were off.

We began the journey in a large mini-bus heading north-west on a highway. After about an hour and a bit, we reached New River and piled into a motor boat. The humidity was overwhelming and I was sweating profusely at times. Nevertheless, it was awesome as our boat took off and traveled along the snake like river through the thick jungle. The driver and Roberto spoke Spanish amongst themselves and I was able to pick up a surprising amount since I had begun learning the language on my own time. We passed a Mennonite community on the way, and waved at each other. The Mennonites, a traditional Christian group, had traveled and established themselves in Belize from other parts of North America. Many of them still wore traditional clothing, which gave them a distinct look. The ones we saw apparently spoke German.

After about 45 minutes, we had reached our destination; the ancient Mayan temples of Lamanai. This was the site of a large Mayan city dating back more than 2500 years. There were several temples here, and Roberto gave us some background information on them all. I walked along with Bev and we spent time trying to snap photos of Howler Monkeys but they were high up in the trees. These creatures had terrifying howls, hence the name, which echoed far into the distance. In fact, we learned that their howls were used for the T-Rex in the film Jurassic Park! We climbed the high temple and got great views of the endless jungles that surrounded us. Considering how hot and humid it was, I was sweating buckets, but it felt fitting since we were in the jungle after all. We then saw another temple with cool Mayan sculptures. At one point, I realized I was standing near an ant mound and got bitten several times by fire ants. Those bites hurt!

It was time to get back to the boat. Booking an independent excursion is way better value and usually more interesting than getting one of those overpriced tours from the cruise line. There was only one disadvantage though; the ship won’t wait for you should you miss it! Some nasty weather was coming in fast with clouds as black as night and thunder and lightning brewing in the distance. As we approached the boat, the skies opened up and a violent torrent of rain appeared. We were all forced to take cover. Usually, rain in the tropics can be a heavy but generally a quick affair. In this case, it seemed like it wouldn’t be letting up anytime soon. Roberto looked a little worried, knowing he needed to get us back to the ship on time and that we still had a long journey. Another couple we met hadn’t even brought any identification or even extra cash should they find themselves stranded somewhere. Luckily I had planned ahead because I know that things can constantly go wrong. We placed our cameras and electronics in zip locked bags that I had brought.

Twenty minutes later, it was decided that we had to make a move. There was probably about fifteen of us in this group and everyone lined up and moved towards the dock. It was a little harrowing because lightning was still striking and none of us felt like getting hit by it. Once loaded up on the boat, we took off and luckily the driver knew where he was going because visibility was drastically reduced with the storm. They gave us a tarp to get under, but only some of us could use it as shelter while the rest were exposed to the battering wind and rain. Eventually the storm did let up and the sun peaked through. We passed the Mennonites who waved at us. Then our boat ride ended when we reached Orange Walk. We had just enough time to eat a homemade lunch there before getting into another mini-bus and making our way back to Belize City. I sat up front on a cooler because there weren’t enough seats and chatted with Roberto for most of the way. He talked a lot about Belize and his Mayan ancestry; he was a really insightful man. We got back to the port with seemingly minutes to spare and then lined up to grab the last tender back to the ship. Our time in Belize was short but was definitely sweet.

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13th March 2017

We are not huge fans of Belize as a whole, although we have visited several times. However, we loved our trip to Lamanai. The ride through the jungle was great and the ruins themselves were excellent. Having to go by boat from Orange Walk made them memorable. Glad you made it back to the ship!

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