We were up and ready to wait for Abraham, our driver, in reception at the hotel. However, first of all we needed an ATM and second of all a post office. We visited three banks before actually locating an international ATM which are proving quite difficult to find over here! Money withdrawn, we found a post office with ease. Postcards sent we headed back to the hotel, packed our bag and waited. He came up to get us and took us down to his taxi. He was extremely pleasant and his English was great! He explained the journey would take about 25 minutes or so and then we would arrive.
We were sat in the back admiring the scenery consisting of similar brightly coloured houses on stilts/bricks as we saw coming into San Ignacio on the bus. Abraham then told us that when we got to the ferry, we would have to get out whilst it crossed and he would pick us up on the other side. He also explained there would be people around asking if we wanted a tour guide, but for Xunantunich, we didn’t need one. This is not what I was expecting when he said ferry. It holds four cars and you have to stand at the front as the cars reverse when it’s stopping so the weight at the back lifts the front up onto the land. There is a guy who operates the ferry by turning a lever.He does this all day every day. The crossing only took seconds and at the edge of the crossing, there were little booths where locals could showcase their handcrafted goods.Their hammocks and clothing were so colourful! Abraham told us if we wanted anything to get it here as it’s cheaper because the shops in town buy it here then take it back and sell it at a higher price. We asked to stop there on our way out.
Xunantunich was only a mile up the road once we had crossed the ferry. Abe pulled into the parking lot, showed us where the toilets, ticket office and information centre were and let us crack on. Tickets are BZ$10 for non residents so it cost us $10 to get in! We stopped at the visitor centre which tells you about the Mayan ruins before heading up to see the stone lady ourselves.
The stone lady refers to a ghost who was thought to have inhabited the site in 1892. She wore bright white clothing and had devil red eyes and would go up the steps of El Castillo disappearing into the walls. It was first explored in the 1890s by a British man, Thomas Gann. Throughout time, one square mile consisting of six plazas have been uncovered. As we walked up the path after collecting our tickets we passed a ruin on our left. It was humid but still horribly warm. I had remembered my cooling towel this time! A bit further we rounded to the left and up some steps then we were in.They ruins were huge. El Castillo is the second highest structure in Belize standing at 130ft tall and you can climb to the top of it. You see Guatemala on one side and Belize on the other, and the view goes on for miles and miles!In order to reach the top, you had to climb some relatively steep stone steps where the Mayans clearly didn’t think about the design for futuristic tourists visiting their ruins thousands of years later! At least it wasn’t wet! The view of the ruins from the top of El Castillo. Around the top of the ruin were stone carvings.The East Frieze had carvings of the Rain God, Chaak, (who clearly doesn’t exist else it wouldn’t rain so much right?), the World Tree, Paz Gods, the Moon God and Bacabs. The bottom one sort of looks like a elephant missing an ear.
It was difficult to know which was the way up to the top to go. Inside random coves that lead nowhere, to others which house the steps to go upstairs…As we descended these stairs, listening to the couple in front of us and their tour guide, not that I can remember much, however we did see a very large iguana.Scary as f******k!!! It was literally huge just hanging there on the grass. I don’t like reptiles. Or things that fly for that matter….anyways, we continued exploring.Above are the ball courts which used to feature a hoop that players had to get a ball through. Like basketball I suppose only vertical and much meaner! There were several ruins here at Xunantunich and they are still excavating! As we drove the mile road in, there was an excavation site that they had begun 3 weeks ago!The ruins were oddly pleasing to the eye considering they’re big blocks of stone.A panoramic view of El Castillo
To go with the massive iguana we saw, there were also orange caterpillarsAs well as howler monkeys. They make the loudest most horrifying sound, probably what zombies would sound like. So not only are there ancient Mayan ruins here, but also wildlife. We climbed the middle mound to get one more look at El Castillo and timed it perfectly as the heavens opened and we got drenched. Story of our lives really!I’m not kidding when I say it rained and rained hard. It was like TopGolf all over again but heavier and wetter. But, it was incredibly refreshing! We walked back to the parking lot where Abraham was waiting for us.he told us that howler monkeys go crazy when they sense it’s about to rain. Kinda like back home when cows sit down I suppose. He proceeded to tell us his family is from Guatemala which prompted me to ask for places to visit and how easy is it to cross the border etc. Very he said, and advised us to exchange money on the Belizean side for an easier time.
He dropped us back at our hotel, and offered to take us to the pick up point for our bus to Guatemala the following morning for free! What a legend! The rain didn’t let up all night but we wandered down to Tandoor again for some food. Sadly the nachos were a let down but still it was nice and relaxing watching the rain pour down. Our time in Belize was almost up. We had till noon to check out on Thursday which was great and then to walk to the pick up point for our bus to Guatemala. After a not quite cheese and bacon toastie for breakfast and a wander round the town to pick up essentials…biscuits…we repacked twice and then headed to the pick up point. Sod’s law really that the day we’re travelling the sun is out and we forget we are able to use the swimming pool at the sister hotel. 😞
Walking to the pick up point wasn’t as horrendous as we thought it’d be. Still horrendous but not to the extent we’d thought. We waited about twenty minutes and got chatting to a guy from Romford who moved out to Belize a year ago with us family and now they’re all retired! Retired at 28? Yes please!! Then a taxi pulled up asked if we were waiting for Marlene espinadas which we were, and then proceeded to ask us to wait further down the road. He put our luggage in the boot, told us to jump in and drove about 500yds down the road. All a bit sketchy but we went with it.
He was chatting away whilst we waited about his family etc and helped Chuck our luggage onto the coach when it arrived. A coach fitted with wifi and air con. Sorted. It was about thirty minutes to the border. What an easy crossing! The coach pulled up, told us another driver would take us to Flores, we all got off and our luggage stayed on the coach. No sooner had the engine been turned off, money exchangers appeared at the bottom of the steps off the coach. They were offering 300Q for BZ$100. We got ripped off by about £20 but it was the going rate as we asked amongst everyone stood with massive wads of cash in their hands looking to exchange our money.
Next we entered the departures building, paid our $40 each exit fee then stepped a few feet forward to immigration. They stamped our passports out of Belize and pointed us to the arrivals section of Guatemala. Another extremely short queue to stamp us into Guatemala and we were done. All we had to do was wait for the coach to come through…
There were no signs at all in English on the Guatemalan side. We had been spoilt in Belize but now we were going to have to learn the basics of Spanish…wish us luck…
Until next time…