Friday, April 26, 2013

A Picky Monkey

Aight.  On to the third day of our Belizean adventure.

We had booked an excursion to go back to mainland Belize and visit some ancient Mayan ruins.  So we took the water taxi back to Belize City, then took a minivan for about half an hour to this one point on some river.  I can't remember the names of anything.  Sorry 'bout that...

And that drive in the minivan...whoa.  It felt like we were back in China.  No regard for lines on roads or space between cars.  No regard for the lives inside your vehicle.  I had to just close my eyes a lot and pray that we wouldn't die.  Riding in these circumstances reminds me a lot of riding on roller-coasters.  You're like, "I should be safe and fine.  I'm all strapped in."  But at the same time, you're like, "I could seriously die on this thing."  That's how I feel while riding taxis or shuttles in Belize and in China.

So we got to this river and got on a boat.  Ben and me:

 Nick and Kathleen:
The boat ride into the ruins - I honestly don't know how long it took.   An hour, maybe?  All I  know is that the seats were really hard, and my butt hurt a lot.  But I'm so glad we did the boat ride thing, because our guide showed us so much beautiful flora and fauna...and Merryweather.  (You'll only get that if you've seen Sleeping Beauty.  And if you haven't, what is wrong with you??  Go and watch it on Netflix.  Immediately.)

Our first stop - a local spider monkey's tree.  The guide told us to crinkle our wrappers, and that he would come down and take food from our hands.  So we got out anything crinkley we had and mooshed it around.  Sure enough, here came our monkey:
The guide got our boat way up close to this little guy.  Some little kids on the boat happened to have bananas with them, and they offered a banana to the monkey.  He wasn't interested.  So we tried chips.  Yep, he wanted the chips.  Kathleen and I both really wanted to feed the monkey, too, so we each took turns feeding him chips.  It was so cool!  After the monkey grabbed chips out of Kathleen's hand, she whispered, "I JUST FED A MONKEY!!"  It was really cute.  Here's me, feeding the monkey:

So cool!!  We saw literally dozens of different types of birds along the river, including a really creepy-looking vulture (is there any other kind but "creepy"?):
These birds were cool.  They're called Jesus Christ Birds, because they walk on water:
But not really.  They walk on lily pads.  Look at that little guy's feet!

I'm not not sure what this bird was, but it was magnificent:

I thought maybe it was an ibis, but ibises have more curvey beaks.  So I'm at a loss.  But it was neat.

We loved the water lilies:

I literally have 85 pictures (and this is after picking through them and picking the very best ones) of this excursion, so I'm trying not to overload you.  Just let it be noted that we have lots more amazing shots of the animals and plants on the boat ride.

Oooh, but you have to see this - it's a Mennonite village:
Apparently, these German Mennonites immigrated to Belize in the 1950's.  And they do their farming thing, and our guide told us that this little village alone produces 80% of the country's food.  We saw a few of them fishing on the river.  We actually saw some Mennonites on the plane to Belize and thought, "Weird."  But now we get it - they were probably coming to visit someone.  And we met some Mennonites on Key Caulker, as well.  It was my first time talking to Menonnites.  They're nice.
When we got to the site of the ruins, we ate a quick Belizean lunch - chicken thighs, rice and beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.  We were already so freakin' hot, but we had no IDEA the hotness that was in store for us.

There was a dude with us from Australia.  And he had curly, shaggy hair.  So naturally, I told this guy that he reminded me of Michael Hutchence from INXS.  And the guy (his name was Ben) immediately said, "May he rest in peace."  And I said, "I knew I liked you."
I spent the rest of the day with "New Sensation" by INXS stuck in my head.  And I may or may not have sung it out loud on several occasions.

So we had a short little walk to the first pyramid.  Our guide was soooo knowledgeable about the Mayan culture (he is of Mayan descent) and of the nature in the area.  He showed us these things called Grandpa's Balls (why do I remember all of the sacrilegious/gross names of stuff?) - the gooey stuff inside of them is used locally as glue.  The school kids use that stuff instead of Elmer's glue.
This is a rubber tree - our guide cut into it to let some of the rubbery stuff seep out:
These howler monkeys are everywhere, and they really do make a creepy howling noise:
I have loads more pictures, but I don't want to bug ya.  On to the pyramids.  Here is the first one we came to, called the Mask Pyramid, because of the faces carved at the bottom:

We hiked to the top, which wasn't too difficult.  Except for the fact that it was 104 degrees that day, and who knows how high the humidity was?  100%?  That's what it felt like.  For reals, yo.  I have not been this hot since I was in China.  And that's really saying something.  I do not do well with humidity.
 Kathleen, reaching the summit:
Our guide told us that it was an honor to be sacrificed at the pyramid, which we knew.  What we didn't know was that only the gentry was sacrificed.  Peasants were deemed not sacrifice-able.  Here is Ben, pretending to be the executioner, and me, pretending to be the enthusiastic sacrificee:

What is up with me and thumbs up in every single picture lately?  Weird.  And dumb.

Pyramid number two was huuuuuugge.  There was this rope to help you climb up and down.  That's how intense it was.  Our tour guide told us that the top of the pyramid is the highest point above sea level in all of northern Belize.  I immediately decided I had to climb this thing.
 Ben at the top. He's funny.

 This gives you a little idea of how steep it was.  I went down on my bumb. 
Then we stopped at a third pyramid.  This one was different, because it had the residence of the king and his family just across the clearing in front of the pyramid.  We got to walk around in these old ruins.  This was a bedroom, with a stone slab bed.  I lay down for a picture, and it was burning hot!:
Each king had 32 wives, so there were lots and lots of rooms for the wives and children.  I can't believe how well these ruins have held up.  Well, I mean, they were basically covered up with dirt for a long time, so I guess that has helped.  Our guide told us that all of these pyramids are from 1500 BC.  Holy cow.

So this is the third pyramid we saw:
 A close up of the design on the bottom left:
We weren't given the option to climb up this one.  Honestly, I don't know if I could have, at this point.  I felt like I was dying of heat stroke.

So then we had a long boat ride back to the dock, a long car ride into Belize City, and a long water taxi ride to Key Caulker.  Ben on the water taxi:
When we got back to our island, we went to eat at THE BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT I'VE EVER BEEN TO IN MY LIFE.  It's this dude and his wife from Milan, and the Italian food is authentic and  Here are some pictures from this place (we ended up going there two more times during our stay!!):

 Ohhhh so delicious.


Kathleen said...

I'm glad we went on that tour, but holy smoke it was HOT!! Loved that restaurant!

Anonymous said...

Wow!! That's so cool!! I'm amazed you climbed both the pyramids! Awesome! :)

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