Weekend #1: Tikal, Belmopan Fair, and ATM Caves

This weekend we had a long weekend off because of the Belize Labor Day Holiday. We went up to San Ignacio Friday night and stayed in a local hostel. This was my first time ever staying in a hostel so it was exciting for me. We ended up having 9 people in an 8 person dorm room and it was unbelievably hot. Other than that there was nothing really all that bad about the hostel. It was really fun.

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This is Old House Hostel

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Inside the living room of the Hostel

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8 beds and 9 people in this tiny room

Saturday morning we went to Tikal, the Mayan Ruins. They were absolutely amazing. The day was perfect. We were picked up at 7am and brought across the border into Guatemala. They took us to this fancy breakfast place. I am becoming a little addicted to plantains. I need to learn how to cook them myself so I can continue my addiction when I’m back in the States. After breakfast we went on a tour around the ruins. We had a tour guide named Luis who was absolutely hilarious. He knew so much about the Mayan history and he gave us so much more than a typical tour of a historical site. He would pull grass off trees and explain what different things were made out of. It was really interesting to hear. He also took us on “short cuts” which ended up meant hiking through the jungle off the beaten path. This was awesome because we got to see spider monkeys and hear all the different animals of the Jungle. He also found out I was studying physical therapy and he tried to explain to me that I can create energy between my hands and the Ruins ground and that it’s a way to treat my patients and that I should keep my eyes peeled for the research about it. He made me wave my hands back and forth with his and then I had to pass the energy to the Ruin floor and then back to him. It was quite entertaining to say the least. Tikal was AMAZING. He took us up to the center of the temples and let us walk around and explore. I had my GoPro on so hopefully I got some good footage but I haven’t looked at it yet. We were even allowed to climb to the top of multiple of the temples. It is amazing how all of that was made by hand and they had no modern day machinery to help them.

Here are SOME of the pictures I took of the ruins. (I have a million pictures).

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Our hike path through the jungle to get to Tikal

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This is Luis the tour guide for Tikal

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Yes I am the nerdy tourist. Ignore all of my sweat its like a million degrees here.

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This was the highest climb with what I called the best view of all the ruins in the main square.

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See how there are Mayan designs all over it. These were all over the ruins

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This is the view from the top of the highest temple. It over look the entire jungle. The other ruins that I have pictures of are off in the distance.

Luis also explained to us that we happened to come to the site on the exact day that at 12 noon our shadow would be directly below us. Apparently this only happens once in a random while so we were all excited about this. I tried to take a picture but it didn’t turn out as well as planned.

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After the tour of Tikal, we were taken to a fancy restaurant for lunch. The restaurant had a pool next to it that looked out over a beautiful lake. Luckily we all brought swim suits and we swam around in the pool for an hour. It was much needed after a day full of hiking and climbing in all the heat.

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This is the restaurant we ate lunch at.

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This is the pool we swam in after lunch. It overlooks the lake.

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This is the view from the pool deck of the lake.

Sunday morning we woke up and went out to breakfast at this local breakfast place in San Ignacio called Pops. It was really good food and the owner seemed to know everyone which made it an awesome environment. Later that day we went to Belmopan for the Agricultural Festival that happens in Belize once a year. This is the biggest fair in the country of Belize so we wanted to check it out. To be honest it reminded me a lot of just a local state fair. Nothing too crazy. All of the people I traveled with are from London so they were VERY excited to watch a live rodeo. I on the other hand just walked directly to the beer tent and hung out there for a large portion of the afternoon. Normally in the US festivals and fairs jack up their prices of everything because they know they can get away with it. I was expecting the same here in Belize but I was so wrong. My beers all day only cost $1.50US. I tried the famous chocolate Belikin stout. It was AMAZING. Honestly I have never tasted a beer that actually tasted like good chocolate before. Other than that the fair was fun. We walked around and checked out the games and stands. All of the rides were going WAY too fast for a normal carnival ride. I was cracking up because the Farris Wheel was going so fast that people were screaming while riding it. I was under the impression that Farris wheels are supposed to be slow and sort of romantic. I guess not in Belize.

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The Belmopan Agricultural Fair. People brought their own horses to ride around so they didn’t have to walk.

On Monday we woke up and had another tour of a Mayan Ruin site. This time it was a huge cave called Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM). This was by far the best part of the weekend for me. We went for a hike into the jungle to get to the cave. Once there we put on our helmets and head lamps and we swam into the cave. The water was crystal clear and so refreshing. Our tour guide was named Carlos. He was hilarious. He kept making us turn our lights off in the pitch dark and see if we could walk around without seeing and just feeling. Honestly it was an AMAZING experience. I would go a million times again. Deep in the cave there are pots and pans and different artifacts that were left by the Mayans. This is one of the only places in the world where you can take a tour and explore the artifacts directly where the Mayans left them. Usually they are picked up and taken to museums. We got to see different skeletal remains that were left in the cave. Apparently in ancient times, the Mayans would try to flatten their foreheads with wood to make themselves more beautiful. They would also sacrifice infants and children to the gods within the cave. This tour was not only super fascinating to hear about all the Mayan stories and to really understand their beliefs but it was also an adventure like no other. We were climbing all over the rocks. We had to squeeze through rocks and slide down flows of water to get around the cave. Sometimes Carlos would just tell me to take the lead and when I would ask which way he would just say “follow your heart”. He made the experience so much more fun. The only thing that stunk about the ATM cave was that no cameras were allowed so we didn’t take any pictures. In the end I was okay with that thought because it allowed for me to really just take in the tour rather than focus on getting the best pictures.

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This is Carlos. Our crazy caveman tour guide.holding a Machete.

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Here we all are right before we took off to go into the cave.

We had a very busy traveling weekend but it was honestly SO much fun. I already knew that I loved to hike and explore but now I think I have a new passion for caving!!

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