Saturday, January 7, 2012


"Today is d' Friday" = Today is Friday

Before I start talking about my day, I want to let you know that the main language in Belize is English.  The second spoken language is Spanish.  Everyone in Belize speaks Creole (Kriol).  To be completely honest, I've heard very little Spanish thus far but tons of Creole.  Mr Owen said he'd give me a phrase a day to learn so I could come home speaking Kriol.  Mr Isaac said he'd try and teach me Mayan.  However, Mr Isaac might be a glorified pot head...not too sure how legit he is just yet.  

The New Palace - El Castillo
Today Mr Owen picked us up at 9 am and we departed for Xunantunich (I believe its pronounced su-nan-tun-ich). Xunantunich is only about 2 miles from San Ignacio.    As soon as we got there, Mr Owen shooed us off the van and onto a river ferry to cross the Mopan River.  As we hiked up the small slope, I looked around and realized I was walking into a rainforest.  You're probably wondering at this point what is Xunantunich?  Well, formally it was a Mayan city with an estimated population of 10, 000 inhabitants.  Today it is a Maya archaeological site in the Cayo District of Belize.  The name itself is a modern name meaning "the stone maiden".   
Re-constructed hieroglyphs on the side of the New Palace

Anyways, as we ascended the gentle slope, we were greeted by Junior.  Junior would be our tour guide.  He is a small, round man.  He is VERY informative.  I highly suggest if you decide to ever visit Xunantunich you should ask for Junior.  As you pass the gates and enter the forest further, you come across the first building.  This building, according to Junior, is some sort of administrative building.  The evidence for this is the remains that were found during excavation behind the building, suggesting a gift to the gods.  As you continue the trip up the path, you suddenly see the Old Palace and the Pyramid first.  As you turn to your left, the New Palace comes into site.  He says that Dr Howie, an archaeologist, believes that the buildings were painted with magnificent colours and hieroglyphs covered the temple walls and homes.  We raced up the pyramid steps and ascended closer to the heavens.  El Castillo, as the temple is known to some, is the second tallest structure in Belize.  Ryan and I were the first to reach the top.  The breath-taking view that emerged before us was a vision of green and blue landscape with monumental structures and lush untouched, uninhabited forest.  Absolutely amazing.   
Chillin' at the top of the New Palace - whatta view <3

To sum it up: you, the sun, the ruins, the forest and the breeze.  Nothing else seems to matter.  

I could have sat up there all day and just watched the sky get dark-thats how great it was. 

To the far left you can see the Guatemalan border.  So you'll be quick to notice that the army is hiding all over the forest to ensure that no one sneaks into the country.  (Meredith and I ran into two of them dressed in Green we naturally asked to take a picture with them and their semi-automatics).   Immediately under the New Palace, there is a small ball court.  The ball court was an ancient Mayan ball game that held great religious significance.  In most cases, the losing team would be sacrificed to the gods.  

"Monkey Balls Plant"
Along the way, Junior also showed us how the land around the site was used.  He introduced us to what the locals call the "monkey balls plant".  When this little plant is pierced, it produces natural glue!

Junior then ripped a few leaves off a tree and asked us all to put a piece in our mouths, chew it, then spit it out.  This was "all spice".  It was used to numb mouths for piercings back in Mayan times; today we cook with it.

He also pointed out a "tourist tree".  The locals call it a tourist tree because it peels just like tourists do when they get too much sun.  HAHA.  This tree is actually the antidote to poison ivy rashes.  

As we descended back towards the main entrance, Junior and I got to talking.  Turns out his favourite show is 1000 ways to die.  We started talking about the most random episodes and then turned to documentaries that we thought the other would enjoy.  I won't lie, I was upset when the tour was over.   Everyone piled into the bus, when I decided I should use the bathroom before I leave.    I realize this might be TMI (too much information), BUT I SWEAR I HAVE A POINT.  

AS I WAS PEEING...I heard this outrageous roaring.   I went outside and asked Junior what it was...HOWLER MONKEYS.  It was the most epic thing I've ever heard.  I just took a whole class on Primates and was ecstatic to hear real live Howler Monkeys.  Turns out the area we were in as two types of monkeys: Black Howler Monkeys and Spider Monkeys.  

****these might not be the biggest and best ruins, but they are remote and quiet.  You feel at one with the world around you and aren't crowded by hundreds of tourists.  Definitely a must see and do when in Cayo.  Remember, ask for Junior.  

Junior and I^^^^
******another side note.  Make friends with the locals because they can take you to the ruins for sunrise or sunset.  That's my goal for now.  Imagine those pictures.  I met a guy named Ben in town, he says you can camp over night in Guatemala and catch the sunrise and sunset over Tikal.

After this, we drove into the Spanish Lookout.  This is a Mennonite area.  Mr Owen and Ms Deborah said shopping was cheaper here and the ice cream is fabulous-we obviously stopped in to shop and eat ice cream.  

....I guess this is where I should also include that MaryAnn and I adopted a baby bunny today.  We were driving past a butcher shop and bought it for 7 US dollars to save its life.  We named her Suna after the stone maiden.  Currently, she's pitter pattering around my bedroom floor trying to eat everything in sight.  I guess I am now a mother. 

****also just bought a hammock and hung it up on my porch..this could be the purchase of the year.  CANT WAIT TO BRING IT HOME!!!!!!

Peace and Love, 


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