A Day Trip To The Mayan City Of Lamanai- Belize

One of my favorite day trips EVER was the time we joined a small tour headed for the ancient city of Lamanai in Belize.

The first part of the trip was by jeep which covered miles upon miles of rutted roads . This is where we really were able to see and experience life in the back country of Belize. The poverty was immense and all encompassing. Children dressed in rags ran out of their small houses to wave at the strangers passing by with smiles taking up the majority of their sweet small faces. They were delighted to have something to see and break up their day.

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It was also during this ride that I saw my first ever cashew tree. Colorful cashew apples dressed in yellow and red  hung from narrow branches and swayed in the breeze. A single prized cashew nut protruded from the bottom of this apple which would soon be collected and roasted. The oil from the shell is caustic and can burn the skin so handling the nut is not advised unless you know what you are doing.

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After a two hour ride we finally arrived at the New River where we took a small boat and headed for Lamanai. Along the way we saw crocodiles, jacanas, hawks and many different types of waterfowl. Little boys in dug out canoes were everywhere fishing and delighted to show off their catch from the safety of their boats. As the river meandered along we were surprised when we saw a family of Amish along the river. Seems that there is a colony of the sect living in the area. It was amazing to see people whom I had seen in Pennsylvania Dutch country all the way out in the wilds of Belize.

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Finally we arrived at Lamanai. Ancient Mayan temples surrounded us but it was the errie  never ceasing cries of the howler monkeys hidden in the trees that got our immediate attention. Never in my life had I heard such loud screams and haunting howls! We watched the monkeys scamper in the trees for a time before heading over to the High Temple.

The High Temple (N10-43) climbs 108 ft from the jungle floor allowing for never-ending views along the river. It was the highest building at Mesoamerica at that time it was completed. Construction began in 100BC and the temple was built over an existing neighborhood that dates back to 300 BC. But it is the opulent Central Stairway that is really the star of this show. It is a tough climb to the top when you are encased in the sticky humidity of the jungle.100_6147 2

The Jaguar Temple (N10-9) was given its name due to the two jaguar masks that lie at its base. It is one of the newer temples and was constructed during the 8th century. One interesting fact is that the niches in the jaguars eyes, ears, nose and cheeks were where the native peoples left offerings to the Jaguar God.

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In all the site contains 8 Ceremonial Plazas along with five Temples and an ancient harbor. Other original buildings include Stella-9 and The Mask Temple(9N-56). The site also offers a small museum in which pottery and other ancient artifacts from the area are displayed. Even more amazing is that only 5% of Lamanai has been excavated. Oh, the hidden treasures that are waiting to be found. Makes me want to go back to college and study archeology!

This is one trip that I will never forget. While I cannot remember the cost I can say that every penny was worth it!

 

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One Of The Strangest Places I Have Ever Stayed-Belize

Admittedly, it has been about seven years since I have been to the Maruba Resort and Jungle Spa so things may have changed but for this hippie at heart I hope not because there is no other place like it on earth.

We booked this “exotic” jungle hotel through Expedia. The price was right and the pictures were enticing. When we arrived we felt like we had been transported back to the early 1970’s a time of peace and free love. Something about the resort was just a little quirky and  very “groovy.” Turns out a doctor had spent years building this place with his loving hands. With visionary huts and uniquely decorated rooms it wasn’t hard to get into the “RELAX…you are on vacation”vibe . The viper rum with a real snake in the bottle added to the “high” of the place and it definitely made you want to curl up by the pool in a comfy lounge after drinking it as its warmth slowly snaked and spread throughout your body.

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The food at Maruba was fabulous and the hibiscus flowers gracing every plate was a huge change from modern hotel fare. There was also a spa offering such delights as mud baths/massages, body scrubs and manicures to pamper the senses. We partook of several spa treatments and came away from them relaxed from the top of our heads to the bottom of our toes; our souls soothed and quenched. Lush wildflowers and orchids added to the natural beauty of the place along with the natural hot baths that magically melted our bodies upon entering the water.

The hotel also rented bicycles so we biked into the nearest “town” and saw a giant anteater run across the road along the way. We sampled local food in town (yum) and when we returned we booked a river journey to a lost Mayan civilization (more about that another time) Horseback riding was also available along with jungle hikes and private exercise lessons.

It wasn’t until we had been there a few days and had seen the huge stockpile of carved penises, naked folks and fertility gods hidden along the jungle pathways that we finally got up the courage and asked…yep the place had been a swingers club back in the day hence the “make love not war” feeling that permeated the place and kept you “in the mood.” Needless to say, we had a very romantic and wonderful time with all the gentle reminders that love and relaxation were the name of the game here.

HINT: You are in the jungle so be sure to bring bug spray. We did not and ended up remembering our trip longer than we would have like after contracting Dengue Fever. We have no idea if it was at Maruba or on Ambergris Caye that the nasty mosquito bit us but it is wise to take precautions wherever you go in Belize.