Barton Creek Cave, a natural cave accessible only by water.
Parrot Nest Lodge was a great choice. We woke up to the sound of parrots’ and other birds’ chirps. We went to the lobby for breakfast, once again outdoors.
Down the grassy field is the Mopan River.
Morning tea while waiting for breakfast.
Breakfast was simple but hearty. Toast, eggs of your style (including omelet), sausages, and fruit. The itinerary of the day was to visit an under-mountain cave called Barton Creek Cave, visit another Mayan site called Cahal Pech, and walk around the nearby town San Ignacio.
One of the drivers from the tour company picked us up, and off we drove to Barton Creek Cave. Visitors must use tour guides, otherwise the cave is inaccessible to the general public. We drove approximately one hour inland, even passing by an Amish village! I saw several bearded men wearing overalls riding horse carriages and a few cottages and storage units for wood.
The jungles briefly turned into luscious green hills as we drove up a mountain.
The roads through the mountain were very rough. Four wheel drive was definitely necessary through the potholes and rocky roads. We even drove through a small river.
We eventually reached the entrance of the caves. I was surprised to see that it was at the base of a mountain range. I somehow assumed we would be venturing underground.
The canoes could only hold three people max. Therefore I paddled for my mom, while the tour guide paddled for my dad. My parents’ responsibility was to point the flashlight inside the cave, while the tour guide and my job was to make sure we didn’t crash the canoe. Off we went into the cave!
I was nervous. The walls were fairly thin, and I was afraid to make sudden movements in fear of capsizing the canoe. In the meantime I felt pressure to capture some photos of the amazing sites. The ceiling of the caves reached up to 100 ft. The stalagmites were gorgeous.
Much of Belize is still supposedly unexplored. New caves and Mayan sites have been discovered in recent years, and it really goes to show just how ancient the Mayan civilization was.
Some human remains have been found in the cave. The Mayans built an artificial bridge, seen above, a few hundred meters into the cave. A couple human skulls were found on the other side. The Mayans believed that the cave was the entrance to the underworld. During times of drought, they sacrificed humans here hoping to please the gods into bringing rain.
The cave has not been fully explored. Divers have been able to survey around 10,000 yards into the cave. Canoe-able area that is not fully underwater goes in about one mile. We went nearly the whole day before making the U-turn. By then, our heads were nearly touching the ceiling.
At one point, the tour guide had us turn off both flashlights, and we sat in absolute darkness and silence. I was pretty scared… haha. Capsizing the canoe would have been a miserable, traumatizing swim back into the light. After we made our way back to the entrance, I was happy to see the light, and to get onto the shore.
The tour was nearing its end. We ate lunch in a nice grassy field, then the guide drove us back. He was kind enough to tell us more about the ecosystem. He stopped on the side of the road, cut off a branch, and showed us how water dripped from it. These types of branches stored a bunch of water that was clean and ready to drink. I had a taste, and it was pure.
Upon getting back into San Ignacio, we requested to be dropped off in the middle of the town. I tipped the tour guide and highly recommend Pacz Tours. They were wonderful.
San Ignacio is one of the most populated cities outside of the capital, yet it only boasted around 10,000 people. Considering the entire country’s population of 330,000 people, 3% in a single town is quite a lot. We slowly walked towards our next step, a Mayan ruin in the middle of the town called Cahal Pech.
Some people playing basketball.
Some residential areas and restaurants.
A fruit stand.
Like I’ve mentioned plenty of times in my travels, Google Maps saved my life. Offline mode, along with the GPS ability to still track our location, brought us up a hill and into the entrance of Cahal Pech. I would have walked by the site unknowingly, had it not been for map’s directions.
Into the woods…
And out into Cahal Pech!
One of the main courtyards.
It’s pretty incredible how well maintained and natural the site looks, unlike many parts of the Great Wall of China with jam-packed tourists. We spent over an hour in the site and only saw around five other tourists.
My mom and I climbed up a steep ziggurat.
Coming back down, we needed to grab ahold of the steps. They were steep!
One of my favorite shots of the day. Mom catching up to Dad.
After Cahal Pech, we ate dinner in the town at a restaurant called Guava Limb. We had Thai and Italian food there. The restaurant was obviously catered towards foreigners with marked up prices and over-the-top decorations. In retrospect, I wish we had found a local spot.
Back to Bullet Tree Falls after dinner. My parents went off to sleep; I pet the dogs some more before joining them.
Day 3 is spent flying from Belize to Costa Rica, which is covered in the next post!