Well I meant to have this posted last week, but I came down with a terrible cold. Oscar started preschool so of course he caught somethi...

Unbelizeable Part 3: Caracol

Well I meant to have this posted last week, but I came down with a terrible cold. Oscar started preschool so of course he caught something his first week and passed it on to me. Such is life.

Hummingbird Highway
So to continue where we left off last post, we, reluctantly, left the beach on May 10th and headed in-land to our next destination outside San Ignancio. One of the highways that takes you there is called the Hummingbird Highway, and as you can see, it was just stunning. Some small mountains, farms, and plenty of green make it a very pleasant and scenic drive. Don't take your eyes off the road too much however. As you pass through many small villages, there are a ton of dogs, none of which are leashed and many of which wander right into the road. We had more than one close call that scared the crap out of us. Not to mention the usual potholes and speed bumps, so be on your toes. On our way, we passed through the capital city of Belmopan, right at 5pm and were surprised to see actual traffic. We only saw one stoplight in the entire country, so not traffic like we're used to in the states, but enough cars to make getting through town slow-going.

By the time we hit San Ignacio, it was getting dark. We stopped somewhere to grab a quick dinner and use their WiFi to take a few screenshots of what the place looked like where we were headed, since we were worried about finding it in the dark. We had directions from the host of course, but she warned us there were no street signs where she was at, about 5 miles from San Ignacio, outside the village of Bullet Tree Falls. We ended up having no problems finding it, but were thankful we'd refreshed our memories of what the entrance to the property looked like. Once again we were delighted to find ourselves in yet another awesome Airbnb place. A cute little 1 bedroom cabin on beautifully landscaped grounds next to the Mopan river.

Mopan River
The purpose of this leg of our journey was to hit up as many Mayan Ruins as we could. First on the list was Caracol, the largest site in Belize. I had originally intended on following the tour guide to the ruins (the main reason we rented a 4WD), so I could drive and not get carsick as a passenger. But after seeing what the roads were like in Belize, I quickly changed my mind on that one. Instead I downed a Dramamine with breakfast and we headed back into San Ignacio to attempt to find the tour guide office. Like a dork I'd forgotten to ask for directions and didn't realize google maps was showing us the wrong place. Of course the road it was on had a very old street sign that was almost unreadable, so we totally missed it. In one of those happy coincidences, we stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and the customer at the pump next to us just happen to be a tour guide from a different company, but he knew where ours was. He gave us directions, and at the confused looks on our faces, happily offered to drive there so we could follow him and not get lost. Seriously, nicest people ever in Belize.

We get to the tour company (we used Cayo Adventure Tours) late and worried we missed our tour. Thankfully we didn't, and even better we find out that we were the only people signed up for that particular day, so we ended up with a private tour! Our guide Hue, was again, nicest guy ever and we had a wonderful time getting to know him on the long drive to Caracol. I was thankful I wasn't driving, pretty much instantly when we hit the crazy dirt road, and many more times throughout the drive. It was quite the bumpy ride. But an awesome one as it went through Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. So crazy to watch city turn into jungle, jungle into a pine forest, and then back to jungle. Such an amazing ecosystem in Central America.

Did you know bananas grow upside down?! Total mind blow, I had no idea!
We arrived at Caracol about the same time as a few school buses. So we hurried to the largest ruin (Canaa) first so we could explore before it was overrun with kids. We got there just in time as they were flooding up when we were coming down. Seeing Canaa was truly breath taking. Such a massive structure, not just tall but wide and deep too. The next several pictures were all taken from either part-way up or from the top.

Partially excavated ruin
Trees growing out the top give you an idea how much work excavation is

Canaa (Sky Place)
Still the tallest building in Belize at 140 ft. tall
Canaa is so massive it took awhile to explore it all and the surrounding structures. Crazy to think that the Lidar surveying they've done of Caracol has revealed thousands of undiscovered structures buried beneath the jungle. Hearing what a small percentage has been excavated of many of these Mayan sites made me want to take up grant writing someday. They think 100,000-150,000 people lived in Caracol at its peak (about twice the size of Belize City today), with the city having stretched 68 square miles. Just imagine if they could uncover most of that! It was an eye-opening experience to realize how big some ancient civilizations really were. Really puts things in perspective.

Only Brian smiles while he's in a tomb

Mayans were really short
Even I had to duck through some of their doorways

One of the few ruins we saw with a roof
We also thoroughly enjoyed the surrounding jungle. I'm always impressed by the abundant diversity of plant and animal life the rainforest has to offer. When I get organized someday soon hopefully, I'll have to upload all our pictures somewhere for everyone's perusal.

Tree with green flowers!
Hummingbird nest!
See those things hanging down in the tree that look like saggy balls?
Those are bird nests!
Me holding one of those saggy balls
After this wonderful exploration, we ate a delicious homemade lunch the tour company provided of grilled chicken sandwich with lots of veggies, and another wonderful Belizean coca cola. Then we started the trip back. But on the way, we stopped off at the Rio on Pools (gotta love how everything is named in Spanglish haha) for a wonderful dip in the perfectly cool water after our hot, sweaty journey through the jungle.

Rio on Pools
We also saw an amazing amount of butterflies on the road home. But the coolest was this one spot by a creek where they were gathered all over the ground.

As far as I'm concerned, Caracol is a must-see for anyone visiting Belize. It's quite a trek but well worth the journey. We arrived back in San Ignacio with enough time to go back to our place, shower and change, and back into town for dinner.

Next up, the rest of our trip, including two more Mayan Ruins, exploring San Ignacio, and finding a restaurant so good we went to it twice in one day.

Read the rest of the trip here!

Part 1: Orange Walk & Lamanai
Part 2: Beach Life in Sittee Point
Part 4: San Ignacio, Xunantunich, & Cahal Pech