The crowded bus pulled out of the terminal in Belize City and sped along the highway, dropping off and picking up passengers as it went, all the time with its door open. They call these old school buses “Chicken Buses” down here, due to the chickens that supposedly ride alongside their owners, although we saw no livestock on our bus. We sat in our cramped seats, surrounded by locals, for about three hours. It was not the most comfortable ride, but for an old school bus, it was not unbearable by any means. The air pressure in one of the tires was scarily low but we ended up having no difficulties.
We arrived in San Ignacio at around noon and set out in search of our hotel The Riverpark Inn. We had no map since the hotel is new (only about a year old) but we just asked locals and they kept pointing us what felt like forever down a dirt road. We finally made it to the hotel, which was situated among lush green trees. We were expecting to be in a cabana, but ended up in a very nice room, with hot water and a tv! We lounged in the hammocks on the deck for a while, reading and relaxing (the two things we did most in San Ignacio).
We headed to town for a late lunch and I was shocked to find out that the walk to the hotel that had felt like it had taken an hour, was really only about 10 minutes. We shared a massive breakfast burrito and decided which tour to take. We settled on taking a tour to the Achtun Tunichil Munkul or ATM cave (the best thing you can do out of San Ignacio, so they say), but were talked in to taking a tubing tour of a cave too (we are suckers for caves). These two tours took us WAY over budget, but we figured that it would be silly to make the effort to get to this part of the world and not experience its top draw (caving is THE thing to do in this part of Belize). We had a cheap dinner of grilled chicken and rum punch.
The next day we spent the morning reading and lounging before we strolled to town for lunch. We discovered what became Logan’s favorite restaurant in town (called Erva’s). They made homemade habanero sauce, which Logan of course smothered our shared burrito in. After our $4 lunch was demolished, we made the long walk up the the ruins right outside of the town of San Ignacio, called Cahal Pech. The walk was straight up a hill and it was during this walk that the ONLY sunshine of our whole time in San Ignacio peeked through the clouds. It was HOT. We were both sweating and tired, but it was worth it when we got to the ruins.
Cahal Pech is a lot smaller than the other ruins we will see on the trip will be, but we almost had the whole place to ourselves, and we were able to crawl all over all the buildings and walk through all the tunnels. It was pretty small, but we took some beautiful pictures and it was a great, and cheap, introduction to Mayan sites. The walk back down the hill was far more pleasant and we rewarded ourselves with small slushies before dinner.
The next day was our cave tubing day and it was overcast from the moment we woke up to the moment we went to bed. The temperature hung around 60 and didn’t really budge the rest of our stay. Our tour was supposed to pick us up at 7:45, and although “Belize time” allows for a little (to a lot) of wiggle room, we were a little worried that it had been cancelled because of the weather and called to make sure the tour was still on. We found out that the caves we were supposed to be tubing in were flooded, but that they were working on getting us to different caves for tubing. We ended up going to St.Herman’s cave and tubing with a group of Australians and a couple from Canada. The cave was really cool and despite the cold and rainy weather we had a blast. Since the tour took place inside a cave, which have largely stabilized temperatures, we were not cold until we got out of the water. Also since the tour was in a river in a cave we all wore headlamps and that was all the light there was. First we had to paddle against the current to get the to top where the river is passible, and then we turned around and floated for about an hour through the cave. At the end we hiked out of the cave, through narrow passages and 2-3 feet of water. It was VERY cool. That night we ate at Erva’s again and Logan ate his weight in burrito and habanero sauce.
We were supposed to go to the ATM cave the next day but because of the sustained rain the cave was closed. It actually ended up being closed 3 of the 4 days we were in town, which is apparently very unusual for this time of year (the dry season). So we decided to….drum roll please…. read and relax. I was not feeling well anyway, probably because of the super greasy, but super delicious, fried chicken I had the night before for dinner. I rallied around lunch time and we went for lunch. We both had escabeche, which is a spicy Mayan chicken and onion soup. It was delicious and really helped my stomach calm down. After lunch we went to the San Ignacio Resort Hotel for their Green Iguana Conservation Project. The project helps raise green iguanas until maturity to help them from becoming endangered. Iguana is a delicacy in Belize and the number of green iguanas is getting dangerously low. We got to hold the iguanas, sometimes on our heads and sometimes more than 4 or 5 at a time, and since it was a cold day and the cold-blooded reptiles were not moving very much so we got to take a lot of pictures.
We ended the day chatting with our neighbors at our hotel, an older couple from a peninsula north of Vancouver who were in San Ignacio for a month, while sipping on margaritas made simply from fresh limes, tequila, water and sugar. It was the perfect way to end our lazy days in San Ignacio and to top off our week in Belize.
On to Guatemala!