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I write this blog post from the outdoor restaurant at Clarissa Falls on this: our last night in Belize. I am definitely sore, a bit battered, definitely sunburned in a few parts, nursing a coral scrape, but exhilarated by the experience and grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this trip.
Today was dedicated to interacting with the culture and history of western Belize. We began with a wonderful Central American style hearty breakfast and then headed off at 8AM for Cahal Pech, a Mayan site in the nearby town of San Ignacio. Our guide Diego (who studied architecture at university) led us on a tour of the site. The students loved being able to climb on the ruins and to imagine how it must have looked when 10,000 people lived there:
To give a sense of scale, see if you can spot the student near the middle of this photo of the main plaza at Cahal Pech:
We headed into the town of San Ignacio to experience a bit of local Belizean culture (while helping to stimulate the economy). We visited the farmers' market, enjoyed locally made ice cream, and purchased gifts for friends and family back home:
When then returned to Clarissa Falls for a lunch in their thatched-hut outdoor dining room. Everyone agreed they were the best tacos we've ever had (with homemade tortillas, fish, tomato, onion, cilantro, and house-made hot sauce):
After lunch, we headed out for our big activity of the day: exploring Xunantunich, the largest Mayan site in Belize. We were met by a tour guide who explained what the various buildings were used for. All of us were really blown away by the size and scale of the site. The students loved climbing to the top of the 140' castillo and admiring the view into Guatemala. I heard some students say that Xunantunich was one of the highlights of the entire trip.
After Xunantunich, we were met by Chena, the owner of Clarissa Falls, who escorted us on a 90 minute walk through the rainforest back to our rooms. She pointed out traditional and medicinal plants along the way. We spotted huge iguanas on branches over the river, toucans, and howler monkeys:
By the time we returned to our rooms, it was about 4 o'clock and everyone was tired and hot. But we split into two groups for one last adventure. Four of the women went of horseback riding, while all the guys took innertubes down the river for an hour:
We all met up again for a fabulous dinner of rice/beans and chicken, and exchanged stories about the day and the whole trip. Tomorrow morning we leave on a two-hour drive to Belize International, then flights to Atlanta then Boston, then a 1.5 hour drive back to Henniker. It's hard to believe that in just over 24 hours we'll be back to our wintry routine. But I think it's also fair to say that all of us will think of Belize fondly for many years to come. Thank you to all the folks--friends, parents, relative, NEC staff and colleagues--who made this trip possible!
All our best from Belize! Thanks for reading.