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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day #8: January 15th, 2015
Location: Clarissa Falls, Belize

The Mayan ruins of Xunantunich

Everyone was allowed to sleep in late today - breakfast didn't start until 7:30AM! Our latest start yet. At 8:30AM, our host Miss Chena (the proprietor of Clarissa Falls, our lodge on the mainland) led us on a nature walk through the jungle. We traversed through thick mud, stomped along riverside trails, and paused frequently to hear lessons on the local flora and fauna from Miss Chena:

I ain't gonna lie - the hiking was tough! Accosted by bugs, slipping in the mud, losing shoes that were sucked deep into muck, stumbling over branches, braving the heat and humidity - everyone did it all without complaint! The hike lasted a bit over 2 hours. Go NEC!

We reached the road and headed to a hand-pulled barge that brought us over the river. 

We then hiked about a mile uphill on a road to the Maya ruins of Xunantunich. We were met by a guide who taught us about the history of the site, the largest Mayan ruins ever discovered in Belize:

We then spent several hours exploring the site. Incredibly, it is perfectly fine to climb on and around the ruins to explore them up close:

The highlight was climbing the 130 foot tall castillo, the main structure. It was truly amazing to scale to the top and see the view. We could see into Guatemala and across much of Belize. It was a wonderful and breathtaking view. The students tested my sense of safety by sitting right on the edge! Get back you students!

We were able to spend a few hours touring the site, and it was a wonderful experience to imagine a vibrant city occupying this spot, then the jungle swallowing it, and then locals and finally archaeologists rediscovering the site.

After we had our fill of touring, we walked back down to the visitor center and enjoyed a burrito and banana lunch brought by Chena:

We then continued back to the main road for some souvenir shopping and a ride back to Clarissa Falls on the bus. A few students had pedometers that indicated we had walked about 7 miles over the course of the day. By the end of the day, we were all covered with a thick funky layer of sweat, DEET, and sunscreen.  But we were also invigorated by all the wonderful sites we had seen. Fantastic!

Once back at Clarissa Falls, everyone quickly changed and jumped on inner tubes to ride down the river that borders the ranch. There were a few minor rapids, but mostly it was a relaxing, cooling 1:15 ride. We all enjoyed the opportunity to cool off and clean off in the water.

We also saw many iguanas along the riverbank:

Trucks were waiting for us at the end to drive us back. We had time for a quick shower and change before our 6PM dinner (mashed potatoes, salad, and a very tender beef prepared in a local style, with carrot cake for dessert). By 7:30PM we were all relaxing, playing cards, and joking about the day.

There were many bumps and scrapes over the course of the day, but nothing that couldn't be treated with a Band aid. Everyone is happy and healthy and amazed that we have just one full day left in Belize.

Thanks for reading!

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