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Friday, January 16, 2015

Day #9: January 16th, 2015
Location: Clarissa Falls, San Ignacio, Belize

St. Herman's Cave, Blue Hole, San Ignacio, Cahal Pech

From the title of today's blog entry you can tell it was a busy day! We began with a 7AM breakfast and a 8AM departure. We had a different bus, which might best be described as "shabby chic". Okay, that would be a little too kind, but just a bit!

We drove about 1.5 hours, mostly west on Belize's main highway (which is constantly interrupted with speed bump pedestrian crossings!). We arrived at the Blue Hole National Park, home to St. Herman's Cave. We all donned helmets and with head lamps:

We took a short 10 minute hike through the jungle until we arrived at the entrance to the cave, which was carved by a river that runs through the limestone:

Walking through the cave felt quite treacherous, with lots of slippery and slimy mud coating all the rocks. There were handrails at some places, ropes at others. Here is a shot near the start:

Just inside the entrance looking out

Just inside the entrance looking in

We spent about 2 hours in the cave in total. Along the way, our guides stopped to teach us about the cave geology and about the Mayan legends surrounding the cave, which was believed to be an entrance to the underworld and was a site of human sacrifices. There were shards of Mayan pottery throughout the site.

As we proceeded deeper into the cave, it became narrower and shorter, so that at times we had to crawl and squeeze between some tight crevices:

Eventually it became steep enough that we had to use a rope to climb.

In previous years, we had stopped before this point, but this year our guides took us as far as can be traveled in this cave system. It was challenging! I'm not going to lie, it was really tough at some points, twisting and reaching and grabbing and pulling upward. The final view was pretty spectacular, with lots of crystalline rock formations.

By the end, the space was tight enough that we had to split into groups and view it one group at a time. It was quite warm and very humid in the cave. By the end, most of the guys had steam floating off their bodies, set aglow by headlamp light.

Going back wasn't quite as scary or treacherous as going in. Once we reached the surface, we drove to a spot called the Blue Hole, a natural freshwater pool carved out of the limestone. It was cold and very refreshing after our hot and sweaty workouts!

After cooling off, we enjoyed a picnic lunch at the Blue Hole.

We then drove about an hour to the town of San Ignacio. We visited the farmers' market, enjoyed ice cream (courtesy of visiting professor Ashley who offered to buy ice cream for every student who outscored her on the final species ID quiz - which ended up being every student!), and wandered the town in order to "stimulate the Belizean economy" as we say.

We drove to our final stop: the Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech (which translates to "Tick City" - fun!) This site doesn't have a tall impressive central castillo like Xunantunich, but it is quite spread out with lots of buildings to climb on and explore. There are Mayan bedrooms still intact, with limestone slab beds. It was very cool to be at Cahal Pech at sunset, with the entire place to ourselves. It was easy to imagine the Mayan civilization occupying that same spot (did you know that it is estimated that, at its peak, there were 5 times the number of Mayans living in Belize and Belizeans living here now?).

This was a great capper to our Belize experience. We returned to Clarissa Falls just in time for a fish dinner at 6PM:

Fish soup was slurped, flan consumed, toasts made, and memories shared. All in all a great night cap to a wonderfully adventure-filled day.

Everyone is well and most are feeling bittersweet about our adventure ending. We have a 7:30AM breakfast tomorrow and then we depart at 9AM for a two hour drive across Belize to Belize City airport to catch our flight, which should depart at 1PM and get us to Manchester by 11PM or so. Hopefully there will be NEC buses waiting for us. I will try to post one final update indicating that we are all safe and sound at home.

I've really enjoyed working on this blog, and I really appreciate all the kind comments I have received via email ( or via comments made to the folks on the trip. It's nice to know that someone is reading and appreciating the work that goes into the blog.

Everyone is happy and healthy, a bit scraped up from today, and a lot more bug-bitten than we were on the island, but all in all not bad for 10 days of adventure!

As always, thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Danielle you look like you're having an amazing experience! Im so jealous!!! Safe travels tomorrow xoxo