Belize highlights

1. exploring Actun Tunichil Muknal, the “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher,” or supposed entrance into the Mayan underworld, where the peoples of the Belizian jungles performed their sacred rituals, including human sacrifice, more than a thousand years ago. We paid a guide to take us through the winding passageways– some nearly entirely underwater– and up into a cathedral-like room where the rituals took place. Minus aging and calcification and flooding, nothing had been much disturbed since the Mayans left it– the locals were too terrified of the place to loot it, and archaeologists found it difficult to navigate.

2. staying on Caye Caulker, a backpacker-friendly island with no roads save the packed white sands over which the golf carts used for transportation traveled. Granted, there’s not a lot to do on the island itself– most activity is directed outwards, towards the barrier reef. We went snorkling (those are nurse sharks and another snorkling boat–slightly overexposed by my camera) and took windsurfing lessons for an hour, both of which resulted in sunburn. Otherwise we wandered around, eating lobster or fruit or ceviche or barricuda, and tried not to get bit by sandfleas.

3. hearing Scott describe how much more useful contact with people was to find out information that could save money, time, or even life itself than mere research. In slightly out-of-the-way places, little was listed on-line, and guidebooks got out-of-date too quickly. Other travelers and local people provided excellent information, on the other hand. You did have to pay attention to what they said, and retain it, though. A good example of this: I booked a place on Orbiz for the first night in Belize city; a place that sounded great from the on-line description. It turned out that the “king-sized” bed was less comfortable than the floor, and the “beach” the hotel was close to was nothing more than a few square feet of dirt behind a concrete retaining wall. The night before we left, we were in Belize city again, and, at the recommendation of another traveler, stayed a few streets away from the first place in D’Nest Bed and Breakfast, at almost exactly the same price, in a four-poster mahogany bed with perfect pillows. Breakfast the next morning was another highlight — succulent and filling, served in three courses in an ancient dining room.

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