Monday, August 29, 2011

Mexico and Belize

In Mexico I traveled through the states of Yucatán and Chiapas in the south visiting Mérida, Maya ruins at Chichen Itza, Maya ruins at Palenque, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Maya ruins at Tulum, and Playa del Carmen. San Cristóbal de las Casas was a place I particularly liked and certainly recommend it! Also, back in 2008 I spent a month traveling in Mexico going to Mérida, Maya ruins at Chichen Itza, Maya ruins at Uxmal, Maya ruins at Kabah, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato. Mexico is a wonderful country to travel in and I think lots of people would enjoy going there. I am not a fan of the big resort areas such as Cancún and Cozumel though.

On this trip to Mexico one of the things that was really fun to do was swim in 3 cenotes in the countryside outside of Mérida. The underground cenote pools were deep, very clear, and such beautiful blue water! To get down into the first one it was just a matter of walking down some rather steep wooden steps, the second one you had to go through a hole in the ground and then down some very steep wooden steps in the dark, and the last cenote there was just a wooden ladder descending down into a hole in the ground. The blue water in all 3 was beautiful and the experience of swimming in these underground pools of crystal clear water with just some sunlight coming through holes way up in the ceiling of the caverns was wonderful and mysterious.

In Belize I was in San Ignacio and Caye Caulker. Belize has more of a Caribbean vibe than a Latin American vibe. Also, the first language is English so makes things a bit easier. :-)

I went with a spelunker (caving) guide to explore the spectacular, huge Acton Tunichil Muknal cave. The caving was fantastic!!! Although most of the time was in water that varied from up to our chests to up to our knees there was one part that was well over our heads so we had to swim carefully keeping the helmet with light out of the water. Some tight squeezes and lots of clambering over big, slippery rocks and climbing in total darkness except for our helmet lights. One place was very narrow and in water up to your chest and you had to go in sideways and then turn your head to the left, tiptoe a bit, and then carefully pass your neck (the narrowest part of your upper body) through a very narrow channel in order to pass through -- all in the dark. It was funny trying to get your head, body, and neck in just the right position in the dark and trying to keep your footing so you wouldn't hang yourself. :-) Way back in the cave there were many Mayan artifacts and some skulls that archaeologists have left in place (can't touch, of course). Then at the last point we went to there is the complete skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed there about 1200 years ago. I guess it took us about 4 hours. The entrance to the cave in the dense jungle with a clear stream of water flowing out of it was just otherworldly. It was about an hour hike through dense jungle and wading across shallow rivers to get to the cave entrance and then the same hike to get back out to the place where the van was parked. Just 5 of us plus the wonderful caving guide. Unfortunately, it was impossible to carry and use a camera while caving so I have no photos. :-(

Caye Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize that I was at and there was no relief from the mosquitoes, heat, and humidity. Room had a fan, but no aircon and each night the electricity went out (for different reasons -- flaky system) so no fan, no breeze, room with mosquitoes too, and no water for a cool shower since water pump needed electricity. My room was on the hot side of the building too -- was baked by the blazing, hot sun all afternoon. First night absolutely no sleep, second night maybe a couple of hours in total in bits and pieces, third night the electricity stayed on all night and maybe got about 4 hours in total of sleep. I was happy to leave Caye Caulker. :-)

Well, if you are interested and have a chance please take a look at my photos!

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