Belize: Altun Ha and Lamanai River Trip
In our first 24 hours in Belize, we got to two Mayan ruins sites, Altun Ha and Lamanai. In addition to the obvious historical coolness of Mayan ruins, a cool quality that people may not know is that you're totally allowed to climb all over them. That would never happen in the States! I realized that all the running stairs at bootcamp had paid off when I found myself scaling Mayan pyramids in the oppressive tropical sun and humidity with relative ease.
Straight off the plane, we collected our bags, piled them in the rental car, and drove to Altun Ha. One of the more accessible Mayan sites, Altun Ha is less than an hour's drive from the Belize City airport. It was occupied for about 2000 years, from approximately 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000. The area is known for its large numbers of jade artifacts.
The main temple is the Temple of the Masonry Altars. It is 54 feet high and supports a sacrificial altar at its summit. As you can see, not much else has been excavated at this site.
Fun fact: a drawing of the Temple of the Masonry Altars at Altun Ha is the logo for Belize's national beer, Belikin.
Lamanai River Tour
I think pretty much everyone who visits the Belize mainland does this trip. I don't care. It's awesome and totally worth it.
We spent our first night in Belize in Orange Walk Town, and woke early on our second day to hire a boat down the New River. It was a typically beautiful, hot, and HUMID day, and there was no better place to be than in the breeze on a speedboat.
Our first stop was to the home of some very tame spider monkeys. This one came into our boat to accept a banana, which our hotel receptionist had sent with us expressly for that purpose.
We passed lilies and lotuses...
After about two hours cruising on the river, we arrived at Lamanai. From the water, I could just make out the top of the temple over the jungle canopy.
Lamanai means "submerged crocodile." Yeah, we saw a few of those.
After a tasty traditional Belizean picnic lunch of stewed chicken with rice and beans, we went into Lamanai. The Mayan city shows evidence of over 3000 years of continuous occupation, beginning around 1500 B.C. and lasting through Spanish colonialism.
We first went to the Jaguar Temple, so named for the boxy carvings at its base.
After a hike through the jungle, we emerged at the High Temple. With the top over 100 feet above the ground, the temple's steps are STEEP, and definitely narrower than the length of my foot! A rope hangs down the center of the steps in case you need extra help with balance.
I hung out in the shade and "documented" while the men climbed in the sun.
These cool plants were growing everywhere in the shady spots of the jungle.