The last day in San Ignacio we decided to head out to Cahal Pech and then either go to view the nearby botanic gardens or drive further to a butterfly farm. Fortunately we had some choices as the wet caves were still closed. The dry cave we could have toured involved a half hour hike up hill and then reviewing pottery remains. Too hot for an uphill hike, for sure!
The workers were still doing some final raking to clear the ruins of the hurricane debris. Just standing outside was suffocating; I couldn’t imagine wearing long pants and sturdy shoes while getting an aerobic workout. We thanked them for their hard work in such oppressive heat and humidity.
Cahal Pech is a hilltop sight on the outskirts of San Ignacio. It is the oldest known Mayan site in the Belize River Valley. Settled between 1500 and 1ooo BC it is smaller than Tikal but was significant for at least two thousand years. Most of the ruins are from 600-400 BC. The site was abandoned in 850 AD.
The grass was newly trimmed, the golden disc in the sky was beating down, and the humidity, have I already mentioned that?, was awful. We still managed to enjoy the small community remains. There was a group of people discussing wedding plans, and all I could imagine was how bedraggled I would have felt on that special day.
We chose not to take a tour and just amuse ourselves with the ambience and photo opportunities. There were seven areas to explore making it much larger than I had expected. There were two ball courts, though we only saw one as the other seemed to be down the hill in the jungle. We climbed to the top of the highest remains to get an overview. The steps still made me uncomfortable descending as they are so narrow and steep. Side-stepping two feet on each step and leaning into the stone was the only way to get down them to minimize the fear of toppling over.
Needing a break from the elements we drove back to the hotel to cool off in the AC and decide where to head next. Since the gardens were closer we drove there which involved driving the last four miles on a dirt road. The last bit was hilly and Bill had to engage the Limited Shift Differential in order to reach the top and go down the other side. The gardens are part of a remote resort which seemed to be rather expensive. As it was too hot to listen to anyone explain numerous trees and plants we bought self-guiding tour tickets which came with a booklet explaining everything. Only the jack fruit and heliconias were in evidence though there were some cashew pods on the ground. We endured about an hour and then had to get out of the intense elements. The restaurant and bar on the grounds provided some relief. The waiter was surprised we had stayed out so long as most visitors last fifteen minutes in the garden. The iguana was in the road on the way back.
Hot and tired we cooled off in the tepid pool at our hotel and walked to a different restaurant to give it a try. The address was a bit vague but the different scenery was appreciated and afforded a variety of photo opportunities. The cat was attempting to walk through barbed wire and this sweet shop became an after-dinner destination. Many people have chickens and ducks running around as well as an occasional turkey. Often when I lived in Venezuela in the early 80’s the sticks to support construction levels were a common occurrence. The bright yellow mansion, we later were told, belongs to the woman who owns the furniture factory down the hill. She owns a second even larger estate nearby.
Dinner was delicious! I never would have guessed from the building. The Great Mayan Prince knows how to cook some food! My two lobster tails were grilled with garlic and wine sauce and the vegetables properly steamed. Bill loved his spicy chicken dish, as well. Located near the top of a hill we had a great view way out into the distance though one had to imagine the crazy mess of electrical and telephone wires were invisible. Across the street was a medical clinic with a young family waiting outside for some time. It was entertaining to watch the two little ones fill their time and Dad calmly keeping the girl properly presentable.
No desserts were available so on the return we stopped at Sweet Ting. The secret is to buy a slice of a cake that is freshly made as if there are only a couple of pieces left dryness could diminish the experience. A young man came in and was clearly excited about the cheesecake to go he was about to enjoy. Steering clear of dairy in this country I opted for a mocha almond tart. It was good, not great. Hot tea would have been a helpful side but the young clerk couldn’t find her teakettle! Across the street is a barber shop. Inside one boy was getting trimmed while two men waited.
The next morning we returned to the restaurant hoping breakfast would be as good as dinner, but it wasn’t to be so. A couple more snaps of the street:
Then it was time to pack and head back to the airport. Traffic was minimal though the unexpected speed bumps and pedestrian ramps that cross the road and lead to tall grass were a continual irritation. We topped off the gas just before we arrived at the car rental return. The young man checking the car went into the office to get the manager who came out and made a beeline for a ding in the windshield. Bill quickly said that it was there when we picked up the car, which it was as I noticed it as we were leaving the airport. Both men muttered something but we were free to go. When we got home Bill found the cell phone they had included in the rental still in his fanny pack. So far no charge for it!