Somehow, most of our activity was end-loaded; it occurred at the end of our vacation rather than be spread throughout. It is just the way it worked out. From Orange Walk, it is easy to book a tour to the Laminai Mayan ruins.
Lamanai means supposedly means “submerged crocodile” in the Maya language. We later learned from our guide that Lamanai spelled as such really means underlying crocodile or potential shoes with a purse or some such thing. Lamanai is the largest, but considered the most interesting archeological site in Belize as the Lamanai temple complex sits atop the western bluff of the New River Lagoon. Surrounding it is the pristine rainforest. Lamanai was occupied continuously for over 3,000 years, which is attributed to it’s remote location, causing it to be occupied far longer than most other Maya sites. Lamanai remained until at least 1,650 AD.
Getting to the ruins involved yet another boat ride. I swear I have not been as involved in water sports as I have on this vacation. The launching dock was right by the restaurant we enjoyed last night. We had a full load of tourists from Denmark, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the two of us from Hungary. We stopped often to view various water birds, numerous lizards that were sunning themselves in the trees, and at least six crocodiles. For some, the highlight was the monkeys. Our guide/captain gave some bananas, which the monkeys came to grab and ran off. Our journey took approximately 1 1/2 hours.
After combining our group with a group of college students, our guide started the tour showing us the map of area. What was once a city covered hundreds of acres of land with just as many edifices. He announced we would be doing a 14 mile hike to see the ruins. College students are very adept at mentally computing that 14 miles are impossible to cover in the allotted time of the tour. Bless their little mathematical brains.
The ruins which were excavated were magnificent; they were so intact. I am in awe with these ruins beyond what I saw in Tikal, but why is a mystery to me. Tikal was not to be missed either. Even not being an outdoorsy person, the hike was incredibly thrilling. A forest creates the freshest air. After hours of walking, viewing, going ooh and aah, snapping photos, we were provided with lunch. Tupperware containers are unloaded, unsealed, and a rainbow of edible color is exposed. What a treat it was to dine in these surroundings on what was closer to home cooked food than restaurant prepared. Life is great!
On the return trip, two of the British women asked the captain if we would get close to the monkeys again. He offered to try, but succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. When we were close to the jungle area where monkeys were visible, the captain gave bananas to the women while making monkey sounds. One monkey was particularly intrigued working his way from tree branch to tree branch edging closer to the boat. He had to traverse over the lagoon in order to get close enough to the boat to reach the fruit. In one major leap, we had a monkey on the boat running up and down the central aisle grabbing at bananas, but that was not the end of the story. Our furry friend ran to the captain, grabbed onto the wheel trying to steer. For further entertainment, it/he/she ran back to the people with the bananas and sat on their lap, before running along the aisle once again on two legs and flying off onto the nearest tree.
Once we returned to town, I wanted to explore the town before dark. After six blocks of roaming, you have run out of town. We did find decent coffee shop. A steeple caught our attention, so we ventured over to the Catholic Church where the doors were wide open, but only two nuns and two lay people were sitting in pews in the front of the church. We sat in the back observing the building. Once the little group broke up, the lay woman came to introduce herself to us. Her name was Arcadia, who explained they had just finished a rosary to the founding saint of their order, which originated in Germany. Arcadia was bubblingly extroverted, a typical personality trait of Belize people. She called over the two nuns, introduced them and then insisted that she walk with us part of the way as it was getting dark out. She claimed that as a retired school teacher she knew the majority of the residents, so felt safe. However, there were some problems at times for strangers. She explained that there is a mandatory retirement at 55 years old in Belize. Is it a wonder there are so many retirees from other countries flocking here?
During our walk-about, we didn’t notice too many choices for dinner, so we returned to where we ate last night. Two more incredible meals, making it a grand finale for our last night of vacation.