Cayo District – Belize & Tikal, Guatemala (1 of 5)
I spent 27 days in Belize in the summer of 1999. The trip cost me $1300 or so, including $330 for my flight from Miami. I could have done it cheaper, but I splurged a little in the last week, once I realized my money wasn’t going to run out. I’m not a big fan of today-I-did-this-and-then-that travel stories, so I’ll just hit the highlights:
I spent 12 nights at a terrific little collection of huts called The Trek Stop, just outside Benque Viejo, a few miles from the Guatemalan border. Very small but clean huts go for US$10 a night. John and Judy Yeager, an American couple, run the place. They are very helpful and knowledgeable. I took them up on a few of their suggestions, and all of them were great. They suggested I take a canoe tour of the Barton Creek Cave. My guide, Jose, paddled us deep into the pitch-dark limestone cave. His spotlight picked out hundreds of bats, weird cave fish, and relics of authentic Mayan pottery, protected by law. We swam in a bend of the creek, refreshing in surprisingly cold waist-deep water. Jose turned off his spotlight to save the car battery to which it was connected. I got a little creeped out by the fish nipping at my legs, and the flutterings of bats which seemed to come closer and closer until Jose turned his light back on. The trip cost US$15, lasted three hours, and included lunch. Recommended.
Enjoying the view from atop El Castillo, the Xunantunich Mayan ruins.
The Xunantunich Mayan ruins sit on a hill directly across the green Mopan River from The Trek Stop. I climbed up to the top of “El Castillo” twice. Xunantunich is considered one of the minor Mayan sites, but it boasts one of the finest views in Belize, taking in forest-covered karst hills and small plots of farmland. Flocks of red-lored parrots fly by, their presence alerted by madcap shrieking, while iguanas bask on high branches exposed to the sun. Cahal Pech, a short distance away on the outskirts of San Ignacio, is less dramatic and may be the best place in the world to get bitten by mosquitoes, but it is still worthy of a visit.
The town of San Ignacio serves as the hub of Cayo District. Little more than a few streets worth of leaning colonial clapboard buildings and dirt roads, San Ignacio has a vibrant, appealing funkiness. Eva’s Bar is the place to arrange cave and jungle tours, as well as guided trips to Tikal.