Belize 2015 part 3: The kindness of strangers...
Mark and I have traveled a lot without kids. But because of short stays and packed schedules, we felt, and were treated, like tourists. Traveling with kids is amazing because suddenly, you are not just a tourist. You are a parent - you're relatable. People come up and talk to you about your kids and to your kids. They smile more. They tell you about their families. And we met some extraordinary people that went out of their way to make sure our boys were having a great time. Chena, Jose, Henry, "C," even a world-class chef, Chef Rob. (more about him later!) One late afternoon, Jose promised to take the boys across the ferry at Clarissa Falls.
The best thing was that Mark and I got to go too! Having the kids with us opened us up to all sorts of different experiences that we wouldn't have had by ourselves. Even the kid-enforced down-time, relaxing in the afternoon before dinner while the boys napped or played Legos (which, yes, we brought) helped Mark and I slow down and really feel the vibe of where we were. I laid in the hammock and watched a thunderstorm pass over us. I watched the chickens and turkeys cluck around the yard. We talked with Chena and Jose. We walked all over the property and searched for Maya artifacts in some bulldozed areas. We rode horses by the river. Yes, we did a lot in 8 days. But we never felt hurried or harried.
But downtime can't last forever - so the next day we hitched a ride with a sweet American couple, Barbara and her husband (in their seventies!!) to Cahal Pech (CAY-hall Petch), or, "place of ticks," as it was named by explorers.
Cahal Pech tops a hill overlooking the Macal and Mopan rivers. Around 600 A.D., at its height, it was the extensive home of an elite Maya family, though artifacts found here date all the way back to 1200 B.C. It was probably abandoned to the trees around 800 A.D.
This site was so cool! At Xunantunich, you could only climb on top of the ruins. Here, you can run THROUGH them. Because it was a residence, these buildings had all sorts of passageways, stairs, and rooms with stone ledges in them that we called beds.
This site was so impressive - I think the trees left standing in the center of the plazas really made it feel like a ruin to me, straight out of Indiana Jones. There are so many mounds here still left unexcavated, too.
We headed back to Clarissa for one more delicious meal. The next morning, it was off to the market in San Ignacio, then east to Hopkins Village on the Caribbean, via the thrilling Hummingbird Highway through the rainforested mountains.
At the market, which was the smaller Wednesday version of the larger Saturday event, our eyes feasted on all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Since staying with Chena, I was introduced to jicama (hickama) and tamarind. I didn't get to try breadfruit, which I was curious about since you can eat it fried like a pancake. Reis fearlessly bought some candy - chocolate and gummy worms - and ate them all up. Most everything is grown here, even the potatoes sold by the local Amish. But there were some imports, like the Gala apples from Washington state! We bought some for Chena and Jose, who were driving us to Hopkins. WA apples were $3.65/lb. while local bananas were $.50 for three.
Chena met us at the market and was going to sit on a seat in the back of Jose's truck before I told her to come into the backseat with me and the boys! And I was glad we did, since it rained during part of the drive through the mountains. And what a drive! Sadly, I didn't get pictures, we were zipping along, but just imagine misty tropical rainforests rising in mountain behind mountain, fading to foggy blue. Acres and acres of soldier rows of orange trees, some covered in suffocating airplants. More colorful concrete homes in bright blue, pink, and orange. We made one touristy stop at St. Herman's Cave and the in-land Blue Hole (big famous one is out by the Barrier Reef). St. Herman's Cave was probably the biggest cave I've explored after Carlsbad Caverns. And the Blue Hole, a natural spring surround by lush tropical plants that feeds into the cave, was exciting for the kids. They had fun stripping to their underwear and swimming/splashing around. I didn't have my camera for that either but I wish I had.
The 2-hour ride felt short, listening to Chena and Jose. Chena hadn't been to Hopkins in several years and was taking a holiday. She showed us all the different types of trees - dwarf coconut, breadfruit, almond, papaya, mango, cashew, etc. Reis slept on her shoulder. They drove us all the way to the south end of Hopkins to the next stage in our adventure, Parrot Cove Lodge.
Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of traveling with kids in Belize! Snorkeling, Ziplining, and a special surprise by a world-renowned chef!