After our visit to Goff’s Caye, we took further advantage of our new friend, the Canadian visitor, and tagged along on a trip to Xunantunich, a Mayan ruin site outside San Ignacio in the Cayo Region.
“Xunantunich” means “Maiden of the Rock” in Maya. It’s a modern name given to the site because of a ghost who has been seen there on the high pyramid. She’s dressed in white and her eyes glow red. I asked our guide if he had seen her and he had not, but his father had. Our guide, by the way, was named Dino and can be hired from the entrance to the park. If you go there, ask for him. You wont be disappointed. Like Lamanai, Xunantunich has a ball court where the inhabitants played The Game, a grisly ritual that ended with the winners sacrificed but headed straight to the upper levels of the afterlife and the losers broken and bloody and sentenced to eternity in the lower world. Also like at Lamanai, only a small fraction of Xunantunich has been excavated and big mounds can be seen on the surrounding jungle floor where structures have been covered up over the centuries.
Our visit was extra special because we started at Hanna Stables and rode by horseback for about and hour-and-a-half each way to and from the ruins. I can not say enough good things about the people at Hanna! The horses were beautiful and healthy and happy. Our guide, stable owner Santiago was knowledgeable and kind and very helpful for this almost-first-time rider. Also, he’s got some great stories. Hanna offers all kinds of riding experiences. In addition to trail rides to Xunantunich they offer multi-day rides and lessons. They also have a guest house you can stay in if you’re in the area.
The trail was breathtaking. We rode through jungle and across fields and crossed the Mopan River on our horses on a hand-cranked ferry. The Xunantunich site was also beautiful and it was fun to imagine it in 800 AD with 200,000 inhabitants, sprawling for miles across Belize and Guatemala, white tile covering the vast plazas and full color frescos on the walls of the pyramids!
Boarding the Ferry
Ferry Docking for Return Trip Over the River
Horses Resting in Their “Parking Lot” at Xunantunich
Smaller Pyramid with High Pyramid in the Background
Stella in Shrine
The High Pyramid
High Pyramid with People for Perspective
Smaller Pyramid in Foreground, High Pyramid Behind
Water Canals Halfway Up the High Pyramid
One Side of the Pyramid, Half Way to the Top
Mask Carvings Half Way Up. These are Reproductions Placed Over the Originals
From the Top of the High Pyramid
Guatemala in the Distance, Less Than a Mile Away
Coming Down the Other Side
The Trees in the Area Have Very Shallow Roots Because They are Growing on Top of Buried Structures
The Ball Court
Once again someone is visiting the island so we have been inspired to actually leave the caye and go on some adventures around Belize. A friend’s brother is visiting from Canada and, being the good friends we are, we helped show him around.
First we went to Goff’s Caye. Goff’s Caye looks like a New Yorker cartoon island: a round circle of sand with a few palm trees sticking up. Unlike Caye Caulker which is 1 mile from the barrier reef, Goff’s sits right on the reef so you can swim from the beach right to reef. We went once before, last winter, and I noticed two big changes: first, the island has really changed size and and shape. It’s smaller. I guess a sand island in the middle of the ocean is bound to do that. Second: the reef seemed much less healthy this time. It could be the season or maybe it’s just overuse. It also could be that I snorkeled a lot more last time and probably went farther out from the island. But I saw a lot more life last time. Someone told me that years ago there was a battle to keep cruise ship visitors off it but that battle has been lost. When we arrived there was a huge group of wasted cruisers there. Fortunately, they left about 20 minutes after we got there and the 6 of us had it all to ourselves. Not to dis cruisers but they just travel in packs that are too big for such a small, delicate ecosystem and their get-in-and-get-out style of touring doesn’t always lead to thoughtful use of space. Goff’s Caye was looking a bit worn out.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t have a fantastic time though! On the way we stopped to fish. Me and one other person got barracuda and the visitor from Canada caught a Tuna! We gave the barracuda to our friend Ash from French Angel Expeditions who schlepped us out there on his boat and Ash cooked up the tuna for lunch. Someone also brought lobster tails so we had a total feast. We spent the day swimming and sunning and eating. Goff’s Caye is south of Belize City so with the hour plus trip each way, and the catch-your-own-lunch-on-the -way plan, it’s a full day trip.
Goff’s Caye Ho!
Cooking Dessert (lobster tails)
Lunch Almost Gone
Music on a Swim Fin
Goodbye for Now
Our massive renovation project is close to done. We’ve moved back in but are occupying the upstairs only while the downstairs is finished and we get some work done on the cottage before our first 2012 high season booking on October 28. We don’t have a kitchen for awhile but it sure is nice to be in this breezy tree house of a home!
The critters are adapting well. They are all enjoying the verandahs (as are we).
I’m always nervous about picking out paint based on square inch samples but I’m very happy with how the sunrise-themed yellow came out for the upstairs. The bathroom is a pretty aqua green but with no natural light in there it’s hard to get a good photo.
Obviously, the guys who did the work are incredibly talented. We are so grateful to them for doing such a fantastic job.
The outside is done. We kept the “sunrise” theme of the verandah railings:
It’s hard to make visual sense of a bunch of indoor shots but here are some details of the inside before we put any stuff or ourselves in here:
Standing at the top of the stairs. Guest room is to the left above the half wall
Just to the left of the last photo. Looking in to the guest bedroom from the top of the stairs
One view inside the guest bedroom
Another view inside the guest room
Master bedroom looking in to half bath
Another view of the master bedroom
The bedroom ceiling. Which is breath-taking
View from a bedroom window
A view from another bedroom window
Bedroom verandah looking to the south. This is the part that feels like a tree house
Northeast view from the verandah
Bedroom verandah ceiling. Another stunning ceiling. That will be important when we put up hammocks!
And finally, one photo after we started to put stuff in. I think our flame patterned sheets clash with the whole tree house theme:
Bedroom with bed!
It’s a little after noon and we are feeling both boredom and anxiety while we wait to see what Tropical Storm Ernesto will do. It’s still projected to turn in to a hurricane before landfall but it’s tracking increasingly North putting us farther from the center of the hit. Last night was very stormy and today is also on and off. At about noon the rain lightened up and I went out and took some photos. Ernesto is supposed to hit land at about 2AM tomorrow morning.
I’m sure glad I bought this waterproof camera.
It’s an odd mix of still and stormy here. Looking out over the sea the water looks flat and calm but the waves are breaking hard on the reef (you can’t see that in this photo) and the surge is already starting:
The water is very roiled up and murky:
There are no boats on the piers to the North of us. They’ve all been pulled in for safety:
Ours looks pretty empty also:
Waves are starting to crash over the sea wall and land on the beach:
Waves are also breaking on the road just south of us:
Waves Crash on the Road
The storm surge is bringing in lots of trash from the ocean:
Dave’s sailboat is moored behind the island and his motorboat is tucked in and tied to the mangroves for safety:
Boat Tucked Away
Our neighbor ‘Q is waiting for the storm also:
It’s very quiet but it wont be for long:
We’re living in the cottage while our house gets some needed updating. The work was not going to be so extensive but when we started opening things up we found a lot of termite and rot damage and much of the wood we hoped to salvage had to go. Extreme weather season is upon us and if there is an “event” involving a lot of wind, we want the house to stay put! We consulted with the Central Building Authority and proceeded.
It’s been both sad and exciting watching our cute house transform. I will miss its Addams Family-esque profile. But the guys are doing a phenomenal job on the reconstruct and it’s going to be beautiful and sturdy. We’re not done yet, but here’s the news so far:
State of Wood
You can see here why the wood needed replacing!
Leveling the House
First we had to level the house. There was a pronounced tilt to the south-west corner.
Leveling Close Up
Our team uses some low-tech techniques but they do everything excellently.
We added a small extension to the first floor and are extending the one-room second floor to a full story.
Walls Coming Out
The walls came out whole and will be reused for a house being built by one of the workers.
Things always look worse before they look better.
We found some scary things behind the walls. Good thing a Master Electrician is the foreman on this project.
The entire floor was too rotten to save. I like the two random coconuts sitting on the pile of plywood.
With so much wall gone, things had to be really shored up. We’ve had some very strong winds lately!
Our new windows will be large and plentiful, allowing a cross-breeze. Before, all the downstairs windows were on the East and North sides so it could be hard to get air flow even with fans.
The outside walls are a beautiful blend of Belizean hardwoods. They will take a beating from the UV rays. We already have several coats of protectant and stain on them and will probably have to reapply twice yearly. Hopefully they’ll stay beautiful for awhile. Everything takes a beating from the UV here and fades or peels at an astounding pace.
Start of the Second Floor
Here’s where we are now, with the second floor framed in. Having a full second floor makes the house look huge compared to before!
At the end of the day we have a cold drink and sometimes a snack with the crew. You can see our swimsuits and rags hanging out to dry. We’re glamorous like that.
There were some very sharply dressed ladies out and about in the village last night! I’m guessing they were moms.
Happy Mother’s Day!