Exploring nature and Mayan ruins in Lamanai
We’ve left Orange Walk on a speed boat, and are now on an hour and a half long journey south, whizzing past the jungle, and its green reflection on the water of the New River, in Belize. A copper coloured Jacana bird amuses us by its amazing ability to “run on water” using waterlily leaves as stepping stones. A little blue heron fishing at the river, takes to flight as we appear on the scene, whereas the “eagle eyed” common black hawk sits tight on a tree branch, watching over the river. The eerie silhouettes of snake cactuses hang over the riverbanks, and scarily, they really do look as if their branches are covered in snakes. Thankfully, none of Belize’s 60 actual snake species, 8 of which are deadly, make an appearance this time. We do, however, spot a green iguana, lounging on a tree branch as well as long-nosed little bats hanging around the trunk of the tree.
Our captain turns off the engine as we approach two young lads, fishing in the river with nothing but goggles and speers. Soon enough, one of them raises his speer off the water with a big toothy grin on his face, showing off his catch; a sizeable river perch.
Finally, we arrive at the main destination for todays excursion ; at the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, nestled in the jungle of a nature reserve. Three, pyramid shaped stone buildings stand in front of us; the Mask Temple, Jaguar Temple and High Temple. Before the colonial era of the 17th century, Mayan culture thrived here for a staggering three thousand years. The tombs, excavated by archaeologists, revealed valuable treasures, providing evidence of the sophistication of Mayan culture and trade practices. Gemstones and copper items, such as dishes, bells and rings we among the treasure that was found.
We have plenty of time to take photographs of the masterful stone carvings in the Mask Temple, climb the 33m up to the top of the High Temple for some amazing views, as well as take in the surrounding nature and wildlife.
Nature exploration, together with history, features at the top of our agenda for this excursion. As per our guides instruction, we peek inside a little whole in the stone wall, and get greeted by a hairy legged bird spider. While exploring the nature trails amongst the ruins in the natural park, we get to hear the bark of howling monkeys and see a green beaked toucan, hiding at the top of a leafy tree.
By a termite nest, our guide shows us how to eat live ants. Pekka gives this protein packed delicacy a go, but I settle for the lunch to be provided later.
Our route back along the river takes us through the shipyard settlement of the mennonites. We do indeed see a young man in braces, fishing from a boat in search of the “simple life”. The mennonite community produces sugarcane and corn on huge farms, using traditional methods, avoiding the use of modern technology at all costs.
The Lamanai excursion was definitely enriching and packed with wonderful experiences! The day has one more surprise in store for me though! In the evening, I sit by the river at our campsite, journaling about our day, when a worried looking staff member from the site rushes over to point out a crocodile, lurking only four metres away from me, watching my every move. Now I too can see the eyes and the long nose, popping up to the surface amidst the waterlilies. I note that it’s best to stay out of the water, crocodiles are clumsy on land afterall. The staff member replies “ it’ll run on land faster than you!” Afterwards, I struggle to concentrate on writing and sneek back inside Epeli. I feel strangely motivated to get back into jogging all of the sudden, after slacking off a bit lately.