Between the crocodiles
Not experts of Maya ruins, nor experts of bird life but both: in Lamanai and in Crooked Tree wildlife sanctuary we were again impressed.
“Lamanai” in Maya language means “submerged crocodile”. And all is right: the archaeologically reserve is situated on the New River Lagoon and to get there you simply have to meet a crocodile. That’s quite a happening, even if the one we met was really sweet and small. The happening is already getting to the ruins, by 2-hours long boat trip, on a river which lives its own life. Tons of strong water, exotic birds and hydrophilic iguanas. It should be possible to get there on some bumpy road (60km) but taking a boat was the best decision ever. Our guide was a Maya, son of a fisherman, who is so old that he is hardly walking and talking and has more than 50 grandchildren. But he is still able to make business and sent travellers on the boat with his son, who knows thousands of small stories about every bird, dragonfly and neighbours. And has a yummy lunch made by his mother for all of us. Again, pictures didn’t come easily while holding kids on this boat surrounded by dark water where no local would swim because of the crocodiles. But few we managed to make!
The ruins itself are also exciting. There is evidence on Mayan life that dates there already from about XVI century BC, which means 3500 years ago!! A total of 187 copper artifacts have been excavated there, including needles, fish hooks, axes, bells, rings, tweezers, pins, chisels and various clothing ornaments. What makes the place different too is that Maya lived here until the coming of the Spanish in the XVI century. There are three main excavated buildings: The Jaguar Temple, the Mask Temple (adorned by a 13-foot stone mask of an ancient Maya king) and the High Temple, which you can climb and see a panoramic view on the jungle and river. Howler monkeys are jumping above your heads (until now we only heard them, they bark as dogs!), even with small ones on their back and many strange eatable fruits grow around.
Between ruins there are also fields were Maya were playing ball. Their team sports are based on the art of war and there are quite extreme rules. What can be the most shocking for us is that the captain of the winning team is sacrificed to the gods as an honor at the end of the game.
After coming back to our car and driving a bit to find a nice place to stay, we again, by beautiful accident stayed for a night in the middle of place-to-be: Crooked Tree wildlife sanctuary. It’s a 5 square miles reserve done in 1984 by Belize Audubon Society because of the area’s wealth of bird life. We parked the car at the lagoon and woke up and change into birds’ lovers (who we have never been): just spotting with our fingers through the windows amazingly colourful birds. The paradise didn’t last long, because birds are probably not used to small jumping and singing girls ; )
The rest of that day was rather not funny. We started to drive into Belize City direction (to take a ferry to the islands) and suddenly our breaks stopped working. Luckily we were driving super slow, still through this sanctuary, so nothing bad happened but I even don’t want to think what would it be if we got to the motorway faster. So Tom stayed with our car in let’s-call-it car workshop, working with guys on getting our breaks back and we, three girls, were exploring more birds, butterflies and iguanas. But since I knew that in each part of this rivers there are up to 5-metre-long crocks, I didn’t feel like exploring too much alone.