People and Places
People, The Group
Belize and Guatemala happened for me this past January because of adventurers Deb and Bob Stelton, through their mom and pop travel company Mexi-Mayan Travel.
And they really are my mom and pop.
Forever curious, an inspiration to countless students and seekers, hosts and trip organizers of expeditions since the 1960’s, they are only now at 88 and 91 years young just starting to slow down.
I’ll admit to a tug at the heartstrings. Climbing around ruins and getting in and out of boats or beat up trucks is a challenge at their age. I am an arm for my mother to lean on, (darn arthritic knees!) or a cheerleader as she navigates a high ledge, on her butt, backwards. I am an ear for my dad’s failing hearing, and also sometimes a stabilizer for him also. It’s not easy for them and sometimes I worry. Well, enough of that. You get the picture. We treasure each of these excursions.
It has been an honor and delight to accompany them and sometimes work as guide on many of their madcap journeys.
Talk about gratitude, my life has been rich with culture and experience. They’ve modeled viewing the world with wonder and curiosity.
Follow their lead, my friends! Pursue your passions, interests and loves as long as you can! It keeps the mind, body spirit, strong and supple like a cheetah…
Other than the ‘rents and I there were 12 more adventurers. All intelligent, mature, considerate, and often hilarious individuals, including 3 archeologists. All curious about and considerate of the culture of Belizeans and Guatemalans. Many archeology passionistas who appreciate a cold local beer at lunch.
More People, Local People
A few words about the people of Belize. They are funny, kind, patient, and generous. Names of businesses and street signs reflect their humor and generally easy-going nature.
More good natured monkey bizness…
Our local guides took care of us like family. Once even ingeniously packing a home cooked
lunch feast (made by one of their sisters in the wee hours of the dawn) which we enjoyed at a ruin in the open air replete with china plates!
I was touched to see a young taxi driver holding my mom’s hand and slowly walk her to his old cab with the cracked windshield and peeling window darkeners.
In San Ignacio the dogs are plump and adored. They wander the streets freely and bark all night. All night. They bark all night! All. Night. Yawn. Supposedly they are watch dogs, but I think they are more just party animals.
I’ve been to Guatemala about 6 times. Here too I find the people are kind. Traditional Mayan spirituality is intriguing and very alive in Guatemala. If you can experience a Mayan shaman ceremony or visit a Maximon shrine, go for it!. The shamans will speak directly to the gods on your behalf, building a sacred ritual fire. Maximon is the saint of drunkards and whores. He can be bought off with offerings of cash, booze, and cigarettes. I mean just do it! Can’t hurt, right?
In San Ignacio we stayed at the Rolsen Hotel. The Rolsen sits atop a hill a bit out of the hustle and bustle of downtown. Modest and clean accommodations, very kind and helpful staff. Nice Pool. Although the coffee was dreadful, the breakfasts were hearty and the fruit plate was super fresh. Best thing on the menu – Pork Pibil. There is a lovely view of the city from the dining room. And it’s easy to get a cab or tour company and take excursions from here. We used the dependable and friendly family-run local tour company,
BTW – we about fainted over the food at San Ignacio’s restaurant The Crave. So yummy!
Also the Belize Zoo is lovely place, small in size with lush flora. I am not keen on zoos but this zoo is more of a rescue center. I petted a rescued jaguar!
In the Peten area of Guatemala we stayed three nights at the remote El Sombrero Lodge. Run by an Italian woman who came to visit as a young lady then fell in love with the land (and a man) and never left. She is assisted by her adult sons. This lodge was my favorite on the trip. Outstanding service and delicious home cooked meals (they baked me a birthday cake with only an afternoon’s notice, and served it warm for desert!) The lodge is tucked in the jungle on a crocodile filled lake (no swimming). I found the rooms utterly charming – screened-in thatched roof structures. You will hear the howler monkeys! Some rooms are more “communal” then others. You may hear your neighbors! The lodge generates their own power (which goes off at night unless you make other arrangements), keep their own bees, and serve the honey with homemade pancakes. Excellent coffee. The owners are highly knowledgeable about Mayan archeology and offer excursions to nearby ruins by boat, horse, or car. The road to this place was exceedingly bumpy, but worth it!
Deb had the brilliant idea to finish our trip at the most luxurious of the three “hotels.” So we were off by a scenic boat ride to, The Lamanai Outpost Lodge. Private, quiet rooms, service, food and cultural and ecotourism activities here were first rate. Hot showers, air conditioning, comfy beds, beautiful landscaping, hummingbirds everywhere. 24 hour coffee is forever in the communal room. Our hosts mysteriously and repeatedly offered drinks on the house. Was it something about us? Or is it the norm? Hard to say… Regardless, cheers!
Finally, we visited many ruins… I’m sorry the names escape me (there were so many!) but here are a few favorite pictures…
Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear about your adventures – please comment!
Here’s the itinerary for the trip:
Belize and Guatemala – A Mayan Ecological Adventure
If you’ve more interest in Mayan culture, and scent here’s a little Mayan Story I wrote:
Sex and Scent – A Cautionary Mayan Tale
And here’s another blog about Guatemala and coffee from a previous trip:
Smelling the Coffee, Generosity of Spirit