We had a relatively early start on today’s ‘shore excursion’ and had to meet with our tour group at 8:00 AM. We were already aware that we’d have to use a ‘tender’ to go in to shore (a tender is a small boat that takes passengers from the big ship on in to port – there was no pier in Belize for our BIG ship), so we were kinda looking forward to that experience. So, we got all boarded on the tiny ship, had about 20 or 30 folks on board, and we raced toward shore, all 3 of the 200-horse outboard V6 engines pulling hard. We got splashed a little bit, lots of spray, but no problem.
Upon reaching the dock we were directed to wait in line for our bus which was to take us to the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha [which apparently means ‘water from stone’, having to do with a spring emanating from a rock wall – I thought maybe it meant ‘No Checks’, we’ve heard that a lot lately 🙂 ] So, we waited patiently as the line dwindled down and we got nearer the bus. But, no bus ride yet for us! The bus filled up and we were shuttled out back onto the dock and there we boarded another speed boat. We were told that the tour was in 2 parts, and so we’d just do our river cruise first, followed by the visit to the ruins. So, off we went, supposedly up the river. Actually, we went way out into the harbor first, at about Mach 3, on our way to the river mouth. After a 10-minute ride we entered the river and slowed down a bit. As we went up the river, which was fairly wide, we alternately went fast and slow as things came up that they wanted to show us. We got to see several small crocodiles sunning on branches by the riverside, a few howler monkeys (way up in the tree – they could have been backpacks for all I could tell) and one or two interesting birds. They also pointed out some interesting types of plants that grow in this part of the world, including cashews, logwood trees (a source of purple dye in olden days), African Tulip trees, lotsa different things.
We eventually got to our ‘place of lunch’, as I think the ancients called it, where we debarked and enjoyed some barbecued chicken with some tasty sides. Good basic food. We then got to do some shopping at the local version of Wal-Mart, which was some small wooden structures where you could buy trinkets and carvings. We picked up a few things, enjoyed the experience. About then our bus arrived and we were OFF AGAIN! 🙂
After about 45 minutes we made it to the Altun Ha ruins. We had to run the gamut of locals who wanted to tackle us and sell us stuff as we were trying to follow our tour guides. We succumbed to tempation and agreed to pay $5.00 for a freshly-cut cocoanut with a straw that they doctored with some rum for us. We gave it a taste, then decided to just abandon it somewhere out of sight – it was not too impressive. Then we made the rounds, following our tour guides to of all the stone pyramids and other sacred structures there – it was neat, but it was starting to get a little hot and I think our attentions wandered a bit. Kinda like trying to absorb a geography lesson in high school when the classroom was at 85 degrees. Anyway, we’re glad we went – not too many Mayan temples in Indiana, ya know!
After our time at the ruins was up, it was back to Belize City and a little more shopping at dockside, then over to where we could board the tender for the ride back to our ship. The second ride on a tender was somewhat different – somehow the surface of the water had turned to concrete. At least that’s how it seemed – they got the boat up to speed, about 300 mph, I’m thinking, then it began to leap from wavetop to wavetop, which caused TREMENDOUS impacts on our seated bodies! Here’s a brief rendition of a tender ride in those conditions: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Wham! zzzzzzzzzz Wham zzzzzzzzzzzzz WHAM WHAM……… get the picture? I told Kate it seemed as if we were being punished by a PILEDRIVER (if you get my drift – got Preparation H??).
We made it back to the ship, where (fortuitously) we were introduced to the mysteries of a martini by our new friend Larry from Florida. Great timing!!!!
Another great day on our Caribbean Cruise!!! We loved it!
More to come from adventurers Jim & Kate!