San Ignacio & Cahal Pech

It’s Dec-31, 2018 and the last day of the year. We’ve settled into San Ignacio and getting into our groove at the Guesthouse Hyatt. This is the second largest city in Belize (10,000), twinned with Santa Elena (8000), across the Mopan River, so a good place to settle down for a few more days. Up in the morning before Chris and Sam, we headed down to the market area to score some fresh baked Cinnamon rolls and apple fritters to complement the coffee we’re enjoying on the small balcony in our guesthouse.

After seeing the significant Mayan ruins at Xunantunich yesterday, we headed out to the local town site Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve. Discovered by accident in the 1940’s during a construction project putting a water tower on the hillside, this is a gem of a find for folks staying in town. It’s a simple 30 minute walk (keep heading up the hill), about 1.5km from the main square and you get to this interesting site. Headquartes is find modest building, and it’s a modest $10BZ ($5USD) entrance fee for tourists. The small museum has a lot of history and some of the samples of artifacts: pottery, tools, arrowheads, and numerous carvings that have been unearthed at this site. The site was established as early as 1200BC, and abandon in the 9th century as a classic Mayan site. Only excavated in 1988, and (partially) finished in 2000 there is still lots buried in this area.

Moving into the site itself, there are a series pf Plazas and pyramids: some of then restored on one side, and still buried into the hillside on the back. The whole site is open to the public, and we’re able to explore and scramble up the restored staircases and temples at our leisure. Sam and I did a tour of the monuments, checking out the Royal plaza and thrones – as well as some of the ‘secret royal passages’ linking some of the sites structures together. At the time of our visit, there were probably 10-12 tourist seeing the whole area – very much under visited with the larger sights around – but a fascinating local attraction that should not be missed.

Walking back through town to our guesthouse, got to see all sides of San Ignacio as well. Lots of building are brightly colored, and some are left to nature. Modest and quiet in size, we got a kick out of the no-parking signs on the streets: we have not see the volume of traffic in this country that warrants this kind of traffic control!

Back at home-base, Judy and I decided to see other local sights: there’s a local swimming hole at the conjunction of the Mopan and Macal rivers, so we took a walk out in that direction right though the center of town on Burns Avenue. The road quickly lost the pavement and went into a dirt road in the forest – and a short time later we came to the riversides. Sure, a place to dip into the cool waters (of course, was around 28C), and there’s definitely evidence of a small ‘party spot’ here for the locals! In order to get across the river to Santa Elena from here, there is also a small pedestrian/motorcycle suspension bridge, that we saw reasonably well utilized in our brief stay. There’s no qualm with the locals this is a 2-way grade bridge, and the motorcycles slowed as they passed during our crossings!

After that, we settled down for a dinner out at a local restaurant in the main square, enjoyed the live band entertainment: complete with a surprising Reggie rendition of “Hotel California” and other Belize style tunes. Touring around the sights as the night air was filled with music and old school firecrackers – we then headed back to the safety of our guesthouse on the hillside. As expected, festivities peaked at midnight with fireworks, and firecrackers rattled around in in the streets: great way to see out 2018.

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