San Ignacio, Western Belize

After meeting in Corozal – a waterside border town on Chetumal Bay, Belize, mostly used as a stopover for those heading to the Cayes – we headed for San Ignacio in western Belize via the “chicken” buses, which, although named for the live chickens sometimes carried on board (dinner?), they are actually old USA school buses. We didn’t encounter any chickens, but is anyone out there from the Wilson County School District?

6 hours and 2 standing-room-only chicken buses later (which aptly dodged flying debris from the sugar cane trucks) we arrived in San Ignacio and met Warren’s brother’s father-in-law, Jerry at Hanna’s (best inexpensive restaurant in town). Jerry and Maudine own Firetree ranch about 11 bumpy miles south of the city. The 45 minutes drive is a great way to discover if you have any loose dental work. Check out this short video of the drive if you do not believe us (12 Meg WMV File)

After touring the local Mayan ruins Cabal Pech (“Tick City” – not the most inviting name) Jerry drove us out to the Mennonite community known as Spanish Lookout. Established in 1958 as an autonomous community, we entered the 60+ square miles via a hand cranked river ferry – which Cynthia got to crank without any hesitation after asking the “cranker”. The roads are refreshingly well kept (vs. the Belizean roads) and driving through the acres and acres of pasture/cropland, you’d swear you warped over to the American Midwest: vinyl-sided houses, two car garages and some fabulous ice cream.

The next day we toured the Atun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave system. An all-day adventure which included a three-river-crossings hike through the jungle, a 3 hour cave tour, lunch and return hike. One word for this tour: wet. Donning helmets and headlamps, we swam into the cave. The cave has a small river flowing through it so after several more swims, a number of rock scrambles, and several muttered thanks to helmets, we arrived in the part of the cave with the Mayan artifacts and human remains. The remains were amazingly well preserved from 700 A.D., and the cave (from beginning to end) had some of the most fascinating formations – including what you’d swear was a mountain of snow.

On our last day at Firetree ranch we visited a beautiful butterfly farm where an informative and enthusiastic staff walked us through a screened enclosure filled with thousands of butterflies. You have to be careful where you walk and not mind if they hitch a ride on you. The glass-winged butterflies were especially intriguing since they looked like they only had the outline of wings. Afterwards, we stopped at a neighbors bar – in the middle of the no where. The owner, Mick, treated us to homebrew, homemade coffee liquor and coconut rum. He, along with his 2 dogs, also gave us a tour of his property which included a box canyon, cave, waterfall – and the infamous sensitivity fern which Cynthia has been searching for since childhood. See the action video of the fern here (4Meg WMV file). We finished the evening with a wonderful homemade pizza dinner at Derry’s parents house.

If you want to see more pictures, check out the San Ignacio photo gallery.

Next stop, the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala.

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