Sunday, November 20, 2011

Second stop: Belize Part One

Our first stop was a perfect way to set the stage for the rest of the shore excursions. After a crazy month of working and an insane visit to New Orleans, it was nice to relax on a warm tropical beach. A great chance to release all the tension.
 Soon we were back on board and heading to our next destination. But first, it was the Halloween Cruise so we had our selves a little costume ball. Our costumes seemed like beginner costumes next to our competitors. We don't know what happened to the photo of Ed in his but I'll let you see mine. I was an Indian Warrior. He was dressed as the kid from the movie Where The Wild Things Are. He was so cute with his crown and septer.

 A while ago, we saw the show Aluminum at my sister's theater and I had the idea of going to the costume ball as one of the characters from the show (a big dryer vent). Somehow, the idea got shot down. Wouldn't you know that the winners of the contest, that walked away with $1000 to spend on board the ship, came as big dryer vents. That prize was so mine!

 We awoke the next morning off the coast of Belize.
There were two other ships here as well. Since the port can not handle the large ships, we had to be tendered in on smaller boats.
 Here are some friends Louis, Daved and Darrel, that we met while relaxing at the beach yesterday. We are just arriving at the shore and very excited for what lies ahead.
Once on shore, we boarded a bus that had seen it's better days and headed off down a fairly rough patch of road. When we were far away from the "city", we turned on to another "road". This road was nothing more than a single path. Yet it is the main road that goes to the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins. When we passed an on coming vehicle, both would have to put the right tires in the ditch and share the road. There were some pretty tight places. We trudged along this path, passing what looked like abandoned shacks. You could tell that there were people living there by the laundry hanging to dry. We were definitely in another world. It makes you appreciate everything that you have at home. It was explained to us that these people only work when there is a harvest to bring in and they make about $12 US per day. They work hard 9 hour days, often without breaks. The people that do the best are the ones catering to the Americans that come into port every day. The question was asked at one point, "Why don't they clean up their yards, surely that doesn't cost anything?" The answer was that if they make their house look too nice, others will come and "borrow" their stuff. So they actually want their yard to be messy and the house look run down. Since it is the tropics, there is little need for insulation, air conditioning, windows and in some cases, even doors seemed optional.

Belize is the former British Honduras. It's a fairly new country at the far Northern portion of Central America. Bordered by Mexico on the North and Guatemala on the South and West with a lovely Caribbean coast line. The population of just more than 300,000 mainly speaks Spanish, but because of being under British rule for so long, the official language is English. It is the only English speaking country in Central America. With less than 9,000 square miles of land, it is a very small country. Their primitive roads have speed limit signs posted but they have no police force to enforce the limits or issue tickets. There are no signal lights in the entire country. Driving there is at your own risk.

The Altun Ha Mayan Ruins were only discovered in 1985 and have brought a whole new industry to the country; tourism. The area was completely covered in jungle and there is far more still to be uncovered.
The ruins date back before Christ and they don't know what each structure might have been used for.
They do know that much of the surrounding land was farmed. They had an amazing system of water retention and distribution.

From the inhabitable structures that they have found, they discovered the use of air vents, used like a natural air conditioner.
The Mayan society was a society very much like America today. There were the elite and the peasants. The elite had the peasants convinced that they controlled everything including the weather. So the peasants would do anything they were told. Since they didn't make enough money to ever earn their own elite status, they worked their entire lives for the wealthy. (Sound familiar)

It's rumored that after a four year drought, the peasants had enough and packed up and left for the south. That's where the Incas come into the picture. And left with no workers and no rain, the elite headed North. And that's where the Aztec come in.
(I may have that reversed.)
The Maya people were around from about 2000BC until about 250AD. They had their own written language as well as different dialects from area to area. The classes of people even had their own versions of the language, much like we have today in America.
They are in the spot light lately because of their calendar. Their calendar is much more accurate than the one that we use today. I won't go into detail here but the thing that is popular at the moment is the fact that the last entry in the calendar is December 21, 2012. On that day, it is determined that the planets will all line up. It is believed that the gravitational pull from this kind of alignment will be enough to shift the earth from it's axis.
Essentially, Kentucky could become the new North Pole. While this would cause an ice age for the new pole area, our existing North and South Poles could become tropical.
If we're all smart, we'll buy land at the South Pole now while it's cheap and be ready to move come next December. Now, if this did happen, it may or may not happen instantly. There's only one way to find out. So I guess we'll all just wait and see.
A view of the natural jungle surrounding the ruins. 


Calling Ravens said...

Your photos of the ruins are FAB!!! Thank you for sharing. I also love the photo of the two of you. Is it just me, or do you really look significantly less stressed than previous photos :))

Jim said...

Love to see those ruins! Great , informative post Stew!

Stew said...

It's true that the stress of running the business and working a second job melted away with being unplugged from the internet and phone. Did I worry about everything? Of course. But there was nothing I could do so I had to let it go.

This portion of the trip was the highlight for me. This is where I felt the most disconnected and free. This is where I felt the most connected with nature and history.