Thursday, April 24, 2008

Exploring Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret

This past weekend I traveled to San Ignacio, Cayo and became a tourist in my own country. I had never had so much fun exploring my own land, Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret, as they say. I am usually heading off to Chetumal or Cancun for the long weekend.

I have visited many areas of my country, but they are usually one day trips which have me back home the same day. This time I managed to experience an entire weekend of exploring San Ignacio, Cayo, as my friends and I rented a car and took off on the Western Highway. It was both relaxing and exciting at the same time.

The drive to Cayo was very easy with signs all they way to San Ignacio Town; and the highway was very well kept – a smooth ride. Cayo is simply amazing. I got to relax in the picturesque setting of the Cahal Pech Resort Village. Perched atop a high hill, the view overlooking the entire town was breathtaking.

I got to visit the nearby village of Spanish Lookout, a Mennonite community that is simply amazing; you have to see to believe. Teaming with livestock, orchards, plantations, fields, the center of the village is a long strip of businesses that make you feel as if you are in the US. With large supermarkets, grain mills, car/truck dealerships, tractor suppliers and repair shops, tire companies and wholesale dealers, the village looks more like a self-sustained city.

Exploring the Mayan ruins of nearby Xunantunich and swimming in the Mopan River was another part of our adventure in Cayo. Climbing the ruins of Xunantunich and overlooking both the Belizean and Guatemalan landscapes you imagine yourself living like the Mayans. The view from the top of the main temple is surreal.

After burning up the calories climbing the ruins we concluded the day with a refreshing swim in the Mopan River. We joined some boys who swum themselves from a rope into the fresh water along the river bank on the side of the road. Pure bliss!

So the next time I have some free time, I am definitely planning to take my friends on another trip inland into the Belizean wilderness, instead of the urban jungles of Chetumal and Cancun. Much fun and relaxation can be experienced in my own country. Viva Belize!

Cradled in a Picturesque Valley
Between the Macal and Mopan Rivers ....

San Ignacio and sister-town, Santa Elena make up Belize's second largest urban area. The two towns are separated by the Macal River and Belize's only suspension bridge, the one-lane Hawksworth Bridge (Built in 1949).

Together the towns have a combined population of about 20,000 including: Creole, Mestizo (Spanish-Maya), Lebanese, Chinese, Mennonite, Maya and other cultures. Both English and Spanish are spoken, plus a myriad of other languages.

Known locally as "Cayo," San Ignacio is located along the Western Highway about 70 miles and 90 minutes drive time from Belize City. Teeming with Guatemala-bound travelers, archaeologists, peace corps workers, North American retirees and thrill seekers, "Cayo" is a unique blend of America's Old West and tropical backwater with frontier-like wooden shops on narrow streets.

Burns Avenue is "Main Street" and a good place to begin a tour of the town. Most days it's a busy thoroughfare with lots of people walking in the streets. Burns Avenue and the adjacent streets are packed with shops, hotels and places to eat where hospitable townspeople mingle in restaurants, bars and wooden shops with colonial era architecture of days gone by.

Things to Do....

Excursions around San Ignacio include a short trip to nearby Cahal Pech, a Maya archeological site. It's a quick cab ride or a 20-minute uphill walk from town. Macal River canoeing is very popular. Stopovers include a Blue Morpho butterfly-rearing facility and "medicine trail".
The Iguana Conservation Project and baby iguanas are located at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. Rent a bike, walk or jog 1.5 miles along scenic Branch Mouth Road to the "Hammock Bridge" where the Macal and Mopan rivers join up. From the shaded river bank, you can watch for wild parrots along with lazing iguanas and enjoy a swim in the heat of the day.

Venture to the Mountain Pine Ridge on the way to Caracol, or travel to Succotz Village. Another mile gets you to Benque Viejo and Hydro-dam Road where the journey continues on to Chechem Hah, a cave filled with Mayan artifacts. From Benque Viejo, it's one mile to the Guatemalan border. Bullet Tree, 3 miles northwest of San Ignacio, is where the road to El Pilar, another archeological site, begins.

Other Cayo area activities include: Horseback Riding, Birding, Canoeing & Kayaking, and excursions to other nearby Caves and Ruins, including Tikal and Flores in Guatemala.

Saturday is the Busiest Market Day
Here you will find vendors from the small towns and villagers selling their wares and locally-grown fruits and vegetables. You can get good buys on bananas, papaya, pineapples, oranges, mangos, coconuts, avocados and other tropical produce.

Cash advances, internet, real estate, travel, and auto rentals are some of the Business Services available in San Ignacio.

1 comment:

tacogirl said...

Looks like you had a great getaway