The Year at Peace Meal Garden

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Location: The Oregon Cascades, near PDX, United States

Our home in the Oregon Cascades, provides us with peaceful days, and star-filled nights. We are grateful for fresh air, clean water, and enough space for our garden.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The last of the Mayan Ruins that we were able to visit on this trip is called Nim Li Punit. The name translates to "Big Hat" and the site was discovered in 1976 by an oil exploration team. This site is notable for the large monuments that were found here...more than twenty!

Seven of these are carved stelae, with dates that place them within the late classical period. It appears that Nim Li Punit saw it's rise and fall between AD 700-900.

When we entered the museum, I actually spoke out-loud, at the first sight of this large carved stelae...It's over 17 meters long! It is the largest stela found in Belize, and is the second longest found so far in the Maya world. It's hard to imagine how they carved these detailed images, nevermind how they managed to place these big stones up-right!

You might be able to see the "large hats" worn by the rulers depicted in these first two photos, and the carving below shows the type of carvings that are the Mayan glyphs...or letters. Research is beginning to illuminate and interpret most of the Mayan glyphs, which adds much to the body of knowledge we have about these ancient people.



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Monday, February 25, 2008

We were so pleased to finally arrive at Hickatee Cottages outside Punta Gorda, in Toledo.

P.G. is the southernmost city in Belize, and the capitol of the Toledo District. Until recently most travelers only visited Toledo on their way to Honduras, but now more people are arriving to check-out the authentic atmosphere that is still to be found in the town of Punta Gorda, and in the surrounding Mayan Villages.

Toledo is the poorest district in Belize, and the pace of life is very slow here, even by Belize standards. Please click on the link to see more of the lovely Hickatee Cottages! http://www.hickatee.com


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Sunday, February 24, 2008

After having our picture taken when we were leaving Larry's camp, we said a reluctant good-bye to The Cayo.

We headed south on the beautiful Hummingbird Highway, all the way to Punta Gorda, in the Toledo District.

Our long travel day did not give us much time to investigate the many attractions that lay along this route, but we did stop briefly at the Inland Blue Hole. We will have to return another time to enjoy the fabulous birdwatching and explore the caves that are a part of this same park!

http://www.ecoroute.org/tours-in-belize/belize-blue-hole-national-park.html

There is a wonderful video on YouTube, but I can't seem to make it embed to my blog. If you want to see more, just go to YouTube and search for the Inland Blue Hole, Belize!


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From a vantage point high on a Mayan temple, far above the Macal River, Kraig and Tasha watch the sun go down over Guatemala!


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After hiking around all afternoon, we took a chance to cool off in the Macal River where it flows past Larry's Camp. We were ready to appreciate the fine camp-style cooking by Justo, Larry and David's right-hand-man. The meals served were typical Belizian and very delicious...not to mention the bountiful portions! Here you can see the outside and inside of the dining area, and Justo with his family...(he's the third from the left!) Thanks Larry, for the picture of Justo...we neglected to take any!


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These first two pictures are views taken from the top of the temple at Guacmayo, from two different directions. This is some of the prettiest country I have ever seen. These pictures can't represent how lovely it is here...but click to enlarge them anyway!

The last two pictures are just cool fungus, and a Lipstick Plant that caught my eye, growing among the stones of the ruins! There are fruit trees of many kinds growing at the camp, and many strange vines and flowers thrive in the surrounding jungle.


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We spent the afternoon with Larry and Tasha, exploring the Guacamayo site. After visiting many other Mayan ruins, it was easy to see the various walls, stairs, temple rooms, and view points, even though most of the actual stonework is covered with jungle! Larry and David are committed to keeping this site intact. You might be able to recognize these indications of Mayan history in the photos seen here!

We hiked for about a half an hour, down the backside of the pyramid to stop in at Larry's neighbors. They are Americans, who own a small lodge called Macaw Bank. You can see more of their story, and check out their accomodations, by visiting them at: http://macawbankjunglelodge.com

Their website has a lot of good information, and many fine photos of the birds and butterflies of this region. If we ever get an opportunity to spend time in Belize, we would like The Cayo District to be our home!


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Larry's partner, David, has been a respected tour guide in The Cayo for many years. You can see what types of tours are popular in The Cayo by clicking on David's web-site: http://www.davidsadventuretours.net/

David's family owned the property where the camp is located, and they agreed to sell it to Larry, in order to develop it for use by travelers. Here you can see my photo of the original sleeping cabana, the open air dining area (on the left) and the new building Larry has built, with four guest rooms inside. When we arrived, the new building wasn't quite finished, so we stayed in the older cabin! I think they are nearly ready to accept lodgers in the new building!


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On Friday we checked out of Cahal Pech Village. We met up with our friend, Larry Wellington, from last year's tour. We followed Larry out through the cattle country of The Cayo District, to the location of his Adventure Camp!

Larry has been posting a blog that gives a good overview of his trials and tribulations in starting his new rustic adventure camp in Belize. If you have time to read his blog, you will have a good idea of what it takes to get something started in Belize! http://www.larrywellington.com

Click on Larry's blog and read all the comments, and be sure to check out the photographs too. He has been living in Belize with his dog Tasha, since August 2007.

The camp can only be reached by canoe...you can see a picture of the crossing in my photo...

Once across, you are faced with a long climb, but I call it the Stairway to Heaven, because when you reach the top you will see that your lodging is on top of an ancient Mayan temple!

This site is called Guacamayo, and it has not been excavated by any archeologists, or even by looters! It remains in pristine condition resulting from years of the jungle slowly reclaiming the area. After having visited other sites in various stages of reconstruction, it was an honor to explore this temple that has stood silently for such a long time. There is much magic in the air of this place, and I hope all of you will get a chance to visit it someday!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Maya farmers first settled the site of El Pilar about 800 BC. It's geographic position between the Belize River and the cities of the Peten, placed El Pilar in an ideal location to to take advantage of inter-regional trade and exchange.

A causeway, or plastered roadway, approximately one kilometer in length, joins El Pilar with a large architectural group across the border in Guatemala, known at Pilar Poniente. The large lowland Maya site of Tikal, lies another 32 miles to the west of El Pilar.

Very limited archeological work has been conducted at El Pilar.

These pictures are looking west, over the causeway, from a very high vantage point at El Pilar. Sorry they don't really convey the majesty, but you can click to enlarge!

When we left el Pilar, we did indeed give a ride to Mr. Mac...one of the caretakers who had been on site for two weeks without going the 12 miles into town.

He was anxious to get back because this was the last week-end before the general election in Belize, and Mac is very active in his political party, the PUP.

We were surprised at the level of political understanding that this man showed, not only for the politics of his own country, but for the workings of the United States, as well.

He said that he had watched the US presidential debates with great interest, as a way to "open his mind", and he grasped some points that had not occured to us...in other words, sometimes you are too close to a situation, and it takes an outsider to see the big picture.

When we dropped him off, Mac insisted I take a tee-shirt and a hat from the PUP party. When I got to the hotel, I held up the cap, and the blue tee-shirt that says "Believe in Belize". One of the servers in the restaurant said, with much disgust..."You might as well vote for Castro."

I couldn't let that go, so I said very slowly...(while trying to think of a clever answer...)...."Weeeeeellllllll...the thing is...........I WOULD vote for Castro, but he never holds elections." That wasn't the best line ever, but it allowed me to walk away with some dignity, as the other servers, who were apparently PUP supporters...were laughing at their friend.!

Unfortunately, for Mac, the following thursday, the opposition, the UDP party, won in a landslide. Most of the businessmen seem to support UDP, and one of the things they have promised is to open Belize to more foreign interests....so maybe you will be able to get Starbucks and KFC there by the time you decide to visit!

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