Caracol ruins in the jungle and the way to Barranco (August 20-24)

September 11, 2006  
Topics: Belize

Sunday, 20 August

Hector, the guy who gave us a lift from Gallon Jug to the highway in Cayo district, was driving through the bumpy jungle road like crazy. When we got out in Santa Elena village we needed some time to recover after all the bumps and the rain we had to survive during the trip in the pickup of the car.

Our next destination was Caracol ruins located 40 km deep in the jungles of Forest Reserve. This day we did not reach the Reserve. We have got a permission to put a tent near the houses of one family living near one crossroad on the way to the Reserve.

Monday, 21 August

The children of our hosts were excited to be allowed to enter our tent and observe our small stove, which we used in the morning to cook food for the rest of the day. We have discovered that red ants made few holes on the plastic floor of our tent. reaching the bag with bread. It was a hard job to clean our tent from these animals, as the bites of these ants were quite painful. While packing Augustas was entertaining kids by showing several magical tricks with cards and other items.

With a Swiss driver working in one of the lodges for tourists we got a lift into the Forest Reserve. It was still about 30 km left to the Caracol ruins. Soon we were picked-up by the guys from the government working for the Tourism Development Project. They were heading all the way to Caracol. Talking to them we learned that nobody travels to these ruins independently. All the tourists arrive to the site around 11am with groups organized by travel agencies or lodges. From the Forest Station village the rest 20 km to the ruins all the cars are escorted by armed soldiers. Later on at 2pm all the cars are escorted back from the ruins to the first village.

We were different from the tourists. We arrived around 1pm and arranged a ride back to the main road with the same people from the government. The sky was grey with small shower, which made the ruins in the jungle look more mystic.

From one of the soldiers we got to know why this area needs to be controlled by army. The problem is that Guatemalans enter Belize jungles illegally and collect a plant called Shate. This plant is used for decorations, perfumes and for producing US dollar banknotes. It also happened that the same Guatemalans were attacking tourists, who are now protected by armed soldiers.

In the late afternoon we were brought back to the main highway, which leads to the capital of Belize – Belmopan. The night we spent in the surroundings of Belmopan, namely, we were allowed to put our tent near the watchman’s house in the area with governmental buildings of the Rural Development Project.

Tuesday-Thursday, 22-24 August

We were heading towards one of the southern villages of the country – Barranco. This place is populated by Garifuna people, which are predecessors of African and Caribbean mix.

We enjoyed driving through the South of Belize, where the landscape is full of colors and hills – very different from the other part of the country. Tuesday night we spent a night at the top of one family’s building in Bella Vista village.

On Wednesday we decided to visit Punta Gorda town in order to buy some fruits and vegetables in the market, as in Belizean villages these things were almost impossible to get. Punta Gorda is quite touristic as it is the gate to Guatemala. There are several ferries a day which bring people to Puerto Barrios port in Guatemala.

After small shopping in Punta Gorda, we got a ride to the junction for Barranco village, which was still 30km away. There was barely any traffic on that road. All few cars, which passed us that afternoon, did not want to stop for us, so we were in urge to search for a place to stay in the surroundings.

A truck with an American farmer stopped for us. He explained that he could drop us after a few kilometres near the ranch where he is working. When we asked about a place to put our tent, the man offered to stay behind the big white gates of the ranch. We accepted the offer and it was our home for the next two nights. Why two nights? Thursday we could not continue travelling, because the rain was pouring with short breaks until the afternoon. It was impossible to pack in that weather.

The buildings of the ranch were located about 1km further in the fields. We went there once Thursday morning, as we needed to fill our bottles with water. Other times we managed to collect rain water with the help of plastics covering our tent. It was a little bit complicated to take a shower these days, as around us were only empty fields of dirt. About hundred meters inside the field there was a trench made by a small stream of water running through the fields. We had no other choice for bathing. It was not so easy to “take a shower” over there, as the earth near the water was very muddy…