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Day 11: Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
It’s our last day in Belize so we’ve decided to do some shopping. The four of us and the Nances decided to go back across the border to Guatemala. Both the Belizean and American dollar are very strong compared to the Guatemalan Quetzal, so our money goes alot further over there. Rather than go through the exportation/importation process for our vehicles again, we decided to park our vehicles on the Belizean side of the border, walk across and take a taxi to the local shopping area. Since the shopping area was about a mile across the border and the taxis were only a $1, Stuart and Judith went ahead of us while we finished up our border paperwork.
We went into Guatemala in order to get some cool souvenirs and decorations for our homes. Unfortunately, the part of town that the taxi dropped us off in was the local shopping area where they primarily sold underwear, knock off Reeboks and poorly made soccer balls. We decided to find the Antigua Boutique, a store which had been recommended to us by the people at Blananeaux Lodge. After a series of obscure directions from various locals, we managed to stumble upon it.
Once inside, we discovered that the Nances had beaten us to Antiguas and were going on a major shopping spree, and with good reason. Antiguas had a huge selection of crafts and hand made things from the southern area of Guatemalal near the city of Antigua. They had everything ranging from colorful placemats to hand carved wooden masks to musical instruments.
After purchasing our wares, it was back into the taxis and back across the border. This time we had to take two taxis again, all of the stuff the Nances bought occupied almost the entire back seat of their taxi. Among the cool things that they bought was a hand made xylophone, which Stuart claims was for their kids back home. Personally, I think he got it as much for his amusement as for theirs, as he kept playing little ditties on its keys (including, I shudder to mention, the Barney theme song).
Back across the border into Belize we decided to visit one last Mayan ruin, Xuantanich. Our primary reason for going here wasn’t neccessarily to see the ruin, but rather to take the “bridge” across the river. Rather than construct a proper bridge, the powers that be decided instead to install a hand crank ferry to shuttle vehicles and visitors back and forth across the river… very cool.
Tracy and Dorothy stayed back at the river to take the obligatory “river crossing” photos – thanks you two. So the Stuarts, Lynn and Nathan went up to the ruins. The ruins were suprisingly cool. The major temple, known as el Castillo (the castle) towers above the area and can be seen from miles away on the Western Highway. Currently archeologists are making fiberglass casts of the magnificent frescas that line the top of the temple in order to preserve the fragile limestone rock. According to one of the workers there, this undertaking will continue to go on for the next five years. Meanwhile, back at the river, Dorothy and Tracy made small talk with the locals and saw large iguanas scampering up a nearby tree.
After we regrouped, we headed back to the lodge where most of the group took the rest of the afternoon to relax, while Nathan spent some time working on Camel to get it in shape for the drive home. Sometime the day before we had bent a tie rod on Camel and despite having a spare one, we decided we’d temporarily fix the existing one for the drive home.
We settled up bills with the lodge so that we could leave early the next morning. The plan was for us and the Nances to leave early and meet up with Dustin and Carey in Big Bird up in Corazol near the Mexican border. The three vehicles were planning to push ahead and cross the border back into the US a day earlier than the rest of the group. That way Tracy and Nathan could be back in Colorado for work on Monday, five days away. We really love our jobs 🙂
Nighttime fell and everyone settled down for bed. Nathan laid in the hammock out on the deck reflecting upon his vacation when a huge glowing thing came ripping across the sky. The object left a massive trail of incandescent smoke that seemed to glow white. Nathan hollered for Tracy to come take a look. She reluctantly came out but without her eyeballs in (her contacts). When she came back with her eyeballs and saw it, she called her parents out to see as well. We all just stood there slack jawed for a couple of minutes watching the trail slowly dissapate. Unexpectedly, we heard a loud sonic boom echoing across the jungle. We went to bed wondering what that could have been, a huge meteor, the space shuttle, or maybe even a crashing plane? Whatever it was, it had to be one of the most amazing things we’ve seen in our lives.
(Editors note: a bit of research indicates that it was the U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-104) on its approach landing to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.)