After about a month of exams editing and other work here and there I finally got my act together with the shots from my family vacation to the Yucatan peninsula (Mexico, Belize and Guatemala).
We took off from Calgary at sunset which provided for some pretty cool pictures out of the plane window.
Take off from Calgary International
Stop over in Toronto
We Landed in Cancun and went straight to a town called Bacalar to the south. The town is situated on the biggest inland lake in the Yucatan Peninsula. It was a really nice place to stay for Christmas.
Our private Dock
Nearby is a little day resort called Cenote Azul. It is a tiny little lake which is perfectly circular lake. Cenotes are created when the limestone in the area erodes and then collapses creating beautiful circular lakes which aren’t fed by visible streams
Silas Diving off of the Roof of the Resort
Joshua Back Flip
Silas Back Flip
Moonrise on Christmas Eve
Sunrise on Christmas Morning
Christmas Morning in Bacalar
Before we left on our vacation my mom talked to me about how cool it was in her friends vacation pictures that they included a video of leaf cutter ants running in a line with leaves above their head. I replied saying that even though I couldn’t take videos with my camera I thought that I could do equally good and get a picture just as descriptive as the video was. On Christmas Day my mom spotted a line of leaf cutter ants just a couple hundred meters from the place where we were staying. So are these as good as a video of them?
Leaf Cutter Ants
More Leaf Cutter Ants
On Boxing day we left Bacalar and drove into Belize where we took a tiny little plane from the mainland to San Pedro (to all of you CCS people who have or will be going on the Belize trip this is the Island you visit). When the plane pulled up we noticed that only of the people riding up front was a pilot. The other person was just one of the passengers. Fortunately I’m the guy with the camera so my family let me ride shotgun.
Turns out workers in the transportation industry in Central America are quite good multitask. Our pilot (below) was checking his phone during flight (and he is the only pilot) and one of our bus drivers (when we went from Cancun to Bacalar) was texting while he was driving at tremendous speeds along very skinny highways
Caye Calker on the Left
Landing at San Pedro
San Pedro was a nice little town with tremendously nice people. Well everyone in Belize is nice to you. The streets of San Pedro are quite busy though, the streets were full of golf carts because the town is only about 2 km long and .5km wide.
Busy Streets of San Pedro
Local Boys on Bikes
Silas riding a Manatee for Good Measure
We only stayed in San Pedro for the afternoon. We left by water taxi for Caye Caulker, another Island about 30min south. On our first day we went on a snorkeling tour to Coral Gardens, Shark Ray Alley, and The Channel. Which was an amazing experience, it’s quite stunning to see that the pictures you see of coral reefs are really what you get to see.
Josh on our sail boat
The best part about Caye Caulker was its laid back pace. Nothing was rushed, sure you had to wait a bit longer for meals, but everyone was relaxed, happy and welcoming. The town and people had a lot of Rastafarian influence too. Another remarkable thing about the town is that there aren’t any cars. Everyone uses golf carts or bikes for transportation, but everything was within walking distance anyways.
Car and House
Caye Caulker Street
The split is a place where the island is separated by a 20 meter wide channel which was torn though the island by a hurricane not so long ago. It is one of the more upbeat places on the island with kite surfers, swimming, a bar and more.
Fishing Boat in the Split
For the first couple days I stayed on the ocean side of the island where the shops, restaurants, hotels, bars and people were. But I decided that I should see the whole town because it was only 1km long and 5 streets wide. I didn’t expect anything going to that side of the island, but I was shocked by the difference that one street west made. From the luxury on the west side of the island the east side was surprisingly poor, or poor in appearance with run down buildings and shacks for homes. Yet even on the poorer side of the island the local people greeted me happily. Regardless of wellbeing the people were all welcoming.
Unfortunately our time of beach beers and bliss came to an end on Caye Caulker and we had to leave by water taxi to Belize City.
Belize City was a shock to say the least. From our little island paradise we left early in the morning with only a couple hours to look around Belize City before we had to pick up our rental car. The poverty blindsided every one of us. Personally I haven’t seen poverty first hand other than a missions trip to Juarez Mexico, but even that poverty was relatively clean and luxurious.
The town square reeked or urine. I’m not talking that you could occasionally catch a whiff where someone recently relieved himself. The whole place was thick with putrid stench of piss which overwhelmed. The square was also full with homeless men begging for change or anything we could spare.
Even in the worst conditions we would see on our whole trip the people would greet us happily. Ask us if we needed directions to a hotel, or the bus station. It was very remarkable to see that the happiness of the people overcame their terrible conditions. In Calgary where almost everyone’s life is ‘better’ than their’s you would never have someone help you out graciously without being asked. We really have some lessons to learn from the Belizeans.
Mother and Son
Belikin Beer, the local brew, obviously tastes better at 10am than it would at 10pm
Amin. Another really nice Belizean. Silas and I met him on a bridge in Belize city where he offered us marijuana (probably because of my shoulder length hair). I don’t know how many people can say that they met a really nice drug dealer. Also one who could use his hair as a scarf on a cold winter night.
Amin his Marijuana and Cocaine
After touring around Belize City quickly we got our rental car and drove southwest to the Guatemalan border. Just a few hours into Guatemala is the Mayan Ruin of Tikal which is amazing. The civilization existed thousands of years ago including the time of Christ until Tikal was abandoned near 500 AD. I could try to explain, but I’ll let the pictures do it for me.
Sunrise over Tikal
Temple 1 from Temple 5
The Back of Temple 1
There was also some remarkable wildlife at Tikal. In the morning when we arrived you could hear howler monkeys in the forest, but we didn’t see them. (we saw some howler monkeys later, you’ll see).
Some Yellow Bird
Our Family Portrait in front of Temple 1
On a side note this guy is sitting on a sacrificial stone, his kids were too. I know they haven’t been used in thousands of years. But it still seems a bit strange
After Tikal we drove to the Town of Flores which is a little town built on an island. It was originally settled by Mayans who were escaping from Spanish settlers. (There’s a nice little history lesson) This was New Years Eve, which was eventful but that story is later.
We needed to go buy stuff in advance of New Years Day because everything was going to be closed and we found some nice treats in the store
Yum! Queso Spread. Do you know what that means? It’s like cheese wiz, but instead of having one of those nice little glass jars it’s just in a bag. Yup a delicious bag of processed cheese for you?
Pan Tostado, pre-toasted bread, its like stale bread, but browned
Anyways, Flores, Another really nice town with beautiful colours. For New Years there weren’t any organized fireworks, but instead everyone had their own personal arsenal of fireworks and they set them off at will throughout the streets. It was pretty amazing to have a 360 degree firework show. I know your all thinking ‘that’s dangerous!’ yeah it was, some guy lit his firework and as he was running away from it accidentally tipped over. (and we’re talking about one of those big ones which launches 50 feet in the air and explodes) so there were fireworks firing through the crowd at New Years.
This street reminded me of ‘The Golden Hill’ in Britain
Sunset over Lake Flores
After our eventful New years evening in Flores Guatemala we drove back to Belize and stopped by the Baboon Sanctuary. However it’s not actually for Baboons, the protected land protects Howler Monkeys (the ones we heard at Tikal). We got some close up experiences with these wonderful little creatures, who somehow scream like nothing else.
I doubt you believe how loud and scary these things scream so I found you a little video of them doing their thing.
Click Here to see howler monkeys in action.
Our Friendly Little Howler Monkey
Isn’t he cute? Too bad he sounds like Leviathan
After we dropped off our rental car in Belize City we caught a bus going north to get back to Mexico and Cancun. Luckily enough we got to see our favorite drug dealer Amin on the way back through. The bus we rode on was basically a school bus. As we were pulling out of the bus depot a man ran after the bus to stop it so he and his family could jump on. He also had a pig with him, a pig in a burlap sack under his seat. So whenever we went over a big bump our ears would get pierced by the pig’s squealing. Gotta love getting your culture.
Note: Amin is not in Jail, although you are all thinking it. Its just some bars which make walls for the bus station
we rode busses all the way up to Cancun where we spent 3 days on the beaches, body boarding, catching rays, and getting chased by locals to sell us their products. Everywhere you went the Mexicans would jump at us Gringos selling us everything from jewelry, to shirts, to candles, to Cuban cigars to Marijuana (my hair seems to deceive lots of people)
Beach Babe (sorry I had to)
In the airport I noticed something a bit funny. The Barbie Dolls were located geographically proximal to the shelves and shelves of liquor in the duty free area. Sure they don’t have much space, but it just seemed a bit odd.”
Want some Liquor with that Barbie Doll?
The flight out was a treat too. The plane banked over the hotel strip giving a beautiful view of the hotels, and then a beautiful sunset over the clouds and ocean
Cancun Hotel Strip
Clouds over the Ocean
The local Flowers were stunning as well. Instead of having them scattered, they are all at the end here for you