The most extensive Mayan site in Belize is Caracol, Spanish for snail. It covers over 200 square kilometers and holds over 30,000 buildings.
It was quite an important city in the Classical Age of Maya civilization. Then its hieroglyph name would have been read as Uxwitza (Three-Hills-Water). The site is supposed to have been occupied by people as early as 1200 BC but it was discovered in 1938 with most of the excavations haven taken place in the past couple decades.
The largest pyramid here, Caana (sky-palace), is also the tallest man-made structure currently in Belize. It rises over 140 feet above the jungle floor.
Caracol is located deep within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. This reserve is rich in flora and fauna. At one point in our tour, one of our party almost stepped on a fer-de-lance snake whose venom is lethal. Thank you Lord for keeping us safe!
The howler monkeys that we saw next were interesting but paled in comparison in illiciting an adrenaline rush.
We stood at the base of Silk Cotton/Ceiba trees that were 300 – 500 years old.
They have huge roots like a dinosaur’s foot.
Their leaves are way up there.
For the Maya, the Ceiba is the tree of life, a symbol that unites the three worlds of the underground, the earth, and the heavens. I can see why. It is currently the national tree of Guatemala.
We used Pacz Tours to explore Caracol. John was our guide and this time there were only four in our group. He too was extremely knowledgeable and very patient. I appreciated him pointing out medicinal plants and trees and telling is how they can be used. He crushed up an allspice tree leaf that M’sa made a paste out of to stop her itching bug bites.
John, our tour guide, was also very concerned to get that snake off the trail, not just for us, but for whoever else may come that way, even though we had taken a trail that the other groups don’t routinely use. I was impressed by how in tune with nature he was. We would be deep in discussion, and all of a sudden he would stop, listen (or smell) intently, then exclaim “follow me” as he then raced off a quarter-mile away or so to point out some wildlife.Craziness.
We climbed several of the temples/structures including the 99 steps of Ca’ana.
Quite a workout as each step is higher than our modern steps. Coming down was steep but if you watched your feet and walked sideways instead of looking out and walking straightforward it was manageable.
It was awe-inspiring to be there. The ancient Maya were an amazing people and I can’t wait to learn more about them.
John started out our tour with the low level structures describing to us how the town may have been laid out. This made Ca’ana that much more impressive when we got to it.
Getting to Caracol required about a two hour drive on poorly maintained dirt road.
When we got into the forest, we had to check in with the military outpost, and then get escorted both to and from Caracol by them. The escort is timed, in at 9:30 am out at 2 pm so all tour groups need to be on time. On the way out, the ladies in a different group asked to ride back with the military truck while their driver/tour guide trailed behind. They were up there for about an hour! That was probably a jawbreaker experience, standing up so. I would have been holding on to the ledge for dear life.
On the way out of the reserve we took a couple detours to Rio Frio Cave and Rio On The Pools, both within the reserve. There was a lot of laughter on this tour. The other two travelers, a New Zealander man and a Canadian woman, who were each backpacking solo, were great company and we added up having dinner and drinks with them later that night back in San Ignacio. It was a day well spent.