South of the (Mexico) Border

Belize, sometimes considered an extension of Mexico, has the culture, nature, and spirit to stand on its own two tropical feet.

South of the (Mexico) Border

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by eviet on October 20, 2006

Belize is on the Caribbean, but it’s far from being a part of it. Typical Caribbean destinations do not mix jungle and sea; embrace a myriad of cultures, from Maya to Creole; or eschew mass tourism for the preservation of tradition and ecosystems. Even off the coast of popular island destination Ambergris Caye, reefs and the sea creatures that populate them are regarded with intense pride and protected with utmost zeal. And in the off season, the beach around tourist-town San Pedro is quiet, subdued, hibernating during the summer heat and September rains.

The southern jungle district of Toledo, particularly Punta Gorda, is the country’s draw for those seeking a different kind of getaway. Island music from San Pedro bars become howler screams from dense rainforest, and beachfront timeshares transition into eco-tourist lodges like Machaca Hill. To fill days, you can swim darkened caves (some miles long, even crossing the border into Guatemala), or you can experience primitive Mayan towns through cultural immersion. The rainy season, from May to November, promotes lush surroundings, and during the night, thunderstorms rage overhead: even when asleep, the jungle’s encompassing presence holds strong.

But those attached to seaside sands can still venture into remote territory at the Mayan site of Lamanai, a day trip from the cruise port of Belize City. The Mask, High, and Jaguar temples provide encompassing jungle views from their tops, but your guide will take you into the site’s storied past with the beliefs and history of the people who lived there. For active honeymooners and couples, the Lamanai Outpost Lodge, where they offer excursions like a crocodile “hunt,” submerges you beneath the cover of jungle existence.

Throughout the country, its people, mainly of Mayan or African descent, display an affinity for extending open arms to foreigners as well as locals. Spanish and Creole are both heavily used, but since English is the official language of Belize (formerly British Honduras), the country’s large tourist population of Americans and British can converse freely. And while Belizean Creole is simply a dialect of English, its intonations, not to mention the speed at which it is spoken, are difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend for the unversed. Local ways and language are just two more persuasions, apart from the mild weather, varied terrain, and low cost of living, to one day join Belize’s expansive ranks of content expats.
${QuickSuggestions} Belize has a tropical climate, which translates into hot, humid weather, especially in the summer months. Dress accordingly, and don’t forget the DEET.

US dollars are accepted almost anywhere: in a Toledo Mayan town, a local family accepted my $10 for a handmade craft. The exchange rate is US$2 to B$1.

Choose your destination according to personality, Toledo for active adventurers and Ambergris Caye for beach bunnies, with Placencia as a compromise between the two.
${BestWay} In 8 days, we took four commuter planes: Belize City to Punta Gorda, Punta Gorda to Belize City, Belize City to San Pedro, and San Pedro to Belize City. At their low cost, some locals practically use them on a daily basis, and if planning a cross-country tour, you will too. Taxis are the recommended modes of ground transportation, unless you prefer driving in foreign countries, and in San Pedro, where private cars are banned, taxis and golf carts are your only choices. Thankfully for Americans, even with their British past, they drive on the right side of the road.

Xanadu Island Resort

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

Two women chat as they cool down from their power walk, and a middle-aged man strides by. A bike and another man, this time younger. If looking down, you would see a thumbnail-size snail clacking its way towards the sand. These were the views, bordered by the occasional boat, turquoise Caribbean, and lengthy docks, from a beachside hammock at Xanadu.

Xanadu, on the outskirts of San Pedro, is a resort of suites with a timeshare vibe. As such, there is no on-site restaurant, but personal kitchens and a food store out front. Or, if cooking on vacation isn’t your thing, you can walk along the calm, lapping Caribbean waters to nearby Rico’s.

After Victoria and I were led to our two-bedroom suite, I endured several practice sessions with the front-door lock. I shoved the handle up, as instructed, and turned the key. No click. I turned the key the other way, to no avail. Patiently observing my struggles, Victoria volunteered for the job of "door locker."

Our living area and kitchen melded into one long room, the fridge and dining table at one end and the TV and couches at the other. Inside the fridge we found a gallon of drinking water, which we could refill at the front desk, and on the counter sat a package of cream biscuits (after all, the Queen is still Belize’s head of state). The larger bedroom contained the Internet outlet and phone, while the second had a small safe tucked into a closet bottom. The satellite Internet required a cable hook-up, available at the front desk, but even with this apparatus, Victoria fruitlessly searched for any source of connection on her laptop. Over the next 3 days, none would appear.

Old-fashioned bikes that break by the pedal, not the handle, were available for rent, as were golf carts, which not only serve as the tourists’ mode of transport, but the locals’ too. The only cars you’ll see in San Pedro are taxis and commercial trucks. Since the New York subway primarily takes me from Point A to Point B, my golf-cart passengers may have been instilled with fear when I climbed into the driver’s seat one night, but all arrived back at Xanadu unscathed. Besides, I was one of a few completely sober ones, too cheap after shopping to buy one drink. And anyways, there were roadside obstacles awaiting even daily drivers: earlier that night, Robyn had braked in the middle of the road—a crab was attempting a death-defying street crossing.
Xanadu Island Resort
Sea Grape Drive, Ambergris Caye 109
San Pedro, Belize
+501 226-2814

Lamanai Outpost Lodge

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

Rain torrents beat down around us, dry under the open-air shelter. A goofy, bright-eyed stray dog circled, rib cage protruding through his skin. Outside, Lamanai guides Arturo and George paid no attention to our upstart game of charades, intent on transferring suitcases from the bus to the speedboat as dry as possible. They strode through the afternoon downpour as though the rain would slide off them, even if their clothes, hair, and skin were soaked. Finally, Arturo conceded that we might have to make our final arrival at Lamanai Outpost Lodge by bus instead of boat. But there was another option: take the bus to a midway point and board the boat there. Hopefully, the rain would prove to be of the fast-moving topical variety—and it did.

After gliding over river channels, spotting Belizean bird life along the way, we arrived at a broad, open lagoon. Arturo asked if we could the top of the Jaguar Temple at the Lamanai site. No one could at first, but soon everyone was nodding their head. In an act of group submission, I followed, even though all I saw were endless rows of trees. I did see staff awaiting us on the hotel dock, and when we stepped onto the swaying wooden planks, they handed us cold towels and a short glass of punch. It’s the friendly Belizean way.

Pebbles crunched under our feet during our walk to the open-air dining area, topped by a bar and small dining area. Off to the side, you could browse their gift shop (hot sauce, anyone?) or instant-message friends on their sole computer, breaking conversation to swat a pesky mosquito. For lunch I chose a succulent beef dish with green peppers and onions. The usual rice and beans (and oddly, creamy potato salad) accompanied the meat chunks.

When leaving the restaurant at night, staff lights the path to your room with a flashlight, but under the radiant Central American sun, we just needed their guidance for now. Lamanai is a luxury eco-tourism resort that supports a sustainable environment, aka air-conditioning is not included. But even in the end days of the Belizean summer, the whirling fan above the beds ensured comfortable days and cool nights. Within the wooden bathroom of a tree-house motif, I indulged romanticized Robinson Crusoe images of surviving shipwrecked, albeit with plush towels, ProTerra bath products, and the shower-and-toilet modern conveniences. The pseudo-Mayan sculptures, mock machete wall hanging, and lamps shaped as kerosene lanterns extended my fantasies outside bathroom confines, while extra pillows, umbrellas, and a discrete mini fridge solidified my bearings in reality. Nature doesn’t always let one rest easy, though: before bed, Deborah shrieked from the next cabin—two tiny frogs had found their way into bed before her.
Lamanai Outpost Lodge
Orange Walk
Belize City, Belize
(888) 733-7864

Ramon's Village

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

Walking into Ramon’s Village, I was transported to ‘90s reality-show Temptation Island, the first season of which was coincidentally filmed right here on Ambergris Caye. A pseudo-Mayan head greeted above the archway, and neon lights lined the pathway to the resort’s restaurant. The farther we went, the louder the live island music became, and once inside, a peek at the indoor dining area revealed a mock jungle landscape atop a wall, a second towering head as its centerpiece.

What would be a nauseating, gimmicky atmosphere in New York was a fun, lively one in San Pedro. Even at our table, Mayan tiki heads appeared by way of salt and pepper shakers, while pale-pink wood and ocean-blue cushions formed the throne-like chairs. Instead of blasé fake flowers, a wooden sculpture of leaves and petals sat on the tabletop. Plates of golden yellow and frayed orange napkins complemented the tropical accents.

Suddenly, an abundance of food appeared around us. A salad of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and olives appeared on one side of the table, while a waiter placed a straw bowl of jalapeno bread on the other. In the middle, the wood flowers were traded for an intricate cantaloupe arrangement surrounded by watermelon, orange, pineapple, and cherry. I barely knew what to eat, much less drink, but settled on the house special to wash it all down: the dark rum, Kahlua, coconut cream, and pineapple juice of the Purple Parrot. Thick and frothy, it provided a rich alternative to the week’s punches and daiquiris.

Three trays of fish, shrimp, and pork chops arrived at once, family style. After scooping up the shrimp in a pepper-and-onion sauce, I maneuvered around the cantaloupe artwork for the pork. Gorging on fish all week had depleted my taste for fillets, and the pork’s apple-and-cinnamon topping demanded immediate sampling—that of four or five pieces. I did end up adding a sliver of fish to my plate, and an abundance of garlic and butter practically reversed my previous sentiment.

Throughout the meal, staff swarmed. I possessed a vague idea of who held the official title of waiter, but various staff inquired about our enjoyment, removed empty dishes, and brought new plates as needed. They moved the food quickly but not hurriedly, allowing the proper amount of savoring. In Belize, there is no rush.

Ramon's Village
San Pedro
San Pedro, Belize


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

"Could I have the fruit plate with just watermelon, orange, and banana?"
"Instead of a meat, I’d like orange slices for my side."
"Oh, I’ll have a coffee, too."

Over six meals in 3 days, orders peppered with individual requests, the staff at Rico’s presented our plates without error: no missing side orders, no mistaken drinks, no extra entrees. One waiter returned from the kitchen to confirm the order for eight, even though there was no need for correction. Every Diet Coke was accounted for, as were the multitude of sandwiches (BLT and lobster) and salads (chicken and, again, lobster).

Beachside behind The Villas at Banyan Bay, Rico’s attracts a tourist crowd, hence the array of empty tables during our super-slow September travel. Fajitas, tacos, burritos, and quesadillas rounded out the menu. A stacked BLT was another option, as was a lobster sandwich. Those seeking options apart from Tex-Mex and American staples will discover a zesty lime soup with chicken, tortilla chips, and avocado, and jalapeno peppers stuffed with chicken and cream cheese (well, maybe the latter isn’t that exotic).

Xanadu Resort was a 5-minute sandy walk away, and without an on-site restaurant, we made Rico’s our breakfast mainstay. Too many eggs consumed in Punta Gorda, I varied my morning pickings: french toast sprinkled with powered sugar, banana pancakes with a side of orange, and a fruit plate, minus the cantaloupe and papaya, with a side of toast. (Yes, two of the above requests were mine.)

Both the french toast and pancakes required just a dab of butter to emulate tasty home-cooking, and I savored the fresh, juicy oranges, since finding a satisfying orange in New York City is as common as discovering a real Vuitton bag in Chinatown. The addition of perfectly tart grapefruit juice led me to wonder why I’d ever given up liquid fruit.

Rico’s is not a gourmet production, and some dishes satisfy more (BLT, diner style) than others (lobster sandwich, heavy on the mayo). But when a craving for hearty Tex-Mex or classic American hits, Rico’s is the place for unabashed seaside consumption.
Rico's Restaurant
The Villas At Banyan Bay
Ambergris Caye, Belize
(866) 466-2179

Victoria House

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

Spending your honeymoon in the Caribbean is like an aging New Yorker transplanting to Florida: for most, it’s a given. Victoria House on Ambergris Caye, the popular island of Belize, lures enraptured couples with strings of lights hugging palm trunks, tropical flowers adorning the path, and grounds that encourage a quiet privacy. But we were not here to romance; we were here to eat.

The first hint that you’re dining in an upscale island abode comes from the virginal white walls, chairs, and tablecloths. (P. Diddy would approve.) Apart from the attentive service, evident in the constant refilling of half-empty water glasses, the second giveaway, perhaps disappointingly, is the menu price in US dollars. Although, as one of the most expensive resorts in the town of San Pedro, it’s unlikely a local crowd haunts their formal dining room.

Feeling indulgent, I opted for the Caye seafood gumbo, cashew-crusted grouper ($26.50), and molten chocolate dessert. Oh, and a rum punch. I took a sip of the tall drink and grumbled inside that I couldn’t taste the rum, but halfway through dinner, my head was a bit woozy and I was grinning. A mark of a good drink, I remembered, is the one that leads you to forget it’s alcoholic at all. Another plus: it was adorned with starfruit instead of the overused cherry.

Others at the table had ordered the black-bean soup, and in an act of grand tableside display, waiters poured the black-bean portion into a bowl with a dab of sour cream and tomatoes in the center. A hearty, rich smell wafted above. The gumbo, unlike less-worthy soups, skimped on broth and indulged on chunks of seafood and slices of sausage. Then appetizers were cleared and entrees were served. When our waiter stood beside me, balancing a plate up high, he asked if I’d ordered one of their meat plates. I corrected him with the grouper as the dish came down. It was the fish, and the waiter grinned a crooked smile. A little waiter humor.

The crust crumbled instead of stiffly clinging to the grouper. When scooped up with the sauce, of shrimp and scattered bits of corn, I savored a succulent seafood medley. The mashed potatoes underneath were smooth and buttery, and a needed respite from the beans-and-rice side.

Our waiter had described the molten chocolate, which must be ordered with your entrée for sufficient prep time, as a volcano. What appeared was a chocolate cake crust, sprinkled with powered sugar, that encased liquid chocolate goo. While mine didn’t “explode” when broken, the insides did flow over the cake edges. Vanilla ice cream and banana kept the chocolate overload to proper levels, enhancing with their lighter flavors. Stomachs already bulging, most of our table struggled past the halfway point. But that didn’t mean we weren’t gong to try.
Victoria House
San Pedro
San Pedro, Belize

Biking in San Pedro

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

I swung around in a hesitant attempt to regain my balance. Straight ahead, okay; turns and circles, not so much. In addition to feeling like a beach-bum Mary Poppins with my bike’s front basket, I had regressed to the days when I required training wheels. I had to break by pedal, and it was disturbing my delicate equilibrium.

Finally adjusted, I followed the others in a lemming line out of Xanadu. Rocks and sand formed the road, and I imagined a tire faltering, ramming my body into a passing commercial truck. After a few jerks, though, my grasp of the handlebars loosened. I could ride this contraption, rusted by salty sea air, without a steady hazard perusal of the ground below.

As we approached the town’s center, kitschy tourist shops lined the roadside, but locals ambled in front of us. Young girls wore their schoolgirl uniforms, with the universal plaid skirt, and boys swerved between us on their own bikes. Others, mainly men, yelled out greetings and best wishes as our female entourage cruised by. After discovering the obvious bike path by local example, we chose the smoother journey of concrete over rocks.

We hit the end of the main strip and headed for a shop called Ambar, next to beachside bar Fido’s (not pronounced like the dog’s name). Enticed by the glimmer of Belizean jewelry inside, the six of us piled into the tiny store to slide handmade creations onto our fingers and wrists, and wrap silver chains around our necks. Victoria spotted a silver-and-shell ring, the shell part in an oh-so-now leopard-print pattern. But with the US$100 price tag, she reluctantly let it go. When I tried it on, a splurge was imminent, but acid-green and hot-pink bracelets (silver-and-zinc concoctions with dyed animal skin) lured me away. The thinner versions were around the B$30 mark, while the thicker, bolder ones came to B$50 each. I’ve always been one for bright, even gaudy international adornments—and I will wear them together.

Jewelry cravings satisfied, I wandered into nearby Belizean Arts, which left me US$30 poorer and one painting richer. My wallet was emptying rather quickly for one lazy afternoon, so I thought it best to escape temptation by heading back to Xanadu. By then, the sweltering heat had subsided, the sun depleted of glaring intensity. Alone, I guessed at stop signs (right or left?) as I rode back in a general southerly direction. I soon began to question my bearings, passing one empty lot after another, when the Xanadu sign blared on the left. I veered into the entrance, an old bike pro.
Biking in San Pedro
San Pedro
San Pedro, Belize

Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

I was surrounded: needlenose in front and a variety of fish all around. A massive grouper chilled in the shadow of the boat. When I dove under, reaching out to him, he backed away. Could he smell last night’s grouper entrée digesting in my stomach? A docile nurse shark wandered by, and a stingray glided along the bottom. Feeling a bit shy, the ray blew sand out its sides for concealment while its sea compadres swam undisturbed—and I hadn’t moved more than a foot from the boat.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a short sail from San Pedro. Once in the water, we adjusted our gear. Jennifer went under, snorkel and all, to inspect the seafloor creatures. I emulated, initially holding my breath and then puffing into the water-filled snorkel to relieve eardrum pressure. On the surface, I dumped seawater from my snorkel: I never did learn how to effortlessly segue from underwater diving to surface snorkeling.

Fins flapping, we followed the reef’s edge. Tiny iridescent blue fish navigated the coral’s nooks alongside pure black ones. There were stripped fish, fish with a solid black square towards their tails, and bicolor fish. Schools of the aforementioned needlenose swam towards you as thin as slits until turning sideways, instantly transforming into underwater Pinocchios. Lagging behind the others, I narrowly glimpsed our guide furiously gesturing up ahead. Something slithered toward me. A moray eel, the full length of its snake-like body in view, had left its hole, a rare, mesmerizing sight.

Something pattered on the water’s surface: the once-distant thunderstorm was above. My digital camera on the boat deck, I retreated first, fins racing and arms going. From the water, I yelled to our guide’s assistant. He was confused: of course he had moved our things down below.

The island of Caye Caulker, covered in torrents, now erased from our itinerary, we boated to Shark Ray Alley. Here fish swirled around us, but the eclectic sealife was gone. Rays made frequent appearances, but sharks seemed obsolete. Since I had forgone my blistering fins for this second dip, the group raced ahead as I turned to the right. Lumps of dark coral appeared in front of me, and Victoria joined my side and pointed towards it. Fish? Another ray? My coral turned into two motionless sharks. Disturbed, they headed into cloudy waters.

Victoria rejoined the guide, and I kicked my feet in the opposite direction. Eventually I popped my head above the surface: no other snorkelers in sight. I thought to swim back to the boat, but instead followed a nurse shark and its baby swimming in sync. My bare feet couldn’t match their speed, though, and I stopped. Scenes from “Open Water” screened through my head as I debated what course to take. Back to the boat it was: with eels, rays, and sharks, not to mention hoards of fish, accounted for on this half-day excursion, what more could I hope to see?
Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker
Ambergris Caye, Belize

Crocodile Hunt at Lamanai

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

We had two choices: a crocodile hunt where we’d peruse marshes for those nocturnal reptiles or a spotlight viewing of the river growth for an animal or two. I said aye to the croc venture, and most followed suit.

After boarding two airfoils at Lamanai Lodge, we sped across the lagoon towards the marsh reeds. Airfoils being open-sided boats, as we approached, Victoria and I instinctively edged towards the middle of our seat. They’re are also loud, necessitating the noise-reducing headphones the guides hand you. Since it’s night, a spotlight helps search for potential crocs, their red eyes gleaming in the white circle. The combination of this blinding light and roaring motor should deter these silent swimmers, but, well, they’re use to it—and they’re the ones that do the threatening around here.

Our airfoil driver and guide, Arturo, scanned the spotlight across the water so quickly that I was still looking at the last spot even as he’d moved to another. Right, center, right, left…it was dizzying. Not long after invading the marshes, a pair of eyes shone in the light. The motor was lowered and our croc catcher, George, mounted to his feet. If I peered into the churned-up waters, I saw the baby croc watching, slithering away from our incoming mass. George dipped the snare into the water, slid it towards the croc’s head, and sprung on it—except that this one was slick. The only thing we caught was the thorny bush our airfoil had drifted into during our hunting ruckus.

After some fruitless searching, we ventured farther into the marshes. A yelped escaped Victoria when George splashed into the water during a second spotting. We both noted that he really didn’t need to get his jeans wet just for us. But this one was equally allusive, and it wasn’t until the third try, George waist-deep yet again, that one was hauled onboard.

The women (everyone except the guides) fretted over the croc at our feet. Did the snare hurt? Does the camera flash scare him? Was there a purpose to his “torment”? Respectively, the answers were two double negatives and a yes, no torment involved. When crocs are caught, a tour volunteer records research measurements as the guide flips and dangles the croc. The task came down to me.

Between answering our odd, sometimes perverse (does it go out the same hole?) questions, Arturo read the croc’s stats one by one as George steadied him, mouth bound by a rubber band. I came to the male/female box on my chart, the demonstration of which required quite the invasion on his under half. I mean, her under half. Arturo had presumed our catch was male, since it gave George a hearty struggle, but it was a feisty female.

Time for photo ops. George could have sat between Victoria and me, securing the croc, but that, of course, was not what we opted for. No, we wanted to hold it as Arturo prepared his camera. Victoria was first. When the croc, now named Joaquina (we had named it Joaquin before the sex was determined), was passed to me, I clutched its thick neck and tail. Then it thrashed wildly. Somehow I managed not to fling it into the water, but chuck it back to George. The situation calmed, and Victoria bent over in laughter, I had another go. The camera flashed, and within a second, George was cradling it instead.


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by eviet on October 21, 2006

One of the most renowned Mayan archeological sites in Belize, Lamanai is a 5-minute boat ride from the eponymous next-door lodge. A day trip from Belize City is another possibility, one often taken by cruise passengers.

A museum detailing the archeological work and Mayan history of Lamanai exists steps from the dock, but it was closed when we arrived at 4pm in off-season September. We would have to rely on our guide, Ruben, and signs marking the Mask, High, and Jaguar Temples for historical tidbits.

On the winding rock paths to the first, Mask Temple, Ruben bent to extract a chunk of pottery. The container it belonged to would have been used to store water, he tells us, observing the thickness of the remnant. As is the rule, he placed it back in the same spot of dirt. Then a musty smell struck him—howler monkeys. My inexperienced nose couldn’t detect a thing, but a few feet away, we spotted a dominant male Yucatan black howler watching his two offspring hang and swing among the branches.

Apparently not a creative bunch, the archeologists named each temple by an obvious feature. Therefore, Mask Temple has a face sculpture at its base, almond eyes seemingly shut, mouth parted open. Ruben estimated that the mask will be intentionally buried within 3 years to prevent further erosion: only a replica will be exposed to the jungle heat and humid air. Steps fairly intact, a few of us bound up the temple—at least halfway. Towards the top, we had to ascend sideways, the steps thinner and more perilous.

I gasped and stumbled when nearing the High Temple. A howler monkey scream, a deeper, darker Darth Vader exhale, had penetrated the site from above. Up front on the trail, Ruben answered the call with a human version. The male howler roared back, and Victoria warned that Ruben risked being kicked out of our female pack by his agitated competitor.

Atop the High Temple, a canopy of jungle opened before us. This temple is one of the tallest in the area, and the highest at Lamanai. As we walked towards the third, we passed a narrow ballcourt, created for symbolic purposes, since the Lamanai Mayas never played here. If they had, the winner or loser would have been sacrificed to the gods—the players weren’t told beforehand which it would be. If it was the winner, the Mayas’ need of the gods was great; if the loser, not so much. Talk about a confidence blow.

The sunlight dimming in the sky overhead, we approached the Stela, a tall stone slab with a faded carving of a ruler. Only part of his face remained, the rest chiseled away by past farmers angry with the rulers, even dead ones. Moving on, a wide residential plaza opened before us, and at the opposite end stood the Jaguar Temple.

The moon had carved a place in the darkening sky, and stars sparkled against the deepening grey. At the bottom of either side of the temple, jaguar carvings jutted out from the wall. Invisible when standing directly in front, they took shape once viewed from the side. Ruben asked whether we wanted to climb these last steps. Well, yeah. Beside the tree on top, I looked up, absorbing the evening sky that once belonged to the ancient Mayas.

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