San Ignacio Stories and Tips

Seeing Xunantunich

The next day, Lenny gave us a ride to Xunantunich. You have to take a ferry across, and then go up a huge hill. I was glad we got a ride up. We also decided on a whim to get a guide, and I am so glad we did. I learned so much from our guide, and besides, he was fun. Alberto was a guy about my age who had been an archaeogical student and was now working at the site giving tours.

A huge cruise ship was coming through, so the guide helped us avoid them. It was neat to have one person pay total attention to just the two of us, instead of having to struggle to keep up and hear the guide as the tens of cruise-shippers had to do.

The main building at Xunantunich is this huge pyramid called El Castillo. On the way up, we got a good grounding in Mayan mythology and life. It was my first time hearing all this, so I enjoyed it. We learned about the significance of numbers. This information came back to me again and again throughout our trip, and I tried to see these ruins through Mayan eyes after getting my education from Alberto.

The view from the top is amazing. You can see into Guatemala and back to Belize. Xunantunich was not a large settlement at the time, but it does have some interesting history. For example, we learned that the Chicleros had seen a ghostly woman here --thus the placename "Stone Maiden". Also, the stories of the fall of the local government caused me to make comparisons with our own country. In this place, the king became afraid of his constituents and built a wall to separate himself from them. In time, the people abandoned him. I was wishing we could all just abandon our leader!

Alberto had a great sense of humor. At one point, as we came down from the top of El Castillo, he told a wary cruise-ship tourist who hadn't gone to the top, that we had just finished up a sacrifice. He also graciously helped these older and less physically-conditioned tourists down the side of the pyramid.

After our tour, Alberto walked us down the hill, and we got a taxi back to our hotel. He promised to e-mail us with his brand new computer.

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