Monday, February 16, 2009

On to Xunantunich! You pronounce it "zoo-nahn-too-niche." You're welcome, I am sure it'll come in handy. The day after the cave tubing and the zoo, we had wanted to spend the morning wandering around town and the afternoon horseback-riding through the countryside, maybe stopping at a gorgeous swimming hole along the way. That didn't happen; the horse person the resort owner liked was on vacation, and they had a hard time getting in touch with the other one they liked, and when they reached a third place, the price they quoted was ridiculous. So the owner gave us a good alternative plan: Take a cab to the top of Xunantunich (which is on top of a small mountain), walk around, then walk down the hill to the river crossing, and grab a cab. Instruct the cab to take you to the Cahal Pech ruin, and after touring that, walk up the hill to the Cahal Pech Resort, where you can pay $2.50 to use the pool for the day. Then it's an easy walk back to Midas.

Well, the first part of the plan worked great. After a relaxed breakfast in town, we took a cab up to the Xunantunich ruins — which involves crossing the river via hand-cranked ferry. Here's the ferryman:

And here's the ferry, from the other side, taken on the way back. A note here about my photos: Up until this point, actually when I was on top of the pyramid here, I hadn't realized that the light setting on my camera was set to "incandescent light" -- which is why everything beforehand is blue and washed out. I did a lot of work on adjusting the levels in Photoshop, but there's only so much I can do. My photos got a LOT better after I changed it to natural light.

Here's the approach to the main plaza:

The main pyramid, El Castilo. You can climb to the top and all around. Very exciting. No guard rails anywhere.

One of the stairways leading to the top:

A view from the top:

There are two carved friezes on the Castilo, here's one:

And here's a close-up of the other:

The archeologists found three carved slabs called stelae here, and they now live in a little house to protect them from the elements.

I liked the ceiling, which is like a wooden stave church from Norway (well, like the one in Epcot, at any rate. Heh).

Afterwards, we walked the mile down the hill to the bottom, caught a cab to the ruins of Cahal Pech. (Catching a cab = waving down a beat-up car that happens to have "TAXI" painted on the side, and that already has two passengers -- one of them was a guy going to his job at the Cahal Pech resort.) But by the time we got to the second set of ruins, the notion of paying another fee to walk around more ruins was not very appealing. We walked up to the hotel instead and paid our fee to lounge around the pool. The hotel is on top of a hill and it was windy up there; though we had been hot before, we were a bit too cold to swim. It was not too cold to lie around in our bathing suits, though. Eventually we decided to get a snack there, and our waiter was the guy from our taxi! CJ got a delicious mudslide, and I got a nauseating Mai Tai which seemed to be mostly cough syrup. We split some quesadillas too, which were tasty.

Here's a look at the pool. The round one in the foreground is not a hot tub; we were disappointed. I got in up to my waist:

And here's the view of San Ignacio from the pool patio:

Then we walked down into town. We had heard about an iguana sanctuary at a hotel on the way, but it was closed for the evening. So we kept walking. And walking. It was a very long way -- at least 2 miles -- back to Midas. But we can now say that we have seen most of San Ignacio.

Next time: Guatemala and Tikal!

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