We headed into San Ignacio on the western edge of Belize. It was our intention to spend a few days in San Ignacio while we visited the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves and then drive to the Caracol Mayan Ruins in the Pine Ridge Mountains… however, needless to say, like most of our plans it didn’t quite work out that way:)
We spent a couple of days in a campground just outside of San Ignacio called Inglewood Camping Grounds. We where in dire need of some electricity due to some technical issues relating to our solar charging system and this place was made to order for those needs. Inglewood is a very clean and well designed campground aimed directly at the RV crowd, but it worked out quite well for us. Comfortable and safe and with a very helpful owner (Greg).
The Actun Tunichil Muknal ATM caves are part natural wonder and part Mayan archeological site. The site consists of a large cave system with a river running through part of it. Throughout the cave system there are human remains as well as pottery from ancient Mayan times. The most famous remains in the cave system are those of a young girl now known as “The Crystal Maiden.” The Maiden’s bones have been completely calcified in a natural manner due to the environment of the cave, leaving them with a sparkling crystalized appearance.
The hike to the caves was was a great way to start out the tour, with river crossings through an amazing tropical forest. On the way Lacey and I munched on termites using a stick as a tool just like monkeys (see the pics). Monkey see, monkey do. We also know how to use tools 🙂 To get into the caves you have to swim in, then you spend the rest of the time sometimes swimming, sometimes wading, and at some points completely out of the water. In order to preserve the site we had to use socks (no bare feet or sandals). Besides the Mayan remains and artifacts, the stalactite and stalagmite formations inside the cave are pretty amazing. We took some cool pictures, but the darkness and the wet environment made it hard to take “good” pics.
We had a wonderful Indian food dinner with Shana and her husband whose name escapes us (sorry), a couple we met during the ATM cave tour. The meal took forever to be served, but it was fresh and outstanding. The conversation with this couple was great and it helped ease the hunger pains from the long wait.
During an outing in San Ignacio we ran into Jim. Jim and his family run the Barton Creek Outpost and after he gave us a brief description of his place and without having to twist our arms we decided to stay at his place for a day or two (or five). Barton Creek is described by Lonely Planet guide books as: “Barton Creek is the sort of place you visit for a day and stay for a week” and this description could not be closer to the truth. It instantly feels like home and everyone staying there feels like an extended family. There are tons of hikes in the area, and a beautiful cave just a few minutes walk from the camping area. We happened to be here during Easter and were welcomed to a pig roast celebration complete with an easter egg hunt for the kids. All we can say is we REALLY enjoyed staying here!
Thanks to our stay at Barton Creek Outpost we met the owners of another place nearby: Mountain Equestrian Trails (MET) a place that caters to anyone with a love for riding horses. After a brief talk to our host Jim at Barton Creek, we were convinced we had to go on a nice long horseback ride to the Big Rock Waterfalls. Jim arranged everything and we were treated to an amazing day with the MET guys and their equine friends. As a disclaimer we will say that this was a rough rides for butts not used to riding regularly. Lacey and I were in pain for several days after the six and a half hour ride, but it was well worth it!