San Ignacio, Belize

Another day, another bus ride further into the jungle. San Ignacio, heart of the Cayo District, doesn’t have a bus station, so the bus lets off in the cute little town center. We then caught a cab up the steep hill to our resort. We’d decided to splash out on a bit fancier digs this time, and stayed at Cahal Pech, which had a sweeping view of the surrounding jungle, beautiful lawns full of flowering bushes and trails winding around little cabins, an outdoor dining porch and bar, and several pools, one of which had this incredibly bizarre-looking pterodactyl looming over it.

I eventually asked the bartender what the deal was with the pterodactyl and he said there was no real point, it just set them apart, and this way the kids in town could say they wanted to go swimming at “the pterodactyl place.” Fair enough.

We checked in, and then immediately headed out to view some Mayan ruins. Our hotel was a mere block away from the Cahal Pech ruins, which are Mayan ruins dating from about 1200 BCE and only excavated in the ’90s. We walked all around in the blazing sun.

After wearing out the ruins, we walked down the big hill to another resort where there was an iguana sanctuary. The day had actually started off overcast and cool, and I was wearing a cotton T-shirt, which was a huge mistake. By the time we finished at the ruins, it was sopping wet, and by the time we got down to the resort, I was basically wearing a boiling hot, sopping wet blanket. I had raging heat rash all around my neck. This resort was much fancier than ours, with a nice, marble lobby, lots of respectable older people enjoying fruity cocktails on the deck, and primly obsequious staff. I felt like a disgusting spectacle. I also really felt like I was going to pass out. I went into the bathroom, whipped my shirt off, wrung it out, and took a cold water bath in the sink, all the while praying no one would come in. Then, I stood around shirtless and panting until I felt a bit better. Luckily, no one came in.

Then, it was time to see the iguanas! Our guide was a young man who was at *that* age; the tour was rife with innuendo, and we learned more about the iguanas’ mating habits (or latent sexuality) than anything else. On the way to the iguana hut, our guide pointed out various tropical plants: the “tourist tree” because of the way its white trunk shredded into red strips; some sort of large seed pods that were called something to do with balls; and, most entertainingly, a tree whose berries were referred to as “butt plugs” because, our innocent guide explained, they make you constipated.

The habitat was for green iguanas, which are friendly and docile and endangered; this as opposed to the gray, spiny tailed iguanas we’d previously observed in the wild, and which are not to be tangled with. The small greenhouse was crawling with apparently sixty iguanas. They lounged on every available surface; you had to be very careful where you stepped or leaned. We met “nice Noel” who had the misfortune of being pretty easy-going, and thus was the go-to iguana for being held and passed around and flipped upside down and taken to schools and events for children to hold and pass around and dangle. He took all this in stride.

We also saw an enormous male iguana whose name I forget who had made it absolutely clear that unlike beta Noel, he was not to be held or even approached by humankind or any male iguanas. He lounged on a platform with about six female iguanas piled around him, which was a lifestyle our guide naturally had a lot to say about.

We got to feed the iguanas leafy branches, which they were completely down for, and then we went into a separate room and had baby iguanas tossed all over us (their tiny nails felt pretty great digging into my heat rash). And then the tour was done.

E and I walked back up the huge hill and spent the rest of the day swimming and drinking and eating. The next day, we went on a cave tour that was so bananas, it deserves its own post.

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