Beyond the Jungle and up the Temples at Lamanai

I’ve finally got myself sorted out, and sat down to sort through my pics of  the ancient city of Lamanai which dates back to 700BC. The only way to get there is by river, and those of you who read about my speedy and thrilling trip down the New River, will remember that I broke off my story just as we arrived.

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Before our one hour hike through the jungle, we were given an opportunity to look around the museum. Our guide was very pleased to point out a photo of a carving fashioned from a human leg bone. The Maya also made flutes this way.

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This figurine from 1500-1640 AD, portrays a man emerging from the mouth of a crocodile.

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If I could have chosen one artifact to take home as a souvenir, it would have been this ancient  incense burner, but the curator didn’t offer me even one small memento. Surely they wouldn’t have minded my taking this badly damaged bit of pottery off their hands.  🙂

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We saw many wondrous plant and trees along the way, such as the Allspice tree, which surprised me. I always thought that the ground Allspice I have in my pantry, was a mixture of lots of different spices, but it actually come from the bark of a tree. Then there was this monstrous Strangler Fig tree, so-called because they grow on host trees, often strangling them to death.

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This one made me laugh. The fruit grows in pairs, and it’s called the ‘Horse Balls’ tree, for obvious reasons. 🙂

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Our guide explained how many of the jungle plants were used for medicinal purposes by the Maya. No fancy priced pharmacies for them, but the average life span was only forty years, so maybe we are better off today.

The path through the jungle was quite uneven, with roots, branches and rocks sticking up, so we had to watch our step, which isn’t ideal for a blogger who is trying to make notes. 🙂

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Here is the ‘Mask Temple’ dating back to 200 BC, the smallest of the three excavated temples. It has a 13 ft  limestone block mask of a man in a crocodile headdress, on the west side, and a similar one on the other side.

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Hubby was up those steps in no time at all, but I stayed on the ground to get the pic. That was my excuse anyway. 🙂

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The next was the  108 ft ‘High Temple’, from 100 BC, and there is hubby right at the top again. This temple, the highest point in Lamanai, was dedicated to the rain god,  and was used as an observatory.

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From the top you get a panoramic view of the whole jungle, and the river too.

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At the Ball Court, where the Maya played a game  in which some archaeologists believe players tried to keep the ball in play by using only their hips, knees, waist, and elbows,

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was this large round stone, which is thought to have been a sacrificial altar. It was found to be hollow, and inside were discovered three ceramic vessels containing 100 g of crystalline hematite, 19 g of cinnabar and other objects such as jade, shell, and pearl, all atop of a pool of mercury. These symbolised all the forces, and were gifts to the gods.

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Stele 9 was dedicated to ‘Lord Smoking Shells’, and the base was found to contain the remains of five children between the ages of five and nine years. The pillar in the centre is a replica of the original, which has been removed to the museum, and is inscribed with hieroglyphics which are thought to commemorate either the accession or death of an important Mayan ruler.

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The Jaguar temple, dating back to 625 AD, was the only building still in use at the time when the Spaniards arrived, and not to be outdone, I did go up as far as was possible, until the steps ran out.

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We saw comical black Howler Monkeys doing acrobatics in the trees, and heard their very distinctive growl. They were regarded as sacred, and in Maya codices, scribes were often shown as monkeys.

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The Royal Complex, excavated in 2005, is believed to have been the residence of up to two dozen elite Lamanai citizens.

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After a tasty picnic lunch, we were treated to an even faster and scarier speedboat ride back up the river. Carlos certainly didn’t ‘spare the horses’, and neither did the van driver who had to get us back Tower Hill in order to catch the only plane back to San Pedro that day. We waved to the water buffalo as we sped past,

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and were  just had time to see the sugarcane truck driving along the dusty road on its way to the refinery,

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before our plane arrived and we were on our way.

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What an amazing day we had.

This post is in response to both Ailsa’s Travel Theme ‘Up’ and the Weekly Photo Challenge, ‘Beyond’.

To see more entries for these two challenges, just click on the links.

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Līgo Weekly 220w Challenge – words to bring the world together: Spain

I’m joining in the  Līgo Weekly 220w Challenge – words to bring the world together, the theme of which  is ‘Spain.’  Click here to read all about it, and see how you too can enter this exciting challenge.

Hola hermoso España!

Spain is a country renowned for its architectural excellence, which is an exotic mix of early Moorish influences and surreal modernism.

In Barcelona, the astounding imagination and genius of Antoni Gaudi, is everywhere. The Casa Mila, better known as La Pedrera, has an undulating stone facade and wrought iron decoration on the balconies and windows.

One of the sculptures on the roof.

A huge mirror cleverly reflects another part of the roof.

The Casa Batllo, is nicknamed ‘The House of Bones’ because of its bone-like pillars, and skull-like balconies.

The giant Basilica, La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s most important work, was started in 1882,

and is still under construction.

The stately Royal Palace in Madrid, is the largest in Europe.

The Alhambra Palace in Granada is really stunning.

The detail is exquisite.

The Mezquita, in Cordoba, begun in 600 AD, is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Islamic architecture. The vast hypostyle hall, is absolutely breathtaking.

There are 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite.

The richly gilded decoration of the cathedral in its centre, is dazzling.

To see more entries, just click on this link.

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Glass

Ailsa’s  travel theme this week, is ‘Glass’, and if you click on this link, you will be able to see her fabulous photos.

Last year our ladies club organised a trip to the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. The glass sculptures on display there were really stunning, and the one which impressed me the most was this really large and intricate one by Beth Lipman. ‘The Banquet’, or ‘Bancketjie’, is a twenty-foot long oak table, upon which are four hundred glass objects, some of which are overturned goblets, half eaten morsels of food, and snuffed out candles. This amazing sculpture was created in the genre of some of the 16th and 17th century Dutch still life paintings in the ‘Vanitas’ style, showing the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transitory nature of worldly goods. We weren’t allowed to take photos, so here’s one I got from Google. It was a wonder to behold, and I couldn’t tear myself away from it, which resulted in my getting left behind when our party moved on to the next room.

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The one piece I fell in love with and would have liked to take home with me, was this really delicate ” Late Summer Cactus,” by Flo Perkins. You’d have to see it in real life, to fully appreciate its beauty.
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We were taken into a small room with seats all around the edge, and sat for a few minutes admiring this amazing glass ceiling created by Dale Chihuly. It weighs 2000lbs and is really colourful, depicting all kinds of sea creatures, including manta rays, sea snakes, sea urchins, and shells. We weren’t supposed to, but I did manage to sneak a quick photo as we walked out.

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On a trip to Venice, we ate at a restaurant called ‘Trattoria Do Fourni’, and besides having the most delicious meal, we had the added pleasure of sitting beneath these gorgeously ornate Venetian glass wall lights.

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To see more beautiful entries for Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

Back from Belize, and who did I see at Target?

We left San Pedro just before lunch time yesterday, in a small ‘Tropic Air’ plane, and this time, I really enjoyed the ride. the wind had dropped considerably since the last trip, and I just relaxed and enjoyed my last view of this beautiful place.

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The little lonely house on the tip of the peninsula, waved a last goodbye, and we were on our way to Belize City.

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Coming in to land, I got a good pic of the surrounding farmlands.

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The airport is quite small, and has only a few shops, but I did find some very pretty porcelain mugs. One of them says ‘Belize’ on it, but underneath, it says ‘Made in China’. There doesn’t seem to be much that isn’t made in China these days? 😕  Anyway, I liked them, so I bought them.

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I went to the restroom, and was rather puzzled when I saw this sign, as I walked in. The toilets were just normal ones, with the handle on the side, so I can’t imagine most people lifting up their foot high enough to push it down, let alone doing it with both feet at once. It conjured up a funny picture in my mind. 🙂

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Our flight to Miami was only two hours long, and we had three seats for the two of us, which was perfect. Of course, I always get the window.

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Approaching Miami, I could clearly see the high-rise beach condos along the shore line.

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We collected our car and on the way home, stopped off at Target to buy some berries, milk, and a salad. Walking through the clothes section, we spotted our little blonde granddaughter smiling across at us.

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Back home, there was just time to eat and unpack, before falling into bed. What a great holiday we had, and this morning, looking out of the window, I noted that nothing had changed whilst we’d been away.

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I’ve done a mountain of laundry, and will start on the ironing when I’ve checked on a few of your blogs. I have 1,543 Emails in my inbox. 😯

Last night in Elvi’s Kitchen

Yesterday whilst out walking in San Pedro, and getting our ‘last day fix’ of sandy streets, flying golf carts and speedsters on rusty old bicycles, we came upon a restaurant simply called, ‘Elvi’s Kitchen’. We stopped outside, and perused the menu. Hubby remembered that this place had some good mentions  on ‘Trip Advisor’, so we decided that this would be the venue for our last dinner in Belize.

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It didn’t have a sea view, unlike the Blue Water Grill where we have had most of our meals, but once we stepped inside, that wasn’t a problem. The decor more than made up for it. There was a sandy floor, great lighting, colourful paintings by Belizean artists, adorning every wall, and a really vibrant atmosphere. (This was an ‘overflow’ room, and we waited until the diners had left, before taking a photo.)

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A myriad ceiling fans whirred overhead.

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We had booked, so were given a table not too far away from the musician. There’s just something special about Caribbean music, and this guy played mostly his own compositions, which varied from calypso to reggae, and everything in between. I particularly enjoyed his rendition of ‘Black Magic Woman’.

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The food was really delicious. from my ‘Plantain Crusted Calamari’,

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and hubby’s ‘Black Bean soup’,

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to the ‘Margarita Shrimp’, cooked in lime, triple sec, and flambéed with tequila,

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and hubby’s ‘Mayan Chicken’ with adobo sauce and steamed in a banana leaf.

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What a fabulous evening to end our trip, and now I really must get those cases packed and be off to the airport. Of course the weather today is the best we’ve had all week. 😕

Lunch with a view

Our last day in San Pedro, and the weather is gorgeous, but the sun is rather fierce, so we found a shady table at a beach cafe. We decided this would be the healthiest and most cooling lunch.

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Just in front of us, there were several activities going on. It’s a perfect day for a bit of yachting.

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This kite surfer was also having fun,

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and the pelicans were keeping a look out for their lunch.

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Tomorrow we head back to Florida. It’s been such a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

Cee’s FF Challenge: As wet as it gets

Hubby loves to scuba dive, and Belize has the second largest Barrier Reef in the world, after Australia. Today was the first day since we arrived that the weather was suitable for going out, so I thought I’d tag along for the ride. This is the boat I thought we were going on. I knew that I would be sitting waiting for about forty minutes whilst the dive was in progress. The boat hubby pointed out to me yesterday, looked really civilised and quite comfy, so I packed my kindle, a magazine, and my iPhone in my beach bag, and off we went to the dive office to sign in.

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As it turned out, we weren’t going on the nice, comfy, big boat, but on the little one. Now this was a ‘different kettle of fish’ altogether, and something I hadn’t even considered.

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The first thing I was asked was, “Do you get sea-sick?” “Well no, I’ve never been sea-sick,” I replied. One of the divers, a young girl, looked at me somewhat sceptically, and I could tell she was thinking “Ha, you’ve never been out through the waves in a boat like this before.” She made hectic undulating hand motions to show me what I was in for, and I almost lost my nerve and chickened out. However, I’m not one to show cowardice in the face of adversity, so I did a bit of positive thinking and told myself that NO WAY was I going to be sick in front of half a dozen strangers, and I stepped into the boat. I was surprised to note that I wasn’t made to wear a life jacket, as even when I did a bit of relatively safe kayaking in Thailand, I was made to wear one.

As we set off, the skipper warned me that I was in for a wet ride, and that it was also going to rain, a lot. The sky did look rather ominous, and that big black cloud promised lots of water. Well it was too late for regrets, so I settled back to enjoy the ride.

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It turned out to be the ‘ride of my life’, as going out through the reef to the open sea, we hit wave after wave, at great speed, sending masses of sea spray cascading into the boat. All thoughts of decorum were thrown out of the window, or would have been if there were any windows. I’ve never entered a ‘Wet T-shirt’ competition, but I would have been an excellent contestant. My clothes were drenched and sticking to my body, and my hair was plastered to my head, whilst the salt water was running down my sunglasses. My scary river boat cruise of two days ago, seemed very tame in comparison to this wild and frenzied dash through the waves. At last we reached our destination, marked by a single white buoy, and the divers backward-somersaulted out of the boat, and disappeared from view.

Just the skipper and I were left on board, bobbing up and down in the crazy waves, occasionally getting showered by heavy rains. Funnily enough, and I would never in my wildest dreams have believed it possible, I was having such a great time. We chatted about family, jobs, and life in Belize, and the time just flew by. Soon it was time for the novice diver to be picked up, and I retrieved my iPhone from the safety of my bag, to take a few shots.

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I took the chance when the rain stopped, to have my photo taken with ‘Jack Sparrow’. 🙂 I could tell that he liked being called that, and we were in the Caribbean, after all. 🙂

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After another twenty minutes, hubby, the girl, and Patrick the dive master, popped their heads out of the water, and it was time to head back again

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Do you see my ‘Mean Season’ hat I’m wearing in the photo? Well just after we took off again, the wind whipped it right off my head, and there it was, way back, riding the waves, but all was not lost; Captain Jack, gallantly turned the boat around and rescued it for me. I was so relieved and grateful. I’ve had that hat for about ten years. It’s been all over the world with me, through many adventures, and I would so hate to lose it.

After a snack and a short break, they all went back out for a second dive, but I headed for the shower, and to wash the salt water out of my clothes. I may go along for the ride again, if hubby decides to go diving tomorrow. I didn’t feel in the least bit sea-sick……….must be my sailor’s genes, after all, my dad was in the Royal Navy during the 2nd World War. 🙂

To see more entries for Cee’s challenge, just click here.

Frizz’s Tag ‘C’ challenge: Coconuts and Cocktails

Good morning everyone from San Pedro. I see that FrizzText has a challenge to post something beginning with the letter ‘C’, so here is my contribution.

Here in Belize, where I’m staying for a week’s vacation, there are many Coconut Palms. This tree has been called, “the most versatile tree in the world, as it has many uses. Apart from the edible parts, the rest can used for a multitude of purposes, some of which you can read about here.

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Last night at dinner, I had the most delicious appetiser; Coconut encrusted shrimp sticks in black bean sauce. They were so delicious, and I ate every morsel, apart from the small piece I gave to hubby to try. 🙂

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I also had a very tasty cocktail called ‘Naked Iguana’, which is made up of coconut rum, Caribbean rum, pineapple juice and a dash of blue.

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I still have to do my Lamanai Mayan Temple post later today, but this morning hubby is going scuba diving, and I’m going out on the boat with them, just for the ride. Have a great day, everyone.

Messing about on the river – Belize

After landing at Tower Hill, in the Orange Walk district, affectionately known as Sugar City,  it’s only a five-minute drive through the sweet-smelling sugar cane fields to the bank of the New River, where we are to board our boat which will take us to Lamanai, one of the oldest sites in Belize, dating back to 700BC. Now when I knew I was going on a river cruise, I had visions of a leisurely meander through calm waters, with the sun shining brightly, and the sound of birdsong in the trees as we passed by. It didn’t quite turn out like that, but let me take you with me, and you can judge for yourself. 🙂

Carlos is to be our tour guide, and also the pilot of our craft, an open speed boat with a canopy.

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He seems very agitated whilst we were waiting for the last few people to arrive, and is pacing up and down like an expectant father. Hubby and I wander off to have a look around, and find this strange-looking fellow under the palm trees.

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He’s harmless enough, and we leave him in peace and go to try out the hammocks, which aren’t very comfortable at all., as you can probably tell by the stiffness of my pose, and the fixed smile. 🙂

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By this time, the last two tourists have appeared, a couple of Austrian girl students who are recovering from a Tequila hangover after partying into the wee hours. We are all hurriedly herded onto the boat, and off we set at great speed. After not even a minute, we swerve over to the left bank and come to a grinding halt to view a Morelet’s  crocodile cleverly camouflaged as a log. These creatures only live in fresh water and are also known as Mexican crocodiles.

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Carlos tells us that there are a great many crocs in the river, and that they are very shy and wouldn’t ever attack. I’ll take his word for that, but can’t help remembering the words of the song from Peter Pan, that I taught in school, “Never smile at a crocodile. No you can’t get friendly with a crocodile. Don’t be taken in by his friendly grin. He’s imagining how well you’d fit within his skin.”

After his photo shoot, we set off once more at break neck speed, only to once more screech to a stop as he pulls in to show us a colony of Greater White-Lined Bats clinging to a tree trunk on the river bank. I can’t discern them at first, until he tells us that they are ” those warty looking things.” They live on mosquitoes, which certainly makes them my friends, as long as they keep their distance.

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No sooner have we taken our photos, than naughty Carlos rams the boat into the tree trunk, making them fly in all directions. I am so glad I hadn’t fought for a seat right at the front of the boat. The youngsters get a real fright as they fly like ‘bats out of hell’, straight at them . 😀

We almost fly down the river; a most exhilarating ride, and I don’t even mind the “free, fresh wind in my hair” throwing caution to the wind and deciding to just live in the moment. “With the wind in your face there’s no finer place,than messing about on the river.” (Who of you are old enough to remember that Tony Hatch song from the 1950’s?) We stop once again to gawk at this Green Iguana, in its full mating colours, which actually make it orange, not green.

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Carlos has been working on the river for over twenty years, and obviously knows it very well. He is a confident skipper, and today he seems to be going for the world water speed record, as he takes all the bends at great speed, using the full width of the river, like a formula one racing driver around the track, and if our boat had wheels, we would have been going along on only two, most of the time. This river has more twist and turns than a John Grisham novel, and his driving scares a ‘shy’ crocodile right out of the water, and sends it scurrying into the jungle. Apparently crocodiles can can go for a year on one big meal, if necessary. Like all reptiles, their low metabolic rate means they can slowly digest meals, which is an advantage in regions of the world where food is scarce. They are stealthy hunters, using little energy when making a kill. This is why they have outlived any other creature on earth, and date right back to the dinosaurs.

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We stop very briefly to admire a Spiny Tailed Iguana on a Snake Cactus.

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He’s not easy to spot, so here’s a close-up. Cute little guy, isn’t he? 🙂

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All the while, there are vultures hovering around, and we see Boat-billed Herons nesting high up in the trees. These are nocturnal wading birds, about 54cm long, and have large bills shaped like an upturned boat.They feed on fish, mice, water snakes, eggs, crustaceans, insects and amphibians. Its call can be anything from a deep croak to a high-pitched pee-pee-pee.

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I am so fascinated by this little bird, called the ‘Jesus Christ Bird’ because it is able to walk on water. Being super light and with very long toes, it is able to perform this ‘miracle’ with ease. 🙂

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The white water lilies are plenteous, and Carlos tells us that they provide food for the many Manatees which inhabit the river. I am disappointed not to see any, but I suppose the noise of the boat engine would have discouraged them from popping their heads above water.

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We pass by a Mennonite community, and see some of their agricultural buildings. These people are a multi ethnic religious sect, and contribute to the carpentry, engineering and agricultural industries of Belize. Their mode of dress is very old-fashioned, with the women wearing bonnets and long brightly coloured dresses, whilst the men are dressed in denim overalls, or traditional suspenders with dark trousers and brimmed hats.

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We espy a boat carrying several Mennonite fishermen, but are going too fast to get a pic. I found this one on Wiki, which is almost identical to the one we saw, and could even be the very same people on it. They remind me of the Amish which I’ve seen in America.

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We also see several other fishing boats along the way. The locals fish for whatever they can catch.

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After about an hour of river racing, and being drenched by a sudden rain storm which seems to come out of nowhere, Lamanai finally comes into sight and we sail across the lagoon to begin our trek through the jungle to see the Mayan temples, but those pics will have to wait for another day.

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