Tikal, Rio Dulce, Livingstone in Guatemala and swimming with sharks in Belize

Hi friends! Step by step, I arrived in Belize, which is, at the moment, my 78th country visited.

I tell you from the last time. From the hostel by the river near Lanquin, I arrived in Flores, a beautiful small town settled on an island in the Lake Petén Itzá. Nearby there is the vast Mayan site of Tikal, founded around 900 BC, and that reached a population between 150,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. Today, it is surrounded by a fascinating forest covering and conceals its buildings and hiding many animals hanging out and screaming all around. I saw monkeys, foxes, toucans, tarantulas, and some mammals halfway between rats and raccoons (I don’t know their name).

Later, I went near a small village, Rio Dulce, that takes its name from the river. I idled there for a couple of days in a stilt house on the river surrounded by woods.
From there, I crossed Lake El Gofete with a speedboat and arrived in Livingstone, by the sea, where the population is predominantly black, and there is a Caribbean mood, like Jamaica.

After few days, I took a lift on another speedboat and, literally flying over the waves for about an hour on a rough sea, I arrived in Belize.
Before going, I had heard some travelers complaining about Belize. One reason is that, in general, it’s more expensive than the rest of Central America. Another reason is that it seems Belizians are particularly lazy, and everything goes slower than usual. However, in the end, the prices are still low: on Caye Caulker island, I rented a hut in front of the sea for just $ 15. And about the laziness, first of all, it doesn’t seem to me that in the rest of Central America are particularly active, and, anyway, we are on holiday… no rush… no stress… pura vida. We are from Naples, compañeros! Actually, the sea of Belize is fabulous. Caribbean water spotted and striped of green, blue, and turquoise shades.

On the island Caye Caulker, where I stayed 3 days, I had one of the most exciting experiences of my, generally sad, life: a swim among the sharks!.
Already a little bit before that, while just snorkeling on the coral reef (the largest in the world after Australia), a small shark of a species unknown even to the guide liked me and was continuously swimming around me, often under my belly! He seemed to come out straight from a cartoon, dark-gray, tiny, with a huge squared head. I could even touch him without scaring him.
Soon after, we went to another sea area. The guide threw fish pieces in the water, and, after few minutes, the boat was surrounded by brown sharks over 2 meters long, fighting on the pieces. At that moment, the guide told us that we could go in the water. I thought he was joking. Anyway, since he insisted that there was no real danger, I was convinced. He just added, as advice, to not put our hands inside their mouths. Yes, sometimes I think of how lucky we are to have these experts that give us these unthinkable suggestions! :D
The crystal clear water was shallow, it arrived at my chest. Apart from sharks, also a dozen of manta and barracuda came.
After some initial fright, I touched the sharks. They had a rough back and a soft belly. The guide even hugged some of them. They were staying dangling sluggish in his arms on the surface of the water, belly up, almost as if hypnotized, for sure happy. I also touched the manta. They have slimy skin. Anyway, a really, really extraordinary experience!

Now I’m in San Ignazio, a town in the forest, near the border with Guatemala.

Let’s look at the photos.


The most famous temple of Tikal. Until about ten years ago, it was possible to go on the top. Now it is prohibited due to a couple of fatal accidents of tourists fallen off the stairs.


After being abandoned, the forest swallowed Tikal, which was rediscovered in the 1850s.


The central plaza of Tikal. In the background, the apartments where the aristocracy lived.
Just to be totally sure, I rechecked the hieroglyphics and texts, and yes, I can confirm with absolute certainty that the world will end on December 21, 2012.


A toucan.




A street in Rio Dulce.


The hut where I slept in Rio Dulce, a stilt house above the river, in the forest. Every night, between blinding lightings and roaring thunders, there was a biblical downpour.


A hot water waterfall near Rio Dulce. Climbing up, there is a natural hot pool, from where the waterfall starts. The place is called El paradise.








A Guatemalan street.


Woman and little girl in Livingstone.


Old man in Livingstone.






Elderly people in Punta Gorda, Belize.


A supermarket in Punta Gorda. For what I’ve seen so far, all the mini and supermarkets in Belize are run by Chinese.


Night lights.


On the speedboat to Caye Caulker.


The pier of Caye Caulker. As you can see, there is a sea that is well worth a few dollars more.


House in the middle of the sea.


The iguana who hung around my shaky stilt house, in Caye Caulker. In the night’s downpours, the hut was dancing with the rain.



Shortly after this picture, my camera stopped working for a few days. This happened almost certainly for some stupid ironies that I wrote about an Italian magician, “il mago d’Arcella” (Arcella’s wizard) in the Italian version of my previous post. Later, I learned that he had died just a few hours before it!
I’m not superstitious, nor I believe in the afterlife. Still, the facts speak for themselves: immediately after foolishly joking about the divination skills of this magician and his apparent ability to send jinx, my camera started working bad, until turning off completely.
However, in the exact moment in which I rectified (in the Italian version of this same post) my camera started working again.

I want to underline again that he was a Great Magician. And he did never sent anyone bad luck, not even from beyond.

See u! :-)

Mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras and Semuc Champey in Guatemala

Hello friends. I’m in Lanquín, again in Guatemala, after a brief trip in Honduras to visit the Mayan site of Copan.

In front of me flows the Rio Dulce, clear and green, with my mind synchronized on its course. Images of 6 months of travel form, pass, and disappear as in a dreamlike mosaic.

Nearby here there is one of the most spectacular places among those visited so far: Semuc Champey, a paradisiac canyon composed of natural freshwater pools.
And not only. There are caves inside which flows an underground river. We went inside with candles, swimming into the ice water of the dark cave for long stretches. Sometimes there were small waterfalls. Some parts inside the cave were spacious, others were claustrophobic. Some points were also a bit dangerous. For example, near the end of the tour, there was a tunnel about 1 meter wide and a few meters long, where the water entered with violence, filling it completely. To reach the exit, I had to cross it and, of course, it would have been impossible to breathe in the meanwhile. Following the guide’s instructions, I took a deep breath, and I abandoned myself to the forceful flow of water. I reached the other side of the tunnel without even having the time to understand what happened. Truly a fantastic place, even though the water was a bit too cold for my taste.

Another enjoyable experience, in a similar fabulous scenario, was floating inside a rubber donut on Rio Dulce, letting the currents carry me lazily.

Before coming here, as I said, I went to the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras. Not very big, but extremely impressive, with magnificent sculptures and stems, some in the museum nearby. It was located near the southern border of the Mayan empire and reached its peak between the fifth and ninth centuries AD.


Here is where I’m now. It’s a hostel composed of huts by the river, where there are these platforms. At night, I prefer to sleep in a hammock beside the river, with its sound, under the stars.


More photos of Antigua in Guatemala.


Little girl in Antigua. Over 50% of the population of Guatemala is a direct descendant of the Maya.


A skeleton in Antigua’s market. It seems to remind us: sooner or later… everybody. Sad but true… as I already noticed in my previous post.


A street in Antigua.


The Mayan site of Copan in Honduras.
I have seen the hieroglyphs, read the survived codes and texts, and unfortunately I have to confirm that the world will finish on December 21 this year. Eh, I know, guys, that’s it! The fact is that the Mayan calendar ends precisely on that date. So far, I thought it was stupid to be frightened because it is as the switch from 1999 to 2000 or something similar. In reality, however, the Mayans predicted that when this happens, catastrophic disasters occur. And Maya priests didn’t make errors in their predictions. So, have fun in the few months remaining, and patience, it all ends. Nothing is forever.


The ballcourt. We don’t know the exact rules. Probably, the players had to hit a rubber ball of about 4 kilos without letting it drop on the ground and trying to hit the sculptures placed on the top of one side (some of them, depicting macaw heads, are in the museum). Probably, it was similar to a gladiator game, with the losers sacrificed. However, other theories suggest that, after the game, the men sacrificed were actually the best players because it was considered a great honor for them. In this case, anyway, everyone played poorly on purpose, except the most stupids.


And here you can see the hieroglyphics clearly saying: “spend all the savings before December 21, 2012, because after they will be useless. But it will be tough to arrive at that date before being totally robbed by international finance and bankers. May they die. With pain. Together with the cops and judges who protect them”.
That is what is written. I’ve just done a literal translation. :D


The striking hieroglyphic stairway, a text carved on the steps, the longest discovered Mayan text. Unfortunately, the meaning is not totally clear because some steps had fallen, and the first archaeologists put them back a bit at random, creating a sort of Dadaist cut-up. It seems, however, that is a record of the royal history of Copán.


One of the many stunning Mayan carvings.


Card players in the town near the Mayan ruins. It is almost at the border with Guatemala.


Little girl.


Mother and son.


Bank’s guard.


Old people.


Beautiful girl.


Still in Honduras.


Back in Guatemala, part of the stretch of Rio Dulce that I did floating on a rubber donut.


The delightful Semuc Champey. Rock walls of thick vegetation surround on both sides the natural pools underneath. Something curious happens: the river, which arrives very violent, enters into an underground tunnel, passes under these pools, and comes out after a few kilometers.


The pools, seen from above.


One of the natural pools.




Hasta luego! :-)