Maya World Extension - Day Trip to Lamanai
By Jack Wilde
The New River drifts lazily north, a few miles west of Crooked Tree on its way to Corozal Bay. We board a boat just outside Orange Walk Town, and head upriver towards the ancient Mayan site known as Lamanai.
Overhanging the river are trees festooned with epiphytes: plants that grow on plants. We see water vines, bromeliads, orchids, long beards of lichen known as Spanish moss, and there is even a cactus called devil's gut, clinging to branches and trunks.
Around each bend is a new sight. A crocodile rests on a log, his mouth agape. A group of boat-billed herons hides among the foliage of a large tree, waiting for the cover of night. A bare-throated tiger heron scans the water from a perch. Two jacanas flash bright yellow wings as they stalk on impossibly long toes over the lily pads.
It seems like no time at all has passed and we are approaching the site of the ruins of Lamanai. Of all the ruins in Belize, this one is not the biggest, or the most fully excavated and studied, but it is to me the most interesting. This site was occupied for the entire duration of the Mayan civilization and beyond, from early pre-classic, until the arrival of the Spanish.
Many structures still lay buried beneath the jungle soil. We wander from one structure to the next, stepping over tiny well-worn paths of leaf-cutter ants. The ants travel along their highway, each carrying a piece of leaf like a green sail. Above us moves a troop of howler monkeys. We see the young ones, staying close to a parent or older sibling. We reach the temple, and climbing its ridiculously steep steps brings us to a view of the surrounding jungle. We can also see a hint of cleared land where the Mennonites have made their farms.
Back near the dock there is a small museum which clearly explains the history of the Mayan civilization. After lunch and a visit to the museum we are ready for the ride back. This was a day packed full of new experiences, and there will be lively discussions around the dinner table this evening as we share our photos and exchange stories.