Woke up at the Bull Frog Inn at 7am today (May 16, 2012) with the rain pouring down. The group gathered as usual just off of the lobby area, looking forward to coffee, eggs and plates of fresh fruit. It was cool sitting on the patio with the rain coming down, but all of us hoped that the weather would clear up for our two hour drive to Altun Ha (meaning “rockstone water”). Altun Ha is an archaeological site most known for the jade head, which is the largest carved jade object ever found. It weighs 9.75 pounds. This jade head is considered the crown jewel of Belize.
The rain finally quit, so we loaded the van and headed to Altun Ha.
Traffic was backed up due to a wreck on the road leading out of town, which delayed our trip by about a half an hour. Dr. Winemiller was surprised to see a familiar face getting out of the car in front of us, and as it turns out, the man was Jaime Awe, the Director of Archaeology for the country of Belize. After talking with Dr. Awe for a few minutes and setting a time to meet with him the next day, traffic finally starting moving again and we continued the drive to the site.
One of the passengers (and I won’t name names) persuaded Dr. Winemiller to stop at a small market store/residence and to use their bathroom. It is always exciting to talk to the local people of Belize, so any opportunity to stop is well received by the group. The Belize people are very friendly and were happy to let us in. Anne West was kind enough to buy fifteen frozen Snickers bars from the shop owner and shared them with the group (and I ate two) as we again, with Dr. Winemiller, set out for Altun Ha.
When we finally rolled out of the back of the van refreshed and ready to go, we were met by a grey-haired, local named Pice (not to be confused with “Spice”, he said) who cracked open a coconut with a machete and handed us a straw. We took turns sipping out of the coconut and ate the coconut meat, which was delicious. It didn’t taste at all like the coconut we have back in the US.
Altun Ha was full of vendors selling all sorts of goods, everything from sodas and waters to handmade wooden crafts and beads. Several young men were handling crocodiles, and some of us took turns holding the crocs for pictures. It was amazing to hold these incredible animals.
This site was by far the most touristy place we have been on this trip, but the ruins were truly beautiful. We snapped many pictures and shared several laughs as usual. Even with the sun and the heat, the mood was consistently light with the group. Gillian accidentally sprayed deet in Rachel’s eye and stepped on Veronica’s foot, but other than that, we had a great trip. We ate snacks and chicken sandwiches before hitting the road back to The Bull Frog Inn.
On our way back to Belmapon, we discussed stopping at the prison gift shop to buy some gifts for our friends and families. The van was full of excitement at the possibility of seeing a real prison gift shop. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the gates, the gift shop was closed.
Although pretty disappointed, we managed to get back The Bull Frog Inn in a great mood after a day full of cool experiences.
We shared dinner at the Inn, and were very excited to sit with Dr. Heather McKillop and hear about her adventures and work in Belize. Dr. McKillop is the lead archaeologist in Belize, currently researching the excavation of Mayan salt mines. Dr. McKillop has successfully excavates many sites (http://www.archaeological.org/projects/paynescreekbelize) in Belize, and shared stories with us of her true passion and diligence in her endeavors and faithful research. Spending time with the lead archaeologist at LSU ended a great day for us all.
Another day for the books!