Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 – Belize City, Belize – Mostly Cloudy - 82F

Cloudy but warm in Belize City…

The NCL Star is anchored about 20 minutes from the shore.

Our plan today is to go on tour with Becca and the crew to the Mayan Site of Altun Ha (“Rockstone Pond in Mayan”).  Altun Ha is the best excavated site in Belize and about an hour and 15 minutes from the port.  We are not expecting good roads. The buildings date back to 100 AD and 10,000 Maya lived here at one time.

We are anchored with the Norwegian Dawn so we are cautioned on leaving on the tender to get back on the correct tender.

NCL Star at Anchor Belize (Small)

Norwegian Dawn anchored

A Carnival ship is also anchored along with us.

Carnival Docked at Belize (Small)

The seas are a bit choppy so hopping on the tender is a little tricky – we are using local tenders (not lifeboats).  Once the tender cleared the immediate vicinity of the ship, the throttle went max and it was definitely an “A” ride.  I sat on the aft bench so I got a good feel for the sea and speed.

Tendering (Small) Still tendering to Belize (Small)

Really moving on the tender

As we approached the pier, the tender slowed and picked up a flock of birds (I think the screws churn up the waters bringing fish to the surface). 

Birds trailing tender (Small) Belize city and Birds 1 (Small)

Birds trailing the tender

The pier at Belize City looked pretty much the same as I remembered it – colorful buildings. 

Tender port Belize City (Small)

We caught our tour bus on the back side of the Cruise Terminal Building.  We had to wait in the bus (thankfully air-conditioned) for about 40 minutes for nine passengers that never arrived.  The roads were not the greatest even though we were on the highway (one lane each way).  The tour guide told us that the British (Belize used to be British Honduras) left the island with a lot of things – good roads were not one of them.

Everything was going along pretty well until the bus suddenly stopped on a bridge.  I did not know that the bus and a van had tried to go on this narrow bridge at the same time and now then were wedged together.

River scene of acciident (Small)  

View from the right side of the bus (on the bridge)

Bus vs Van on Bridge (Small) Van vs bus two (Small)

View from the left side of the bus

The two vehicles were stuck and we could not evacuate the bus because there was no surface to stand on once the door was opened.

Here’s how we got free.  Occupants of the van actually lifted the van a few inches toward the edge of the bridge.  This provided just enough clearance (with a little scraping) to allow the bus to clear the bridge.  The delay was about 30 minutes and should never have happened.

We finally arrived at Altun Ha and were told that we would only have about 45 minutes at the site.

Altun Ha consists of 13 structures located around two plazas (A and B). 

The entrance to the site is adjacent to Plaza A. 

Plaza A (Small)

Plaza A

The first structure we see is A6.  This pyramid is only partially excavated (the steps actually) but it is a large structure.

Structure A6 (Small)

Structure A6

A very large Allspice tree sits at the entrance of Plaza A. I got a great shot of the sun peaking through.

100_2068 (Small) 

The Temple of the Green Tomb is the site that contained a treasure trove of artifacts including jade jewelry.

Temple of the Green Tomb (Small)

Temple of the Green Tomb

The next structure in Plaza A is called A3 (what no name?).  This was a climbable structure even though the plaster covered stairs were big enough for giants to use (instead of the 4-5 ft tall Maya).  No problem getting to the top in the heat.

Temple A3 (Small) 

Structure A3

The view from A3 was very spectacular – can you spot Ellen in the picture below (hint – look for an umbrella).

   View from A3 (Small)

Ellen from A3

From down at the base of the temple, you could see Noah and me wave our “Wave of Triumph” after scaling the difficult steps (thanks to Becca for the picture).




On top of A3 with Noah (Temple of Masonry Altars in the background)

Plaza B is highlighted by the Temple of the Masonry Altars.  You can get a great view of this Temple from A3. 

Plaza B Templle of the Masonry Altars (Small)

Temple of the Masonry Altars from A3

We made our way down from A3 and headed over to Plaza B.  The Temple of the Masonry Altars can also be seen from Plaza A.

Temple of the Masonry Altars from Plaza A (Small)

Temple of the Masonry Altars from Plaza A

The Temple of the Masonry Altars is the tallest structure in Altun Ha (60 feet).  It was the center of religious activity in the settlement.  The stairway leads to a large altar at the top of the temple. Several tombs, believed to have been those of Altun Ha’s priests, were found in this temple.  The most significant find was a jade head (15 cm high) of the Maya Sun God, Kinich Ahau.

Temple of the Masonry Altars (Small)

The top is reached today by a stairway with railings that goes up on the right side of the structure and down the other.  It is a little difficult to climb due to the stone steps but Gary, Noah, Eliana, and I made it to the top.

Noah on Masonry Arts (Small) Gary and Noah Masonry Arts (Small)

At the top of the Temple of the Masonry Altars

On the way down from the temple, one of the stairs caught our eye.  What do you think it looks like?

Alien face on steps at Altun Ha (Small)

We returned from our trip safe and sound.  We walked around the pier area a little to see what kinds of stores they had.  There wasn’t much so we hopped on the tender and went back to the ship.

Dinner was in the Aqua Dining room.  Dova had spoken earlier to one of the Maitre D’s about the service and tonight she caught another one and lodged a complaint about the service.  Before we knew it, we had Mojitos on the house (my new favorite drink) and wine for tomorrow’s dinner. 

 20121121 Mojitos in Gatsbys (Small)

Enjoying our Mojitos in Gatsby’s Lounge

20121121 scrabble with Bubbie (Small) 

Playing Scrabble between shows

Showtime tonight was an all-girl show – “Shout – Mod Musical”.  It was a fun show  that spoofed the 60s with songs that I did know. 

20121121 Shout Mod Musical (Small) 

Pedometer: 5028 steps; 2.38 miles; 246 calories

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