The Belize Tourism Board invited members of the local press on a four day familiarization tour of the country. The trip took the group to Orange Walk, Placenica, Hopkins and Central Belize. On Thursday, the caravan travelled to Lamanai for a day’s exploration of the Mayan Archaeological Site. Shadel Young reports.
Shadel Young – Reporter:
Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians of Western Christianity once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” And like a good book, the world is filled with hidden adventures that can only truly be experienced through first hand engagement. Courtesy the Belize Tourism Board, a hand full of my media colleagues and I got the opportunity to read a few pages of a very familiar book called Belize. The purpose of the trip says BTB, was to have the local media experience what the foreign press and travel agents do when they visit the country. In addition, to show Belizeans some of the options available for a vacation right here at home. It was educational, but it was an adventure I won’t soon forget. Our first stop was up north – the Orange Walk District, where we visited the Lamanai Archaeological Site. Our voyage there was by boat, where we enjoyed the warmth and serenity of the New River Lagoon. On the way to Lamanai bank is the Shipyard Village, home to predominantly the Mennonite Community. The residents of this village live a simple life and most of them work as farmers, carpenters and mechanics. After some thirty minutes of sailing, we arrived at Lamanai or “submerged crocodile.” Lamanai dates back to 700 BC and thrived for over 3,000 years, extending from the shaping of the Mayan world to the invasion of Spanish colonists. In the site’s museum, we got up close with ancient Mayan artifacts. Here’s a short clip of our guide Rueben, describing some of those objects.
Rueben – Tour Guide;
All this wood was harvested by the Maya during phases of the moon, which is very important. A lot of us don’t take that into consideration, but especially these leaves are harvested a few days before full-moon, and a few days after full-moon.
Right here you can see a necklace of coral and shells coming from the coast, which was a means of currency. That was there money, mainly. They exchanged shells, and they were used for bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and earrings.
Shadel Young – Reporter:
Walking around Lamanai, you’re bound to discover other Mayan artifacts lying around, like this jawbone that contained two molars of some early inhabitant. Next it was time to put on our hiking gears and trek to the ancient temples. The ones we visited included the Mask, the Jaguar and the Highest temples. And they don’t call it the Highest Temple for naught. It’s one of the largest Pre-Classic structures in Belize with a height of 108ft. The building once housed three alters, but the left structure was destroyed in 1998 by Hurricane Mitch. Another plaza we visited was the ball court. This is where the Mayans spent their recreation time. Now this wasn’t your ordinary ball court, but rather, a sacred facet of their society, where losers and often times even the winners were sacrificed. According to historic teachings, the ancient Mayans found it an honor to be offered up as a sacrificial entity. In addition, in the ball court is a circular stone marker and underneath a ceremonial vessel containing liquid mercy. And just as intriguing, Rueben gave us a whiff of what the temples and homes smelled like back then. The crew gathering around, cameras in hand, as he lit the incense, sending off a sweet aroma. Our visit at Lamanai lasted a few hours, but what we gained was thousands of years of knowledge relating to Belize’s earliest civilization. A few chapters in Belize’s book. Reporting for PlusNews, Shadel Young.
We’ll bring you more coverage of the tour in the coming days.