BELIZE AND GUATEMALA: Somehow nature always finds a way. Probing dense jungle in northern Guatemala, researchers have discovered an ancient lost Mayan “megalopolis” that may have once had a population as large as 10 million people. It’s the stuff of Indiana Jones couched in reality rather than fiction.
A New 1,200-year-old pre-Colombian civilization
Literally, overnight this newly-found 1,200-year-old pre-Colombian civilization has become an archaeological game changer where scientists using laser scan technology have unearthed a hidden network of cities connected by raised highways.
Many researchers believe the discovery could rival the early cultures of Greece and China in their level of sophistication.
As Albert Yu-Min Lin, an engineer and explorer for “National Geographic”, put it,
“This world was lost to the jungle, and what you thought was this massively understood, studied civilization is all of a sudden brand-new again.”
The discovery was made not far from the already familiar temples of Tikal, but the scope of the massive new site has uncovered nearly 60,000 homes, palaces, and tombs that were hidden under cover of tree canopies and jungle growth for more than a thousand years.
Lubaantun in Belize
Excavations at Lubaantun in Belize are a good example for visitors wanting to witness for themselves how rapidly a forest can swallow a civilization only to leave it buried for centuries. As a much smaller site than the findings in Guatemala, Lubaantun, with its land already cleared, presents an ideal representation of how easily, and quickly, Mother Nature can erase any evidence of man’s existence.
Mayan culture has long had a reputation for its sophisticated understanding of agriculture, art and astronomy. Several years ago, the Mayan calendar became a source of great interest when it was said to have predicted the end of the world.
The speculation was later explained that the calendar probably represented the end of one Mayan life cycle that was to be followed by a rebirth of a new civilization.
Today, some researchers refer to the centuries from 250 A.D. to 900 as the Classic Period of Mayan civilization.
For travelers with an interest in Mayan culture in Guatemala and Belize, Ka’ana Resort is now offering a four day experience which allows them the immerse themselves into the forests and ruins of western Belize.
As Wendell Berry once observed, “Nobody can discover the world for somebody else.” While “National Geographic” has opened the door for exploration in Guatemala, unless you yourself participate, the story is little more than words on a page.
Ka’ana Resort is the inspiration of Fernando Paiz, one of Central America’s best-known preservationists of Mayan culture. Paiz is co-founder of the Guatemalan nonprofit La Ruta Maya Foundation that funded much of the research for the recent discovery.
During the four day Maya experience at Ka’ana, guests enjoy walking tours through Tikal and Cahal Pech plus yoga and a picnic at Xunantunich.
One excursion begins at Hanna’s Stables situated on the 400-acre estate where an archaeologist guides a morning horseback ride through the forests of Belize to reveal the majestic ruins of Xunantunich.
Following the tour, a picnic lunch on the shores of the Mopan River allows travelers to absorb the sights and sounds of the tropical rainforest before returning to the resort.
Another outing includes a visit to the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve to visit Actun Tunichil Muknal, one of the most impressive caves of Belize. Here you cross three rivers before swimming into the hourglass-shaped entrance to the sacred cave.
Stalagtites and stalagmites capture the imagination before you venture on to the major interior cathedrals that containing ceramic relics and human remains from ancient sacrificial ceremonies.
There is also a day trip into Guatemala to visit other lesser known Mayan ruins as well as a bird’s eye view of Belize from a zipline adventure through the subtropical jungle plus a helicopter tour over ancient ruins and remote jungle waterfalls.
Any quality tour programs also offers samples of the local cuisine and Ka’ana Resort serves up a variety of dishes in a delightful array of culinary settings.
Many guests enjoy breakfast in bed featuring green juice comprised of chaya, ginger, pineapple, honey and lime all grown in the on-site organic garden. Homemade granola and yogurt parfait filled with fruit from the local market round out a typical breakfast.
Chaya, or tree spinach, is known among locals as the superfood. With benefits similar to spinach, chaya must be cooked for 5 to 15 minutes before being eaten. The vegetable is frequently served with eggs and a side of fry jacks (deep fried dough that is typically shaped as a square or a triangle).
Always popular with guests is dinner on the fire deck where a glowing fire crackles under the stars and the sounds of the Belizean jungle.
A favorite dish is Dukunu, Made of corn similar to polenta, it is served on a bed of arugula with a side of Mennonite sausage.
A thriving Mennonite community in Belize, is a surprise to many visitors.
Rounding out the itinerary are traditional Belizean cooking classes and the unique abdominal massage that is a specialty of the spa.
Simply put, you Ka’ana go wrong with a visit to Belize and Guatemala.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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