After you’ve passed through the Mayan mountains, you find yourself surrounded by the beautiful rolling fields of western Belize. You also find ancient and sacred Saba trees. To this day, Mayans believe these trees are maps that will guide your soul to the heavens. Obviously this farmer is either Mayan or just loves a beautiful tree because they left it standing tall right in the middle of their pasture. Tomorrow we will be visiting some of the largest Mayan ruins in Central America.
As a SCUBA diver, prior to visiting Belize, this is what I had always imaged what it would be like. 30 miles off the coast is the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef. The reef itself is dotted with small islands, which in Belize, they call ‘cayes’. That being said, this week I want to share with you the Belize we discovered when we made our way through the Mayan mountains to the west. This is the Belize we fell in love with and will surely return to visit.
This is the Belize we will surely return to! The Mayan mountains are full of citrus orchards, breathtaking vistas and friendly little farming communities. You can reach this valley by traveling along the Hummingbird highway. You actually drive across the entire nation from the coast to the Guatemala border in about 2 hours. I hope you enjoy this week as we share in an adventure along this highway. We will see beautiful Saba trees, Mayan ruins and the Milky Way!
Photographer’s Note – This is a single image shot with a Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70 lens, Singh-Ray 2 stop GND filter. I brought it to life with Lightroom 4, a few NIK filters and a couple moves in Photoshop.
Did you know Belize has a national chess club (check out their facebook page)? I didn’t either until I stumbled upon the West Cayo District team training one Saturday afternoon. Being a fan of the game, I asked their coach if I could take a few photos. He said, “sure…would you like to play a game?”. You don’t have to ask me twice. Instantly I was surrounded by kids yelling, “The camera man plays chess! The camera man plays chess!” I settled into a game, and thought I should probably go easy on the young man pictured here. Was I ever wrong. While eating nachos and chatting on the phone he put in me in checkmate after decimating my pieces. No question, he was ready for district championships the next week.
I share these images and stories with you hoping that on your next trip, you might open yourself up to new experiences and meeting new people. I’m guessing you already do. I’ve found that the folks that visit here on a regular basis are pretty open to the world around them. However, if you’re not or you’re a bit shy, just give it try. The lesson here, one that I have tried to share this week, is simple. Whether it is a distant country or a neighboring town, travel isn’t about seeing…its about experiencing. Although there is something to be said for standing alone, in the presence of a grandscape, it’s also just as rewarding to play a game of chess with a total stranger.
Photographer’s Note - Yep, another image from one of my favorites…the Nikon 24mm 1.4g.
Folks in tourism never know what to make of us. People normally ask, “Where should we go? What’s worth checking out?”…inevitably they suggest a beach or some other tourist trap. You probably know by now, I’m not the ‘swim up bar’ type. To avoid this, I like to ask…”Where do YOU go, where do YOU like to hang out?”. If you want to learn about the world, you don’t learn about it through landscapes (well, if you’re a geologist you might) you learn about it through people. Those are the places you want to go. On this day, we politely asked the woman below for directions. An hour later we had walked with her to the local market, shopped for produce with her, had lunch together and exchanged contact information. I shot the above photo in the local market she took us to. During our visit we learned she was a retired school teacher in the town of San Ignacio. This information would serve us later when we were stopped and questioned by the police….no kidding, we told the officer we had lunch with what turned out to be his school teacher. At that point we were friends and the city was ours to explore (complete with a police escort if we so desired..we didn’t, the town of San Ignacio is a comfortable place to walk around).
As I always say, the world is far too small to be a jerk (normally, I use another word) and this just goes to prove it!
Photographer’s Note – As you know, the Nikon 24mm 1.4g has become my storytelling lens of choice over the last year. This is just another reason why I love it so much. The image was converted to B&W via Nik SEP 2.
Our adventure into the heart of Belize continues today with the World’s Most Interesting Man. The Dos Euqis guys is a fraud compared to Henri Dunster. Mr. Dunster is an Englishman whose father was a personal gardner for the Queen of England. He left England in the 70s to pursue his fascination with the Mayan civilization. Trained as an industrial artist, he brought his skill set to document the art of the Mayan’s. For 40 years he has accurately recorded all the Mayan ruins in Central America and produced over 200 works. Because of erosion and exposure, his work is the only record that remains of these incredible people. Needless to say, Mr. Dunster had more than a few stories to tell about his 40 year Mayan adventure. I’ll let him do the storytelling, just make sure to catch one of his presentations at the Sleeping Giant.
Click Here to read more about his life’s work and order prints