A couple weeks back, we had an 8 AM meeting at the field station on a Saturday. We have these meetings every 10 days to make sure they fit well into the rangers’ shifts, so every once in a while they land on the weekend. That leaves us an hour north of PG at 9am with a whole free day ahead of us. We decided to make this an opportunity to explore some of southern Belize’s Mayan ruins, Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun.
Belize is full of Mayan ruins and they are widely used as symbols of Belize’s culture– one is even featured on the logo of Belikin, the Belizean beer. The ruins in southern Belize aren’t the most impressive or well-known in the country, but they’re easy to reach and not particularly touristy.
Nim Li Punit
We caught the bus and rode it ten minutes south of the field station to Nim Li Punit. Nim Li Punit is just a half mile (uphill) walk off the main highway. On the way there, we saw this guy:
We also got the best view of a ceiba tree yet — check out how crazily those branches have grown!
Nim Li Punit was great. One second we were walking up a forest path and the next we were gazing over ancient stone walls.
It’s really incredible to see these 7th century A.D. come out of nowhere. It’s especially amazing because there are so few others around.
Next, we set off for the much bigger but much more difficult to reach Lubaantun. We got back on the bus and rode a little further south, but then we were faced with a problem. Lubaantun is seven miles off the highway. We were able to resolve this in the most exhilarating and Belizean way possible: hitchhiking.
I think I can hear my mother fainting. It’s not quite as stupid as it sounds — this kind of hitchhiking is super common in Belize. You just wave down a pickup truck driving your direction and if they stop you jump in the back and ride. If you need to stop, just tap the back window and they’ll let you know. The only interaction you have with them is a “thank you!” when you leave.
Driving through Mayan villages with the wind in my hair felt exciting and authentic in an extremely satisfying way. Between two free rides and some intermittent walking, we made it to Lubaantun. And this place…this place was magical. Lubaantun was discovered in the early 20th century by an Englishman who sadly decided to excavate with dynamite. As a result, most of its magnificent structures are partially collapsed. Even still, they’re extremely impressive.
The best part was that we were the only souls there. We got to explore acres of ancient ruins with nobody else in sight. When it started raining, we got out our raincoats and split off from each other. Ten minutes alone in the rain surrounded by such incredible history is something I will never forget.
A couple more hitchhikes got us back to PG in time for dinner. It was an incredible Belizean day.