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Bucket List: Climbing to the top of a Mayan temple

By John Toth

The Bulletin

I had been to Mayan ruins twice before our last cruise, once when we docked in Cozumel and again in Costa Maya, sometimes called Puerto Costa Maya.

Both were O.K., but after two excursions, I was just about done with Mayan ruins. That is, until Sharon saw a promotion for an excursion in Belize that promised to take us into the jungle again and to yet a third Mayan ruins site.

This was different. The temples (or pyramids) were larger, and visitors were allowed to climb on them. In Mexico, that was not allowed, even though their temples were smaller, but we learned a lot about how the Mayans lived, their culture and how advanced the Mayan civilization was at the peak of their rule.

We booked the excursion. It included the famous speed boat ride that almost got us stuck in the middle of a waterway on our way back from the ruins, but I wrote about that in a previous column. It included lunch.

Unfortunately, it also included an hour and fifteen minute bus ride from the port to the river, which was not pleasant. The roads in Belize are horrible, at least the ones we took.

There was also a good chance that we would see some monkeys in the wild while trekking to the ruins. That’s something we had not seen on the other two excursions.

It was definitely a must-take trip because I wanted to climb the ruins on both previous occasions. At the small ruins in Cozumel, there wasn’t anything left to climb. In Costa Maya, there were several structures to explore, but they would allow us to go only about a third or halfway up. Belize was my last chance to do some pyramid climbing, because I probably was not going to book another Mayan ruins trip after this.

After we arrived at Lamanai, I knew that this time would be different. The ruins were a lot bigger and spread out. The temples, or pyramids, were larger than anything we had seen before. Finally, we were able to get close to the ruins and climb to the top.

Our tour guide was very cautious as the group made it to the top of one of the pyramids. It was a medium-sized one, It took only a few minutes to reach the top.

Then our guide asked everyone to sit on the steps rather than stand. He wanted to take a group photo, but he was also concerned that someone might fall down. There was nothing to hold on to on the way up or at the top.

We snapped pictures and shot video of our brief stay at the top. A least we got up there. I was going to be satisfied with it.

Then we passed by a huge temple on which archeological students were working. They were restoring one of the sides by passing stones from person to person until the stones reached their destination and were put in place.

It was interesting. They were restoring the damaged part of the pyramid like it was done thousands of years ago.

Then we came to another grand pyramid. The Mayans built a bunch of them at each location we visited. Nobody was working on it. Climbing that first pyramid, the little one, was fun, but this one would provide a lot more fun.

The guides were lecturing about the history of the area. They announced that the group would not be doing a climb here because we were running out of time. It would have been hard to coordinate it, anyway. The pyramid was pretty steep.

But it was begging to be climbed. I was begging to climb it. The pyramid was calling me. I looked around. Everybody was watching the guides. Sharon and I started walking toward the pyramid.

“I’m going to the top,” I told her. “This is why I came here.”

She became my compadre. We started climbing. It was steep, but manageable. I kept climbing past the halfway point. Sharon stopped there. I was way above the treeline. I came to a ridge where I stopped to catch my breath. This would have to do. The group below was starting to break up.

No way. I came here to make it to the top, and that’s where I was headed. I started climbing again, and in no time I was standing at the top, GoPro camera in hand and rolling.

It made my day. Now the problem was how to get down.

I made it back to the group safely. The guides pretended that they didn’t see anything and were handsomely rewarded. I told them beforehand that the only reason I was there was to climb on top of a good-sized pyramid. It was a bucket list item.

For a short time, I was on top of the Mayan world. It was worth the effort.

If that wasn’t enough, the monkeys showed up - a lot of them, a whole family, swinging in the trees near us. My excursion was now more than complete.

I posted a video of our escapades on our YouTube channel “Wandering with John and Sharon.” Check it out, along with all our other videos. You’re bound to find something you’ll like. I climb the pyramids in the Belize video.


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