It’s 2012, the famed year of the Maya when the current Mayan calendar ends. There is a large population of Maya in Belize, so it is appropriate that we would get to visit an authentic Mayan village in 2012. We deliberately did not read about Mayan life, history or much of anything. We wanted to experience what life is like for the modern day Mayan without any preconceived notions. Therefore, we had no idea what to expect. How do Mayans live, celebrate and eat? What is their daily life like?
We found out the evening before that we needed to leave at 5 am to catch the water taxi, we immediately started packing to take advantage of this opportunity for a personal visit to a Mayan village during a celebration. We went with our friend Sebastian who we met while flying on Christmas day to Punta Gorda. He is Mayan and was visiting his family in San Filipe, a Mayan village about 7 miles from Punta Gorda. His brother just completed his teaching degree and they were having a big celebration, so he invited us along.
With or Without Sebastian, We’re Going
We were scheduled to meet Sebastian at 5:30 am at the Water Taxi Terminal in San Pedro. We were there. Sebastian was not. Luckily, we had just purchased a cell phone the day before and were able to call him, but our calls went unanswered. Deflated, we walked back home, ate some breakfast and decided that we were going anyway, by ourselves. We took the 8 am water taxi to the mainland and then a bus to PG town. We knew the name of the village near PG Town and Sebastian’s mom’s name. How hard could it be to find? A Mayan village can’t be that big, right?
We were taking chances, but this was something that we definitely wanted to do, so off we went, alone.
The Market next to the Bus Station
About 1/2 an hour into our water taxi ride we get a text from Sebastian saying he just woke up and will catch the next water taxi to Belize City. We waited for him and explored the market next to the bus station. The market has a ton of stuff. Great, fresh vegetable vendors, butcher shops, little hole in the wall restaurants. We enjoyed watching a butcher hack into a side of meat with a saw, sending flying chunks and shards all over. I liked visiting with a holistic lady that had a remedy for every ailment. We bought bananas, a few spices and a balloon animal.
Buses & Scorpions
We finally met up with Sebastian at the Belize City bus terminal and hopped on the bus to PG Town. The bus stops at several main junctions. In Belmopan, we met up with Sebastian’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law who just attended his brother’s graduation ceremony. Now, off to the village!
The bus ride down to PG Town is long. Over 6 hours on an old school bus can make anyone tire quickly. Add to the mix 2 children that want to move, run and jump and you’ve got one crowded bus seat. We survived, barely…….
Five and a half hours into the bus ride, G was sitting on my lap nearly falling asleep when all of a sudden he starts screaming, kicking and panicking. He shouted “A hermit crab bit me, a hermit crab bit me!” and he showed us his foot. We thought maybe he was in a dream state and he could have scraped his foot on the seat. Silly. Until I turn my head to see a big, black scorpion crawling on my left shoulder! Now I was the one jumping up and screaming. OMG, my 3 yr old just got bit by a scorpion…what the heck do we do?
Luckily, Sebastian was sitting behind us and managed to kill the nasty scorpion with a plastic water bottle and quickly put ‘mud’ (see inset below) on G’s scorpion sting. This seemed to help G and take away some of the pain. Another guy picked up the dead scorpion and threw it out the window. It was a big one, at least 4 inches long…just the thought of it makes me squirm.
For the rest of the bus ride, we did not sit on the seats, G wouldn’t let us. I had no idea how I was going to sleep that night. Would G be okay? We were expecting a fever and numb tongue as the vemon worked its way though his little body. All I wanted was to do research on Google! I didn’t need to though, because I just experienced my first taste of Mayan medicine.
Belizean scorpions look nasty—black and big. Some say their stings are no more harmful than that of a bee and others describe convulsions, numb tongues and trouble breathing after getting stung. After 10 minutes the pain and fear subsided and we could see that he was going to be just fine. He had no reaction at all! What a strong little guy. It was cute that he thought it was a hermit crab by identifying its claws. But just so you can see what we freaked out about, here is a picture of one:
Arriving at the Village
The bus dropped us off at the road that led to the village. It was still another 3 miles to Sebastian’s mom’s house so he had arranged for a neighbor with a pick-up truck to take us on the dirt road into the jungle. We jumped into the back of the truck and off we went into the darkness. There were no lights except the dim lights coming from the cracks between the wall boards of Mayan houses and the spectacular display of flashes put on by millions of fireflies.
As we stepped out of the truck and onto the property where we would spend the next 3 days, we really started to feel what a different world we were about to experience.
Coming up… Life in the Mayan Village: food, family, and community of the village.