Get hands on with the local Maya women of San Antonio Village in making their staple corn foods. You’ll be overwhelmed with a timeless feeling evoked by their thatched kitchen, smokey fire hart and ancient tortilla-making methods.
Rio On Pools has gorgeous pools of water running through ancient boulders. You won’t regret stopping by to take a nice cold swim, which you will definitely enjoy.
Starts: 8:00AM Ends: 11:30AM
Getting There: Since this tour is normally done in combination with another tour (in this case Xunantunich Maya Site), your journey will commence with a pick up at your hotel and then a 45 minute’s drive onto the Modern Mayan Village of San Antonio near the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
At the site: The site’s parking lot is located just off the main road in San Antonio Village just in front of the host family’s house. A little gift shop welcomes you but you may want to contain your excitement to buy the priceless souvenirs until after the culinary tour. Once welcomed and settled in, the leader of the women’s group gives you a brief history of their cultural heritage as well as their personal family history. She’ll explain what the culinary tour will cover before we move on into the kitchen area where the fire hart and Metate (grinding stone) awaits us.
The kitchen is an open thatch-roofed space (made of dried Cohune leaves and bush sticks) reminiscent of a structure from a scene of Mel Gibson’s Apolcalypto Movie. Under its roof there is fire hart made of limestone and sticks, a table with a Metate (ancient grinding stone), a modern “Molino” manual corn grinder, and a dining table with seats.
The Culinary Experience: How to make corn tortillas the Ancient Mayan way.
- The process begins with an explanation of how the corn is prepared and hydrated to get it ready for grinding.
- Next, and this is where the fun starts as you get hands-on in the process, place a cup full of hydrated corn on the Metate (a flat, slightly curved grinding stone made of volcanic rock or granite).
- Next, you proceed to grinding the corn by pressing a “Mano” (almost cylindrical/ flat-ish stone) to crush the corn into a paste.
- An alternative method involves the use of the modern manual corn grinder which is faster and but still strenuous.
- The paste is the collected and then molded by dexterous hands into a flat circular shape of about 4 to 5 inches in radius. It is safe to call this a raw tortilla at this point.
- The tortilla is then placed on the “Comal” (in essence, a metal griddle) previously heated by the open flames of the fire hart.
- Once flipped over and done, the tortilla is then place inside dried pumpkin lined with a cloth to keep it warm.
- When all tortillas are done, they’re ready to be served with a half spoon of coconut oil and a pinch of salt. It’s so delicious it’s to die for.
Another delicacy produced from this corn is the “Atole de Maiz” or Corn porridge. You’ll want to keep asking for more but be polite, you don’t want to seem greedy. Save some space for dinner up ahead.
Once you feel like you’ve master the art of making tortillas the ancient Mayan way and you’ve gotten your fix of tortilla and porridge treats, its time for an early dinner. The food served is a homemade stewed chicken with corn tortilla or rice (menu options may vary). For dessert, a homemade papaya stew (mind you, its extra sweet).
Departure: After having your fill, saying your goodbyes, and purchasing your souvenirs, it’s time to head out of San Antonio Village and onto your second adventure for the day (Xunantunich).
Duration: Approx. 2 – 2.5 hours (at the San Antonio Women’s Group)
Difficulty level: Easy
What to bring: Bug repellent, cameras, good manners, and an open-minded attitude towards embracing a different culture.
Provided: Lunch at a local Mayan household & waters.
Mayan for “Maiden of the Rock”. Xunantunich flourished during the Classic Period which managed to survive the Maya “Collapse” and retained prominence until around 1000 A.D.
Xunantunich was the first excavated Mayan site in Belize that was opened for the public. Though it is smaller compared to the other Mayan sites, it consists of one of the tallest structures. The huge statue of the Sun God, El Castillo, and the 130-foot tall pyramid are a couple of structures that attract visitors. Xunantunich means “stone Woman” or “Maiden of the rock” in the Yucatec dialect. These names are derived from the image of a woman depicted in one of the paintings.
These ruins represent the period of AD 650- 1000 of Mayan civilization when the people had mastered the art of construction. Residential structures spread over 22 acres were found in this site. It seems Xunantunich was abandoned in AD 900 and was again occupied in post classic period. Castillo, a 40m tall building, is one of the tallest Mayan buildings in Belize. The causeways, ball courts and platform mounds excavated here prove that they were far ahead of their generation.
The three most remarkable segments of Xunantunich are the elite residential structures, the middle class residential structures and the ceremonial center. The six plazas of the city were surrounded by 25 palaces and several temples. Very brutal games were played in the ball court complex where the losers and winners were awarded in a most awkward manner.
Starts: 1:00PM Ends: 4:30PM
Getting There: The adventure begins at 1:00PM, after lunch at the Maya women’s Group, as you make your way onto the westernmost village of San Jose Succotz. Here we will cross the Mopan River via an old-fashioned hand-cranked ferry. All passengers must alight the vehicle while crossing. Having crossed the river, we have a 3 minutes’ drive up to the park’s parking lot where we unboard the vehicle, register at the park’s office, then begin our exploration. A short walk up to the site will cover your guide’s briefing on safety procedures and what to expect.
At Xunantunich: Upon arrival at the site, you’ll be amazed at how impressive the Temple of El Castillo (the main temple) actually is at a remarkable 120 feet in height. Pay close attention to the history of this once royal center of ancient civilization as your guide walks you through the site. Feel free to climb to the top of El Castillo if you’re not afraid of heights. There you’ll have a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the surroundings which encompasses part of Guatemala, Benque Viejo Town, and San Jose Succotz among other areas.
Be careful coming down from the pyramid as you make your way over to the ancient ball court. Imagine the excitement happening in real time as your guide paints a vivid picture of how the popular Mayan game of Pokatok was played. On site you may get to see spider monkeys and, depending on the time of the year, even howler monkeys. An on-site museum will give you an overall idea of this ancient city’s actual size.
Departing the site: After your tour at Xunantunch, we make back down to the river crossing, once again exiting the vehicle and boarding the hand cranked ferry and onto San Ignacio Town for drop off at your Hotel.
Duration: Approx 3 – 3.5 hours
Difficulty level: Moderate
What to Bring: Sunscreen, bug repellent, sun glasses, hat, solid hiking shoes, camera, water an adventurous attitude.
Note: Light physical activity will be required for those who wish to explore the Mayan ruins on foot. Please wear appropriate walking & climbing shoes. This tour is suitable for all ages.
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
What to bring: bathing suite , sun screen, hiking or water shoes, mosquito repellent, sun glasses, change of clothes, camera
Note: Please watch your step and be very precautious when walking on the rocks on your way and at the pools as rocks are very slippery. Be attentive with children or your partner as there are water currents.
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