From Tikal we traveled over the border to Belize to renew our visa. We had intended to only spend 3 days in San Ignacio a small town about half an hour from the border (as we had to leave for 72 hours) but ended up saying for over 2 weeks at Barton Creek Outpost a restaurant/bar with space for camping round it and a swimming hole for washing in. Barton Creek Outpost is surrounded by jungle about 1 1/2 hrs along a very bumpy road from San Ignacio, with just a community of Mennonites for neighbours. After a few days of being there the family that ran it asked us to help out in exchange for all our meals, we helped in the very very hot kitchen (it was 33 degrees in the shade, and the kitchen was considerably hotter) but we did have the creek to jump in to cool off. At one point the family were gone for a few days and we had 2 vegetarian girls and a party of 11, who had come to visit the cave just down the river, wanting food…..
People visit the lodge either on a day trip to the cave which is 5 minutes up the river, as they rent out canoes and torches for visiting inside the cave, or like us to stay there either camping in the garden area or on a mattress on the deck. We tryed both . The mattress on the deck was quite exciting as it was just open to the surrounding jungle, which makes a lot of strange noises in the dark! However we were rather open to all the many biting insects (and the 2 cats which also lived there and liked to sleep on our heads). We also saw a red snake behind the bar which whooshed past my foot, Edwin the guide who worked there did catch it, but after that we moved back out to the tent. Which at least did give a very thin barrier between us and everything else. One night we got in to see the large hairy black spider sat on the net above our heads, it was out side the tent but having its shadow above us made it quite hard to go to sleep that night.
We saw many other more friendly looking animals as well, including the toucans which came and made a racket in the trees above our tent in the afternoon (they make a very loud distinct rasping noise); 2 green parrots which Edwin and his girlfriend Selly (who worked in the kitchen, and made excellent tortillas) owned as pets; many different coloured humming birds; just after dusk there were fire flies which twinkled all over the garden like fairy lights accompanied by these incredible bright green neon glowing beetles and more stars than we have ever seen; and and a family of ridge back dogs which lived under the lodge and had 8 puppies which were just starting to walk around while we were there.
As we were staying there Edwin gave us a special night time tour of Barton Cave, just as the bats were coming out. We went though the cave in a canoe which Chris had to steer under some very low stalactites, the Maya see the cave as an entrance into the underworld (Xibalba) At the end of their reign when the harvests were failing they would sacrafice people in the caves as an offering to Chac the rain god. We saw the skeletons of sacrifical victims in the cave as well as some ceremonial pots used for burning incense.