Monday, January 28, 2008

The Days are Packed

Caye Caulker -- "I think I'll look at the pelicans," Jerry announced this morning, as we discussed how we should spend our last day in Belize. By this time tomorrow, we will both be on airplanes: Jerry heading home to Boston, and me on my way to an author workshop in San Francisco.

After a month of climbing on Mayan ruins and exploring the caves and jungles of Cayo, "looking at the pelicans" is not exactly a climactic conclusion. But as I already mentioned, Caye Caulker is the kind of place where sitting on the dock and watching the birds is a perfectly legitimate activity.

We have already wiled away about two weeks doing I-don't-know-what. We have taken our cues from Calvin and Hobbes, who in the book The Days are Packed, spent their summer vacation daydreaming, philosophizing and watching the sunset.

Jerry and I spent a lot of time frolicking with the fish. Belize boasts the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere (second in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). So needless to say, the diving and snorkeling is phenomenal. Snorkel guides offer boat trips to various marine sanctuaries and different spots on the reef. Some sites are stunning for their amazing array of colorful coral formations; others attract nurse sharks, or sting rays, or angel fish.

I took four different trips, which means I snorkeled in eleven different sites along the reef (plus once or twice off the dock near our guesthouse). Every spot has its highlights, but my favorite was the Blue Hole, an ancient underwater cave that collapsed in on itself. As a dive site, it is famous for the stalactites and stalagmites that make it a geological wonder. It is 300 feet deep at its center, but it is surrounded by coral, which makes for fantastic snorkeling around the edge. This is a two-hour boat ride from Caye Caulker, so relatively few boats make it out here. The coral is pristine and vibrant, even compared with the reef closer to shore. The deeper water is home to huge grouper and other biggies that you don't normally see in the shallow parts of the reef. Meanwhile, parrotfish, angelfish and squirrelfish float freely, paying us no apparent heed. Huge schools of electric blue tangs invite us to follow their lead, grazing on one coral formation then another.

One of the appeals of this underwater world is its atmosphere of serenity. Ironic, when you consider that these fish spend most of their time and energy trying not to get eaten.

In addition to the ictheus, we also got to know a new sea mammal. We spent a morning at Swallow Caye, home to a population of West Indian manatees. These creatures embody the concept of "gentle giant". Weighing as much as 1600 pounds, they are vegetarians and they have no natural predators (at least in Belize, where hunting them is illegal).

You might wonder how much vegetation a huge creature like that has to eat to sustain himself. The answer is over 100 pounds a day! As such, he has to spend up to eight hours a day grazing on sea grass (thus earning him the nickname "sea cow").

"Basically, the philosophy of the manatee is Live and Let Live," explained our guide Harry, with obvious approval.

Besides living the Life Aquatic, we have explored this island from end to end, both by bike and by kayak. We have eaten at just about every restaurant (for better or for worse), sampled all kinds of ceviche and drunk our fair share of Belekin beers. We watched the sunrise from the beach and the sunset from the back dock.

And now we are out of time. I better get out there and look at the pelicans.

Signing off from Belize. Check back in a week or so, when I will log on from Venice, Italy.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tales from a Small Island

Caye Caulker - Ever since I first came to Caye Caulker as a poor student in 1993, it has held a special place in my heart - a place where the only street signs read "Go Slow" and enjoying the breeze off the ocean seems to be an activity in and of itself.

Jerry and I came back three years ago and I wrote an article for the Boston Globe about this sweet retreat - a perfect place to escape to. This year, I strategically planned our trip so that we would finish up with more than a week to chill out in paradise.

Caye Caulker is one of the friendliest places in the world. You can't walk down the street without hearing a smattering of "good mornings" or "good nights" or the occasional "hey baby".

The other day, I was wandering around the beach, studying my map and trying to find a guesthouse or a restaurant or some such place. (In reality, that is how I spend much of my time -- not swimming, sunning, snorkeling or having fun, but rather looking at maps, inspecting hotel rooms, requesting price lists, etc etc).

Some local guy was hanging by his boat with his buddies and he gave me a "yoo hoo". "I'd like to be your friend," he invited.

I gave him a wave and kept walking. "I'm already your friend, " I said.

After a few more calls, he finally persuaded me to come over and "shake his hand". He introduced himself as "I&I", which was also the name painted on his sailboat, which is also - I was reminded - the tri-level reggae bar in town, fully equipped with hammocks and swings.

"I was in the Boston Globe once," he informed me when I told him where I'm from. "There was a picture of my boat on the front page! I have it at home."

Suddenly I remembered a photo that Jerry had taken when we were here last. It was an old beached boat, looking a little worse for wear. A bottle of Belekin beer had been placed on the bow, probably by some passer-by. Appropriate, as "Reggae Bar" was painted on the side of the boat. We did not pay too much attention at the time, but the boat undoubtedly read "I&I Reggae Bar" -- and that photo was selected to accompany my story in the Globe. And here was I&I himself.

I was about to introduce myself as the author and photographer, when I&I turned to his buddies. "Some guy is walking down the beach and takes a picture of my boat. They put this picture in the newspaper and it says it's an abandoned boat turned into a reggae bar. The guy probably never even came to the real bar!"

In fairness to me, I did not write the caption for that photo. And in fact, Jerry and I did have a drink or two at the I&I. Nonetheless...

"Still, that's good publicity for you, right?" I asked hopefully.

"Sure, now there are loads of people wandering around the beach looking for a bar on an abandoned boat."

A few days later, I got up the guts to reveal my identity. I went looking for I&I and I found him overseeing a paint job on his sailboat. I told him that I was responsible for the story and the photo (but not the caption). "I wasn't mad!" he insisted.

So tonight we are meeting for a drink at the real I&I Reggae Bar. All's well that end's well.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bird Blog

Caye Caulker, Belize - I'm pretty sure that it was my last trip to Belize - in 2005 - that turned me on to the delights of the bird world. That was definitely the first time I heard the term "bird nerd", although I didn't actually apply it to myself until I went to Costa Rica the following year. Full disclosure: I have since been birding in Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago and Cape Cod; I confess to having conversations about my "Top Five Birds".

On this trip to Belize, I have not taken any guided bird walks, which is regrettable: bird guides usually have a keen eye for spotting creatures and a good one can identify the species after the quickest glimpse. We have not done too badly on our own, though. Here are some of my feathered friends that I managed to catch on film:

Linneated woodpecker. I've always had a thing for red heads. This guy was flirting with me at Poustinia Earth Art Park for several minutes before he finally let me get close enough for a photo.

Chacalacas. This pair of these funny birds was living in a tree, just outside the window at our lodge in Cayo. They are named for their song (if you can call it that), which they like to sing as the evening sky grows dark. "Cha-ca-la-ca-la-ca!" Charming though it is, this is not a particularly well-known bird. So you can imagine my surprise when my friend A. recently wrote to me "Give my regards to the chacalacas!" (Somehow, we bird people find each other.)

Blue-crowned mot-mot. This is an old friend of mine from Costa Rica, spectacularly beautiful and not too shy. He stopped by to eat some papaya that they had set out at the lodge.

Roseate Spoonbills. Sittin' in a Tree. N-E-S-T-I-N-G. You know how this story ends. We could see the chicks too, but it was hard to get a good, clear photo as they were hiding amidst the branches. The fuzzy, blackish birds in the background are the young reddish egrets, who were nesting in the same place. Disclaimer: I did not find the roseate spoonbill nesting place on my own! It's a tiny island somewhere west of Ambergris Caye, which we did a quick drive-by on a snorkeling trip.

White morph of the reddish egret. Not the snow egret. It's the reddish egret, just sometimes they come out white. Honestly, I'm not sure how you tell the difference: the color of the legs or the color of the beak or something. The white morphs do not seem to be ostracized, as they were all nesting in the same place. Sorry if you recognize this photo from an earlier blog. But she is so picture-perfect, I couldn't resist posting it again.

Osprey in her nest atop a telephone pole. She clearly did not like us riding our bikes in circles around her pole, as she was making quite a racket. We actually saw two more osprey when we were out kayaking yesterday and they were such posers! Unfortunately, no camera in the kayak, which is probably why they were posing.

Tri-colored heron. Out on our bikes one afternoon, we discovered that the airstrip at the southern end of Caye Caulker is a fantastic place for birding. In addition to the tri-color, we also spotted the great and little blue herons, the yellow-crowned night heron and the green heron, not to mention a killdeer and common black hawk.

Black-neck stilt. These guys were also hanging out in the wetlands along the side of the airstrip. We didn't know what they were, but they were easy to identify thanks to their extremely long, extremely skinny, extremely pink legs. When these birds take off, those pinkies stream behind them like an airplane banner. I'm not sure what the one in front is doing - looks like an arabesque.

Oh wait, that's not a bird

Red-footed boobie bird. Apparently these birds are rare, but you would never know it when you go to Half Moon Caye, a small island southeast of Caye Caulker. Again, I can't take credit for finding the nesting grounds of the red-footed boobie, as we stopped here on a snorkel trip. The place was just swarming with them.

Magnificent frigate bird. These guys are flying all over this island, but they don't often sit still long enough for a photograph. We have been entertaining ourselves by observing them fish. One bird catches something and three others try to steal it right out of his mouth. No catch is safe until it's in the stomach.

Brown pelican. Again, there is no shortage of pelicans in these parts, but how nice of this one to join us to watch the sunset!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

La Isla Bonita

San Pedro, Belize - If you didn't know already, you will learn within five minutes of arriving on Ambergris Caye that this is the tropical island paradise that Madonna sang about in her 1987 hit "La Isla Bonita".

Incidentally, that song contains one of my favorite cases of misheard song lyrics. My old friend (and one of my best food buddies) used to insist the words were "Last night I dreamt of some bagels..."

Love of bagels aside, we all know the real words are "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro." This little town is the only population center on Ambergris Caye, the largest of the Northern Cayes off the coast of Belize. It's almost 30 miles long, but only five miles wide at its widest point, and the entire northern end is a nature preserve. Besides being featured in Madonna's song, the island was also the setting for an early season of Temptation Island, possibly the worst reality television show ever. Still, that's a lot of good publicity for a little island.

To say that San Pedro is "bustling" is putting it kindly. More accurately, it is just plain loud. The main roads (all three of them) were paved within the last few years, and now golf carts and taxi vans whiz through the streets like the Grand Prix. There is construction everywhere - hotels, houses, condos - as everyone wants a piece of paradise.

We spent one night in town, but we couldn't take it. We had to retreat to fancier digs on a quiet beach south of town. Somehow, once we had a private dock to swim from, a hammock to swing in and a balcony to watch the sunrise, life on the Caye seemed much sweeter. Funny how one's perspective changes when there is free rum punch involved.

Despite our initial misgivings, Ambergris was a pretty sweet retreat, especially the near-deserted northern end of the island. Bacalar Chico is the national park and marine preserve that occupies this end. We motored through the Bacalar Canal, the narrow channel that separates Ambergris Caye from the Yucutan Peninsula. It was the Mayans who carved this channel out of the mangroves, so they could shorten the distance of their trading routes. Amazingly, thousands of years later, this channel - not more than 20 feet wide - is the reason Ambergris Caye belongs to Belize instead of Mexico.

We visited Cayo Iguanu, informally known as "Bird Island" as it is the nesting grounds for the roseate spoonbill, the reddish egret and the white morph egret. We snorkeled amidst the most colorful coral I have ever seen. Besides the myriad fish, we spotted a massively huge manatee (who weighs up to two tons, my guide informed me).

And truth be told, we sampled sweet red snapper, limey lobster ceviche, spicy chili-seared tilapia, succulent grilled shrimp... it was - undoubtedly - the most delectable dining in all of Belize. Even I had to admit that progress has an upside.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

At the Zoo

Belize City - Even in Belize, you never know if you will actually see wildlife and birds in the jungle. But you are guaranteed to see it at the Belize Zoo.

The zoo has an unusual history. In the 1980s, Belize was the setting for a wildlife documentary called Path of the Raingods. By the time filming had ended, many of the animals had been partially tamed and could not safely be released in the wild. Biologist Sharon Matola - who oversaw the care of the animals during the filming - decided to give them a home.

So the Belize Zoo was founded. In addition to the original movie stars, all of the resident animals were either born here or rescued from captivity, or they were orphaned or injured in the wild. As such, they all are indigenous to Belize.

The highlights were definitely the Big Cats: a couple of jaguars (including the black jaguar - check out his spots!), as well as an ocelot, jagarundi, margay and puma (not pictured).

The very rare harpy eagle turned out to be quite a show-off.

A flirtatious emerald toucanet came over to have his picture taken.

Speaking of flirtatious, Jerry got a kiss from Scotty the Baird's tapir on our way out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In the Land of the Maya

Cayo District, Belize - "You see one Mayan site, you've seen them all." That was the pronouncement of the young woman I met at our hotel when I asked about her trip.

In the course of the past week, I have visited four different Mayan sites in the Cayo district (not counting ATM) -- and I have proof that she is wrong.


One of the highlights of Xunitunich is the hand-crank ferry that you have to ride across the Mopan River. From here, it is a one-mile hike up-hill through the jungle -- a wonderful place for bird sightings. The site itself is small compared to Tikal, for example, but still impressive -- especially for the tall pyramid known as Il Castillo. At the top of the tall tower, two sides are engraved with incredible friezes. Disclaimer: what you see is actually a replica, with the original re-buried about a meter underneath to better preserve it.

El Pilar

I was wondering around the tiny town of Bullet Tree Falls (in the rain), trying to figure out how to reach this out-of-the-way site. As if on cue, a friendly local boy rode up on his bike and offered to show me around town. Turns out, he is a guide (no wonder he is so friendly) and he is about to take a group to El Pilar that afternoon. Sometimes the world is so long. So I joined guides Teddy and Tony and their entourage. We drove about seven miles through the rain on a bumpy, unpaved road to reach this little-known site. Because I was the late-comer, I had to ride in the back of the jeep, but at least I was not driving (this time -- more on that later).

El Pilar is named for the reservoir that the Mayans had built on either end of their settlement. It is an unusual site in that it is largely unexcavated, meaning you find yourself walking around on jungle-covered mounds. You really have to use your imagination, but it also adds to the mystery of this amazing civilization.

One interesting note: much of this site has actually already been excavated. But the archaeologists got the information they could, then covered it back up - the better to preserve the remaining buildings.

Cahal Pech

This small site is right outside San Ignacio, a 20-minute walk from the center of town. Nonetheless, it is often overlooked for its small size. On Jerry's first day, he spent about two hours wandering around this place by himself and did not see another soul.

But what is really distinctinve about Cahal Pech is that it is the oldest Mayan site in the Cayo district. Most of the sites date to the Classic Mayan period, which is from AD 200 to AD 600. But archaeologists have determined that Cahal Pech was inhabited as early as 1000 BC, which is known as the Pre-Classic period.

The difference in design is really noticeable, even to an untrained eye such as my own. The other sites are characterized by vast open plazas with grand temples at either end. The settlement at Cahal Pech still had plazas, but they were enclosed, with only one tall temple at the center of the complex. And while the carvings of the Jaguar god were still present, they were much more rudimentary.


Getting to Caracol involved three hours of driving on very bumpy roads. And this time, I was the driver. Not only that, I had to drive fast to keep up with my convoy.

Tourists are not allowed to drive to Caracol by themselves. In recent years, tourists and guides on their way to Caracol have been robbed by armed bandits, especially in the very remote Pine Mountain Ridge. So the solution - which seems to be working - is to have everybody check in at points along the way. Then at the entrance to the most remote part of Pine Mountain Ridge, everybody meets for a convoy that is set to depart at a certain time - accompanied by armed park rangers.

Most of the other vehicles in the convoy were groups of tourists driven by guides who do this route several times a week. I think they must be used to the bumps, because they had no intention of slowing down for them! So my little Suzuki did have a tough time keeping up with them. That said, where one of the buses got stuck in the mud, the Suzuki ploughed right through with no hesitation.

Caracol is the largest and most impressive site in Western Belize, filled with amazing friezes and engravings and hidden tombs. The centerpiece is the tall temple known as Canaa. At 141 feet, it is still the tallest building in Belize -- thousands of years after it was constructed! Anyone who climbs the super steep stairs to the top is rewarded with amazing views into Guatemala. We were also rewarded with a glimpse of two collared aricaris.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rave in the Cave

Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize - The moment of truth had arrived. "Are you a good swimmer?" asked the guide Juan Carlos. My husband Jerry shook his head, and Juan Carlos looked at him reprovingly.

"I can swim okay," Jerry corrected himself.

Juan Carlos motioned into the irridescent green water of the Roaring River, inviting him to prove it. So Jerry plunged in, his red helmet bobbing in the water as he swam toward the dark mouth of the cave. I adjusted my helmet and followed him, dog-paddling the short distance so my headlamp would not submerge. We climbed out onto a rock just inside the mouth of the cave and awaited the others in our group.

"Okay sperlunkers," Juan Carlos beamed at us, "stay to the left and follow me!" With that, we all switched on our headlamps and slipped back into the chilly water - now waste-deep on the opposite side of the rock - hugging the wall as we made our way into the depths of the cave.

If it sounds like something out of Indiana Jones, it was. Juan Carlos would lead us almost a mile into the cave of Actun Tunichil Meknal, in the Cayo district of Belize, in search of Mayan artefacts that had been left there over a thousand years ago.

We waded through the cave, carefully feeling with our feet for jagged edges and underwater rocks. We squeezed through narrow passes and climbed over rocky crags. "Big drop off coming up!" Juan Carlos would call out, as he was suddenly submerged up to his neck. "All sharp rocks on the left!" he warned, pointo the barely submerged jagged rocks.

The messages were passed back from one person to another, just like the game "Telephone" we used to play when we were kids. "By the time it reached the back, we heard `Al Sharpton rocks'" quipped Jerry. "We knew Juan Carlos had strong feelings about the upcoming election, but we didn't expect that."

Surrounded by darkness, everything seemed close and cozy, as we were limited to the scope of the weak beams of our headlamps. But when Juan Carlos shined his powerful light on our surroundings, suddenly the space opened up. It was vast, hanging with magnificantly abstract stalactite and stalagmite formations. The guide informed us that the Mayans came into the cave because they thought it was closer to the gods of the underworld - which was easy to understand.

After more than an hour of wading and climbing, we gathered on a dry ledge, where we were instructed to take off our wet boots - as welcome direction, as they were filled with pebbles at this point. The rest of the tour would be in socks.

Again, we followed Juan Carlos, shimmying between two rocks and climbing up to another ledge to enter a great, cavernous chamber. Our guide lined us up like ducks in a row: "You will walk where I walk and stand where I tell you to stand. I'm not trying to be bossy, but there are artefacts all over this place and you don't want to be stepping on them." Suddenly he shone his light on the ground, where a broken pot lay at our feet. "These pots would have been used for food offerings," he explained, shining his light on several other nearly intact examples around the chamber. "Almost all of the artefacts found here date to the Classic period, which is between AD 200 and AD 600."

After that initial introduction, each new chamber was more amazing than the last. We discovered the "monkey pot" with a small engraving of the symbol of Tikal. Archaeologists guessed that the pot was a part of tribute paid by that city when it was defeated in battle. Another room contained the "oya altar", or altar of pots, containing vessels that had been used for food offerings and blood letting rituals.

That's right, blood letting rituals. Scholars believe that the Mayan rulers would slit their tongue and the tip of their penis, then mix the blood with incense and burn it as an offering to the gods. Yikes.

After sperlunking through the cave and discovering thousand-year-old artefacts, it was hard to imagine what might come next. But Juan Carlos had saved the best for last. "Okay guys," he announced, "now it's time for the human remains." With a climax like that, you would think the Mayans planned their rituals with the tourist in mind.

We filed him single file to a corner of the chamber and gathered in a circle. When the guide turned on his light, it illuminated a 1500-year-old skull. Other bones lay scattered in the area. They belonged, Juan Carlos informed us, to a 40-year-old male. They don't know how he was killed, as the bones have never been removed from the site. He may have been a prisoner of war or he may have been groomed for the honor; but he almost certainly was a victim of human sacrifice.

That was just the first of many skeletons we would come across in ATM, which contains the remains of fourteen individuals - all of whom were sacrificial offerings. Apparently, six of those were infants under the age of three, and another one was a child of seven years. None of them were buried, but rather left for the gods.

"Imagine this room lit with torches," Juan Carlos said, shining his light on the stalactites and stalagmites which cast eerie shadows on the walls. "Imagine the air is filled with the reverberations of chants and music. Now imagine that you are high on drugs." He had earlier informed us that the morning glories growing wild along the side of the path were hallucenogenic. "No wonder the Mayans believed that they were communicating with gods in this mystical place." And no wonder they did some wacky things.

For our final foray, Juan Carlos shone his light on the ledge far above. "That's where we are going next," he announced, which elicited a few gasps. As we made our way to the corner, we discovered a ladder. No, not a Mayan ladder, but a rickety metal extension ladder that was wedged in at the bottom and loosely tied at the top. It shook and rattled as each member of our group climbed the 20 feet to the top and cautiously stepped onto the rocky ledge. Then we crammed in between two huge boulders to peer into the small chamber behind.

There - encrusted in calcium carbonate - was the complete skeleton of a young woman. She is known as the Crystal Princess because she sparkles in the beam of the light. And she lies just as she was laid to rest over a thousand years ago.

We eventually made our way out of the cave, retracing our steps and swimming back across the river. We bypassed the sacrificial rites this time around. And the only bloodletting was performed by a guy who scraped his knee on a rock. Let's not take this adventure thing too far, right?

I brought a disposable waterproof camera, which obviously was not digital. So I have to wait until I get home to see my photos. In the meantime, these photos were generously provided by Pacz Tours.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Big City

San Ignacio, Belize - Burns Ave is Main Street San Ignacio, site of such travelers' institutions as Eva's Restaurant and Hannah's. The former is the place to meet up with other travelers and get the lowdown on expat gossip. The latter is the place for Hannah's spicy ginger rum shrimp and a cold Belikin beer.

Burns Ave is lined with tour operators and souvenir shops, testament to the fact that San Ignacio is an excellent base from which to make excursions into the Cayo District -- as I have been doing for the past few days.

Cayo is kind of the Wild West of Belize. Covered with jungle, woven through with rivers and dotted with Mayan ruins, it is a no-brainer for hikers, canoers, birders, archaeologists, sperlunkers and other explorers. At the end of the day, many of them make their way back to San Ignacio to rest up for tomorrow's adventure.

But San Ignacio is not one of these towns that exist only for the tourists. It has a very positive local vibe, with a bustling market and a steady influx of immigrants. Residents are mestizos, Mayan and Garifuna, as well as a bunch of free-spirited expatriots from Europe and North America. They are easygoing and outgoing.

Sure, they might try to make a buck off you. But there is no hard sell. And they are just as likely to engage you in a discussion about an upcoming election, the spiritual benefits of practicing Buddhism or the best way to catch minnows for fishing bat -- all conversations I had yesterday.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Jungle Art

Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize - Many travelers traipse through this tiny town on the Guatemalan border, 62 miles from the Mayan ruins at Tikal and 83 miles from the capital at Belize City. But few travelers stop here; and even fewer turn off the main road onto the innocuous dirt track heading north out of town. Which makes it the perfect place for the Poustinia Land Art Park, a secret sculpture garden. A maze of trails winds through the lush rainforest, which is studded with sculptures both fanciful and frightening.

Okay, so it's not exactly a secret (after all, it is in the Lonely Planet). But no agency offers tours and no shuttle bus runs to this site. In fact, when I visited today, I had the entire 60 acres to myself, except for the caretaker and his two dogs.

Most of the artwork incorporates the nature around it -- or maybe it has been incorporated by the nature around it. Ferns and vines sprout from the otherwise industrial pieces, which are allowed to fade and corrode as nature takes its course. Wind, rain, sun, plants, bugs, birds... they are all part of the art.

I spent several hours wandering around the grounds -- so long that the caretaker came to find me to make sure I was not lost (which I was not -- don't worry, Mom). Here are some of the highlights:

This is the "Guardian" who stands sentinel at unexpected locations around the grounds. It's definitely unnerving to see him out of the corner of your eye, especially when you think you are alone!

An untitled work by Belizean artist Michael Gordon. This is one of my favorites:

Here is a detail of the side of the car:

This one was not labeled, but it is a palm tree made out of old tires, reclaimed by the real palm trees.

Another one that was not labeled. A replica of a Mayan sculpture, reflected in the pond. The site is actually dotted with unexcavated Mayan mounds, as you will see later.

This spider is by Don Small, an artist from Barbados. What you can't see is the web, made from galvanized wire, strung between the trees.

By the way, the tarantula I saw at Tikal was not quite this big.

No Sacar, No Muerte. This one is called Rocky's Tomb. It is actually an old Mayan tomb that was long ago scavenged by tomb raiders. The artist closed up the tomb with limestone from around the area and built this sculpture to protect it.

Norwegian artist Kjetil Berge collected bottles and other colorful debris from dump sites and then used it to build "The Tower" in a clearing in the jungle.