July 2, 2009

Reutte, Austria: Ehrenberg Castle Ruins Hike

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Jul 2, 2009 - Reutte, Austria

Ehrenberg Castle Ruins Hike

After breakfast at our quiet valley "Gasthof" (Pension Garni Waldrast) we ventured off on a hike up the trails behind the guest house that lead up to the Ehrenberg castle ruins. With Clif bars and water bottles stuffed into our camera bags we followed a stream up a parking lot in the valley that serves as the launching point for hikes up to the hills that hold the Ehrenberg castle ruins; passing some distracting tourist facilities and small museum - we skipped that and started up. The Ehrenberg castle ruins include several distinct fortifications with an interesting history. Our first destination was the closer and lower castle ruin on the "little hill" 1st built in the 13th century (~1296 AD). After 40 minutes of moderate hiking we were there. Walking among the ruins was neat, but taking in the views of the neighboring alps - in all directions - was awesome.
Ehrenberg Castle
Ehrenberg Castle Ruins - view from below

Pension Garni Waldrast
From what I read about the area, not a lot of Americans vacation in the Reutte area. Who do we run into? - a family from California, then a couple from New York and 2 more from Ohio. 

Nowhere else did we run into so many Americans - C'est la vie!

Ehrenberg Castle Ruins

From Ehrenberg castle ruins - a view of Reutte, Austria valley
From Ehrenberg castle ruins - a view of Reutte, Austria valley

Wild flowers and Austrian Alps (at Ehrenberg Castle)
Wild flowers and Austrian Alps

Ehrenberg Castle - looking down on lower ruins
Ehrenberg Castle - looking down on lower ruins
After taking in the lower Ehrenberg ruins, we felt adventurous enough to make the longer hike up to the Schloßkopf ruins looming over us (the original inhabitants of the castle built another one on higher ground when they lost the 1st in battle - then used the higher vantage point to take out the enemy and their original fortress).

This hike burned a few more calories than the hike up to Ehrenberg. We had to hike halfway back down before turning up and up and up to the higher set of ruins.

We were rewarded with more beautiful views. From Schloßkopf ruins, looking down on our guest house, the town of Reutte in the valley and other set of ruins was breathtaking. Alps covered with steep green pastures speckled with huts teased us across the valley. Others with ice filled ridges loomed in the distance.

From Schloßkopf ruins: View of Reutte, Austria
From Schloßkopf ruins: View of Reutte, Austria
As we wrapped up our exploration of the mountain top castle fortress ruins, storm clouds in the distance were no longer distant. The rain came. Fortunately some of the old castle's fortress withstood the test of time and we were able to seek refuge in a long tunnel with a couple from Canada. After nearly 30 minutes the rain turned into a misty drizzle. With cameras tucked away, we made a run for it. It was warm and the light rain felt good. Luckily the rain dissipated as we hiked down the side of the mountain.
Schloßkopf castle ruins
Schloßkopf castle ruins

After freshening up at the guest house, we hopped in the Mercedes A150 rental picked up bananas at the local market for some tired legs, explored more or Reutte, and used the GPS to venture toward Füssen, Germany for some turbo-sightseeing and dinner.

July 1, 2009

Travel Log: Trek across southern Germany (Baden-Württemberg to Bavaria to Reutte, Austria)

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July 1st. Time to check out of Pfeffer & Salz, say good bye to Gengenbach and the Black Forest. With luggage repacked, maps in hand, the GPS on hand, cliff bars and H2O to-go, we hit the road after filling up at the Frühstück buffet. Today's destination: Reutte, Austria.

First stop, Gengenbach!

Yes, we didn't even get out of town. I can't recall what pulled us into the heart of the village one more time, but it was buzzing with activity mid-morning on Wednesday. Turns out it was market day. In front of the courthouse, right where we found the band a few days ago, was a mobile marketplace. T & I have grown fond of local markets we stumble upon during our travels - they provide an insight into local life.

I parked the Mercedes A150, figured out the parking meter and we checked it out. This one did not disappoint. There was a little bit of everything, no more, no less. The meat van was there, the cheese wagon, several vendors selling locally grown berries & veggies. I picked up a small bottle of some local liquor (haven't tried it yet!) and some homemade Spätzle - those are my souvenirs. :) T grabbed some cherries, we both captured more photos of the cute little town... then we hit the road.

Free from the train tracks, we plotted a path that would [hopefully] take us through some scenic areas of the Black Forest and Bavaria. We first head south, through Hausach, past the Black Forest Museum (looked worthwhile from the parking lot; noted possibility for a future visit) and into the town of Triberg. Triberg is known for cuckoo clocks and has a waterfall which T wanted to see. We saw several signs for the waterfall, but couldn't find it. After cruising through town (twice), catching a glimpse of some huge cuckoo clocks, we bailed on that plan and headed east to Rottweil.

While weaving over secondary roads, through farm land and little villages, we made an impromptu stop at a berry stand in an area that was more-or-less suburbia of a small city - whose name escapes me, but the raspberries were delicious.

Geographic note: Most of our stops, including Gengenbach are located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, which has a lot of really nice areas. It doesn't seem to get the air time that Bavaria does, maybe it's because doesn't sound as cool.

The GPS lead us to the center of medieval Rottweil - oldest town in the area, and it looked like a good place for a quick lunch. I found a good parking spot, figured out another meter, fed it with an hour or so worth of euros and we ventured off to find some feed for ourselves. Around the 1st bend we found a wide road running up hill that comprised the real heart of the old part of town.

We hit the WC behind the TI (Tourist Information office, most towns have them - and there is usually a public WC nearby, good to know!).
We sat outside at a little cafe and enjoyed apple strudel a la mode and some over priced bottled mineral water for lunch! (what's with Europe and the bottled water? I thought the USA was O.C.D. w/ bottled water. Doesn't the tap water come from the mountain fed rivers too? This area is so much more eco-friendly than the USA, but not with the water bottles.) A lot of the buildings were decorated with elaborate murals and/or painted trim work. We saw this in several places. From a distance, the trim work appears to be ornate molding, but upon closer inspection, it's just paint. T was lured into a few shops while I snapped some more photos. (BTW, the rottweiler dog is named after the town. The town is over 2,000 years old, so I guess it was here before the dog).
Seeing storm clouds in the distance, knowing we still had a lot of ground to cover and figuring our time was about up on the meter, we head back down the hill and around the bend to the car ... only to find a parking ticket! The meter maid beat us by 10 minutes. Fortunately it was only €5. Unfortunately, the ticket was entirely in German (go figure). Deciphering this would have to wait until I had Internet access.

With this unexpected souvenir, we resumed our journey. First due south, then east. As we approached the town of Tuttlingen through the rain and traffic to our left we spotted elephants on the side of the road (yes - ELEPHANTS!). Apparently the circus was in town. This was definitely not on the agenda. We kept moving.

After a much needed quick pit stop at the Netto discount grocery store in Krauchenwies (and good place to pick up German chocolate!) and a few wrong turns through some very local neighborhoods (GPS isn't much good when a construction crew closes the road) we made a bee-line into Bavaria and hit the autobahn. That little A150 Mercedes was able to top out at 180 km/hr (112 mph).

We exit the Autobahn a few miles from the Austrian border and there on the right what do we see? Camels. (yes - CAMELS!). Apparently there is a camel farm where you can ride the camels up in the alps. Interesting idea. We pulled over to capture some photos (otherwise nobody would believe us!). In the distance I was noticing some big hills... the Austrian Alps - our destination - was in sight. We kept moving.

Today's drive was a lot of fun. We saw some rural and what I think/hope is traditional Germany countryside. Small towns, old towns, farm land, woodland, all very pretty. This last stretch was gorgeous. The road to Austria took us through a tunnel to get to the other side of one of the mountains. Here the misty rain we've been skirting for hours blew away and we were welcome to Austria with an arching vibrant rainbow. It's one of prettiest sights I've seen. Of course I pulled over so we could snap some photos. It's moments like I invested in a new Canon 40D SLR camera.

Twenty minutes later we were pulling into Reutte, Austria - and looking for a simple local spot to grab dinner. It was 8pm (dusk). We found the center of town easy enough, but no restaurants. Just hotels; we didn't really want to eat at a hotel. Just as we were about to surrender to one, we spotted a "pizzeria" in the neighboring village of Breitenwang. Without saying a word, we both took a U-turn to Cafe Alina (not as fancy as it appears on the web site). We had the non-smoking atrium room all to ourselves. We plowed through a German salat, pizzas and couple pints of Heferweisen then rushed in the waining moments of daylight to "Pension Garni Waldrast".

Our hostess, (Johanna?) checked us into room 5. The pension (or inn) was small, down-to-earth (~10 rooms), very quiet and just off the beaten path. With the last breaths of dusk hanging over the alps, we could see not 1, but 2 castle ruins high up on the hill tops immediately behind the inn. And that would be tomorrow's destination!

[View from our room]

Post trip update: Unable to figure out how to pay the parking ticket online, I scanned it and my friend/colleague Falco graciously took care of it. Apparently I am now in debt a round of Boston's own Sam Adam's on his next trip to NC.

Note: Click photos in blog entries for a enlarged view.

Travel Log: more Black Forest - more Gengenbach, Germany (June 2009)

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Tuesday June 30th was our last full day in the Black Forest region, needless to say we covered a lot of ground. After a long day in Strasbourg, France we slept in. The day started with a 10am call from Julia at Pfeffer & Salz to see if we were going to make it down for breakfast. Tee was embarrassed, while I was glad we were able to get some breakfast (more of the traditional cereal, yogurt, rolls, sliced pork products and cheese - the breakfast offering was the same everywhere we stayed).

After filling up, we headed out. Tee went into the village to check out all the shops, we agreed on 1:30 meeting point in town, I jumped on the 11:45 train to Offenburg to pick up a rental car. I arrived at 11:54. 
I had the address of the rental car company (SIXT), recalled it being a couple blocks west of the train station; fortunately there was a map of the town in the station, but I couldn't find the street. Not good. I made a game time decision to grab a taxi. I was growing concerned when 2 taxi drivers weren't sure where the location was either! Once they realized I was heading to a SIXT office, we were set. Good call on the taxi, the ride was 15 minutes. I would have never found it on foot.

Hopping in my new A150 Mercedes was liberating. I love train travel in Europe, but for the 1st time I was no longer bound to the tracks. I took advantage of this new found freedom. Having a GPS unit on board was vital to our success. Being ahead of schedule for a change, I decided to try to check out a castle I saw from the train. Not knowing the name or address of it, the GPS wasn't much help, but I could see it up in the hills from the distance. How hard could it be? I quickly found myself off the main road heading up the hills on a road that was devolving from pavement to gravel, from gravel to dirt. Nothing like putting the A150 to the test right out of the gate! I ended up zig-zagging through a vineyard overlooking the village of Ortenberg. I got close, but never reached the castle. The impromptu vineyard maze was fun. I eventually made it out - without doubling back.

With not a minute to spare, Tee & I reconnected precisely at 1:30 and found a very German lunch in a little courtyard adorned with a statue of children battling a witch (more sliced pork products and hefeweizen - we were getting very good at ordering hefeweizen).

Stocked up on a few supplies at a little local market (we enjoy checking out local markets on travels - gives us a momentary feel what it is like to live like a local). Headed back to hotel to switch gears - time for an authentic Black Forest hike or "wandering" as they seem to say in Germany.

The trail head was pathetically close to Pfeffer & Salz, but we took the A150 there because we could. We covered 7km in Naturpark Schwarzwald. The trail meandered through deep dark forest (the Black Forest gets it's name from this darkness), orchids, a deer farm, a little village named Santis Claus and lots of wild berries. We ate more than our share of raspberries (my favorite berry). The 1st section of the trail was, quite unexpectedly, riddled with random German art. Photos will have to explain. We crossed paths with several "walking clubs" and a couple mountain bikers. Did not see much wildlife, but Tee spotted some tiny toads (half inch), lots of colorful little flowers and a harmless snake.

Naturpark Schwarzwald - weird art in the black forest
We worked up an appetite, refreshed at the hotel, buzzed back down into the Gengenbach historic center and dined on beef filet, veggies, Pommes frites and Spätzle at Pfeffermühle as dusk turned to dark. This was arguably our best meal of the trip. The steak was awesome and we became fans of Spätzle - a German noodle, different than the Italian variety, but just as good. Maybe better. It didn't need sauce. Turned out Julia's parents, the Armbrusters, own this restaurant. BTW, Pommes frites = shoestring french fries; these were standard fare with every upscale dinner in Germany/Austria/Switzerland.

hefeweizen at PfeffermühleAfter another long day and wishing we had more time in Gengenbach and the Black Forest, we crashed hard. Our adventure continues the next day with a trek across southern Germany and into the Austrian Alps. Little did we know what we were in for...

hiking in Naturpark Schwarzwald (the Black Forest)

June 30, 2009

Travel Log: Strasbourg, France (June 2009)

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Our stop in the Black Forest village of Gengenbach was just an hour train ride from Strasbourg, France - I heard good things about Strasbourg and it looked intriguing based on the brief research I did before we hit the road. Having finally mastered a handful of German words and phrases, why not mix it up with a day in France? We caught a morning train on Monday (June 29) and were there by 11:00. The Strasbourg train station was unique, the entire outside facade of the old station was wrapped in a huge modern glass bubble (protecting it & travelers from the elements, I guess).

Speaking of the elements, based on the forecasts posted on weather.com before I left Raleigh, the outlook was perfect - highs in the 70s, low's in the 50s, a few clouds, very little rain. Hence, I packed accordingly. Checking again before I left Heidelberg, lots of rain was in the forecast. Well, weather.com was way off. We saw virtually no rain (yay!), but it was hot - flirting with 90° in the afternoons. No lodging on our trip had A/C (which seems common in this part of Europe) which made sleeping a little uncomfortable (no fans in rooms either) and there was a lot of hand washing of shorts & t-shirts in the shower - I could have packed less. C'est la vie!

So Strasbourg was sunny & hot. Exiting the train station, one of my first sights (after the obligatory McDonald's) was a dude walking a poodle. Affirmative - we are in France.

The entire core of the historic and touristy section is wrapped inside canals criss-crossed with bridges of varying age, all of which added to the charm. Of course I wanted to take a boat ride through the canals and we heading into the heart of the city looking for the boat docks. I usually have an excellent sense of direction, but apparently not in France. There were too many twists and turns in the old city streets and the canal itself, so the search for boats was trumped by the need for food - which we found in large open square, at a place that served up panni-like sandwiches and Ben & Jerry's!

Ahhh, a little cone of heaven in France. Recharged with food, T started getting the itch to check out the shops. We meandered into the large & majestic Strasbourg Cathedral (construction started in 1176, completed in 1439 - and remained at 142m high "the tallest edifice in Christendom" until the 19th century). Aside from stained glass windows leading up to the huge vaulted ceilings, the church contained a unique Astronomical Clock, built by the Swiss (who else?) around 1547. It stands about 2 stories high.

Like a medieval contraption out of Walt Disney's It's A Small World, at 12:30 each day apostle "action figures" pop out of clock and one by one rotate past Jesus. We were there around 2pm.

But we did find some awesome french desserts and the boats! This turned out to be the highlight of the day. For about 90 minutes we were taken through the canals and out to the new/modern European Union buildings. Strasbourg is the home of "The Council of Europe" which today includes the EU Parliament, International Institute for Human Rights, European Science Foundation, and more. We passed numerous neat old buildings, I'll let pictures do the talking.

Before wrapping up the day, T wanted to do a little more browsing in the shops then the plan was to grab dinner and an 8pm train. On any trip, something always goes wacky. Last year in Venice I briefly lost my wallet. This time the department store stop ran long, dinner at a cafe near the train station was cut short, the waitress didn't realize we had to leave by a certain time, the train ticket machine didn't take cash or my credit cards and then I was looking for track 29 with 2 minutes to spare - which didn't exist!

From a distance, we watched our train pull out of the station. Headed in to customer service to catch the next train (which was leaving in ~15 minutes). Line was long, by the time we figured out how to catch the next train, it was pulling out of the station without us! Fortunately there was another train around 9:30pm. We wisely invested the extra time in a round of beers by the canal (okay, 2 rounds). It was a long dark walk back up to our hotel in Gengenbach, but made it around 11pm. We crashed hard with the sounds of running water lulling us to sleep.

Needless to say, we slept in the next day.

Next up... exploring the Black Forest.

June 29, 2009

Travel Log: The Black Forest - Gengenbach, Germany (June 2009)

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Four trains out of Heidelberg, we arrived in the little Black Forest village of Gengenbach on Sunday (June 28) early afternoon. One train transfer totaled less than 4 minutes, we made it.
Nobody, including my German friends, seems to have ever heard of this town. Its located halfway between Baden-Baden and Frieberg, just 2 short train stops east of Offenberg; basically in the heart of the Black Forest region. We were shuttled 2km to the other side of the village to the
Pfeffer and Salz Eventhotel (Pepper & Salt Hotel) - our home for the next 3 nights. After staying in the tight old city streets of Heidelberg, finding Pfeffer and Salz flanked with a couple farmhouses, some open land and flock of sheep was refreshing.

Despite being a little tired, we felt we should check out the town and get our bearings for our stay. We were glad we did. A short 20 min walk downhill and through the old city walls led us into a very quaint and picturesque village. Cobble stone streets were edged with mountain water was flowing freely toward the river.

Cafes and small bier garten courtyards checkered the town. Four story buildings contained shops at street level and windows adorned with flower boxes above. In the open square in front of the Rathaus (city hall) a traditional band was beginning to play for the crowd. With gelato in hand, we ventured over to enjoy the band which was wrapping up a Wagner piece (I think that's what they announced based on deciphering a few words in the announcement), then to our surprise they began belting out Abba's "Dancing Queen", followed by "Mama Mia" and another Abba track.

They were pretty good and we enjoyed this random German treat. Later I learned that the band is traveling around and this was the 1st weekend they played in Gengenbach.
We circled rest of the town center, did some window shopping, saw a bunch of "cow art" on display (somehow the band was associated with this cow-art), strolled along the river, made sure we could find the train station on our own and headed back up to the hotel.
One pleasant surprise in Germany - at this time of year, the sun sets very late. Dusk kicks in around 10pm; so we enjoyed the extra daylight. We dined under the huge umbrellas on the Pfeffer and Salz patio. Julia, the owner, performed most of the tasks at the hotel (front desk person, concierge, hostest and waitress), fortunately she had a reasonable grasp of English. This comes in handy when things like the menu are all in German. I opted for the house special (Pfeffer and Salz rumpsteak), T gambled with a Greek salad - and lost (lesson learned). Unfortunately the hotel did not have an internet connection - so blog updates are far from real-time on this trip.
With a full agenda on the schedule for Monday, we crashed with the sound of running water outside our window.

Next up... a day trip to Strasbourg, France.

June 28, 2009

Travel Log: Heidelberg, Germany (June 2009)

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Just 4 weeks and 1 day after returning from the coastline and jungle of Belize, it was time to venture beyond the familiar confines of the USA again. This time the destination is Heidelberg, Germany for 2+ jam packed days with colleagues literately from all corners of the world (UK, Russia, India, Argentina, Portugal, Denmark, Austria, Romania and more). It was a fantastic opportunity similar to our international "summit" in Heidelberg in Sep 2006 and Milan, Italy in April 2008. Last time in Heidelberg I was only in town for 4 nights, this time I decided to make the most of it - and spent a lot of late nights in 4 short weeks preparing for the summit as well as mapping out an extra week of exploring southern Germany with T.

In Heidelberg, I stayed with most colleagues in the
Kulturbrauerei - a hotel in historic old town with a brewery - How cool is that? (would have been cooler if the rooms had a/c or at least a fan; several of us can attest that voices carry well between the walls of the narrow streets - particularly late at night; this hotel was good, but would be great in cooler weather).

After work wrapped up on Thursday I enjoyed a ~7 km run along the Neckar River, power nap, quick dinner and caught up with coworkers still in town for a half liter at "The Distille"; followed by an obligatory trip to The Cave. What happens in The Cave, stays in The Cave!

It took a little extra effort to get rolling Friday morning, but did - and connected with Steve from the Toronto office. We trekked up the Neckar River ~28km through a couple little towns, past some more castle ruins, through a corn field, ship yard en route to our destination - Hirschhorn. I must confess we had to push our bikes up a steep hill to reach the Hirschhorn castle. Wonderful view. We zipped back down the hill & caught a train to Heidelberg - we were feeling beat, plus there was a good chance Therece (aka "T") was going to be arriving on the 3pm train (she didn't arrive until 4:30 - and via bus, not train! - that's another story for her to share).

I shared the sights and tastes I've become familiar with in old town Heidelberg w/ T. Highlights included dinner (w/ Steve) Friday evening in the Rathaus (city hall) square, photo ops on the old bridge, a Sat morning rainy tour of the castle ruins (the French literately blew the defensive fortifications apart in March 1693, and burnt 99% of Heidelberg to the ground for good measure; lightening took care of the castle living quarters in 1764; after 400+ years of growth, it was never inhabited again),
window shopping along HauptStraße, a cruise on the Neckar in a solar powered boat (largest of it's kind) and a late dinner by the old bridge at "Goldener Hecht" with 2 jovial musicians entertaining the crowd while we washed down some bratwurst, potatoes & saurkraut with Heiferweisen ("hecht" is pike in German, I didn't see any pike on the menu!).

In all, we had a great time. Heidelberg is a beautiful historic town. As I learned through 2 visits and T in 2 days, it is a great place to get inducted into the German culture - while there is still ample English available to help you along.

After another traditional German Frühstück (breakfast) with breads and sliced meats at Kulturbrauerei Sunday morning, one last trip to the old bridge and stroll through the cobblestone streets, we caught a cab to the train station for our next stop... The Black Forest!

May 31, 2009

Travel Log: Belize Jungle - Cayo District/San Ignazio (May 2009)

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After spending 5 days in the the paradise of the Belize coastline, we took a 15 min flight back to the mainland and trekked into the rural Cayo District (via a rickety red mini van) just outside San Ignacio on the edge of the little village Cristo Rey [map]. On the way, our guide Eric Tut gave us a tour of the Belize Zoo - a small zoo packed with Belizean wildlife - some of which we would see more of. The highlights included a tapir and getting up close to a jaguar.

To reach Crystal Paradise (which would be home for the next 3 nights) we took the East/West "Highway" - one of 2 major roads in Belize. This "highway" is equivalent of an secondary state highway in need of attention. Given the potholes in the road, I found the speed bumps ironic. Little did we know this was, relatively speaking, a high quality road compared to the roads ahead of us.

Ambergris Caye was on the verge of third world living, a mix of local shacks and upscale beachfront homes (Jimmy Buffett owes a hideaway here). San Ignacio/Cristo Rey was definitely third world. No fine dining, no Burger King, no sports bars w/ HDTV, no TV at all, or AC - for the locals or us. Despite the lack of traditional comforts, we enjoyed the beautiful grounds of Crystal Paradise - full of huge coconut trees, cacti, cockspur trees, hibiscus, Heliconia Bihai (aka lobster claw), pineapple plants (doesn't resemble a pine or apple tree), posionwood (avoid the sap!) and others I've never seen before. Aside from some pines, the foliage doesn't resemble anything like those found in my mid-Atlantic states. This "resort" is run entirely by Victor and Teresa Tut, a local Belize couple, and their 10 children!

After a hearty dinner of chicken with rice and beans prepared by Carolita Tut (Eric's sister) and a round of Belikins, we all retired early (a common trend for the trip). Our rooms were equipped with authentic thatched roofs and screened windows that worked most of the time. Despite numerous warnings, mosquitoes were not a problem - my backyard is worse, as is the Belize rain forest area (which was confirmed by the legs of some other travelers that just left that area).

On Friday we took to the trees - zip-lining! In another first for us, we donned harnesses, were clipped to heavy cables and zipped through the canopy of the forest. It was a blast and went by fast. Even Tee's 4 yro nephew Blake enjoyed it (as any Batman fan would).

Following a picnic lunch and with Eric Tut leading the way and pointing out details we would have missed, including a tarantula and giant toad (I'd guess 2 lbs - and T spotted this creature 1st!), we hiked through the jungle with inner tubes for 45 minutes,
taking in the nature along the way. Our destination: the Caves Branch River. For the next couple hours we floated back down river - part of the time through a large cave.
"Cave Tubing" was a lot of fun.

Massive Cave

We saved a trip to Mayan ruins for our final full day in Belize. Everald Tut (Eric's oldest brother) ferried us in the questionable red mini-van over 2 hours worth of bumpy dirt roads through the scraggly Pine Mountain Ridge to the Caracol Archaeological Park

Dirt road leading to Caracol
To quote Everald, it is "the longest 37 mile ride you'll ever take", but it was worth it. The Caracol Mayan ruins sit just 3 miles from the Guatemalan border. For safety precautions, the last stretch of the trek was completed via a military lead convoy. Apparently Guatemalan bandits roam the area and rob tourists (the last incident was Feb 12th, and it was Everald's tour that was hit, lovely). This area is so remote, the ruins weren't [re]discovered until 1936 (it was abandoned by the Mayans in 1050 AD). 10 years ago the roads to the site weren't penetrable. A lot of excavation work has been complete, but a lot remains. Experts believe this could be one of the largest Mayan sites ever discovered and is home to the tallest man-made structure in Belize; the Caana temple stands 43.5 meters tall - higher than any modern building. Everald actually worked at the site for several years and was a terrific guide with lots of insights (and a few jokes). It was an amazing site.
Caracol Caana Temple
Caracol Caana Temple

Seeing and climbing over structures built 1 to 2 thousand years ago without modern technology and the back breaking labor that went into it boggles the mind.
cute baby howler monkey
The afternoon concluded with a late picnic packed by the Tut's and a visit with a cute baby howler monkey which fell from a tree and is now cared for by the rangers guarding Caracol.

We dipped into the natural Rio On pools to cool off on the route back to Crystal Paradise. We all slept well our final night in Belize.