This story is excerpted from my forthcoming book: Tequila and Chocolate, Far Travels of the Morning Star, Memoirs of this World and the Other.
It was at the end of July, 2004 when I flew into Belize. The airport reminded me of Cancun circa 1987. It was a breath of fresh air compared to many other tourist destination airports. Belize is a land of jaguars, iguanas, parrots, butterflies, hummingbirds, an abundance of medicinal plants and the endangered Morelet’s Crocodile (water dragon). This is a sacred land of mountains and jungles, waterfalls, caves and lagoons, and literally thousands of Maya sites, with more being discovered every year. It is the Caribbean at its best, no wonder the buccaneers of the past fell in love with it—English being the official language.
I have been blessed to have journeyed to many distant lands before the advent of eco-tourism and New Agers. When there is an increase in tourism, restrictions are put into place on sacred sites and the ability to conduct spiritual practice is limited and the silence of the land disappears. I felt that Belize had not been discovered and was still “virgin land.”
I also chose Belize for another reason. As the Morning Star this was a most auspicious time to visit Belize. We were entering an eight-year period beginning with the passage of Venus, or transit, across the sun on June the 8th, when Venus goes from evening star to morning star. Venus will be as the morning star when we are in Belize. This is the last Venus cycle of the Fifth Sun, which was birthed by Venus on August 12, 3114 BCE. It ends on the winter solstice, December 21, 2012 CE. According to prophecies 2012 on is the difficult time of labor foreshadowing earth changes that ushers in the birth of the enlightened age of the Sixth Sun. During this transition time, the Maya World Tree, Ceiba, will shake but not fall. The shaking symbolizes earth quakes and earth changes.
My first night’s lodging was the distant Lamanai Outpost Lodge next to Maya ruins. Lamanai comes from the Yucatec Maya word Lam’an’ain, which means, “submerged crocodile,” and was located on the New River Lagoon. A natural name as the New River Lagoon is full of crocodiles.
Since access to the lodge and the ruins was by boat up the New River from Orange Walk town, the lodge provided transfer from and to Belize International Airport—a combination road and river trip.
The wild and isolated New River is the main waterway and access route to the Outpost and Maya ruins. Stepping aboard the small boat, I felt totally alive. Many people holiday in the safety of known civilized vacation spots, never traveling to places off the beaten path. On the contrary, it is only in the uncivilized lands when we are surrounded by nature that allows us to feel the essence of life—to know the meaning of life and “who we are.”
Our jungle boat sped past lush vegetation that was growing right up to the sun-drenched waters, as we headed south to the New River Lagoon. The sights and sounds made me feel as if I had been thrust into an Indian Jones movie. I marveled at my surroundings. I didn’t spy any Jaguars hidden amongst the thick tangle of riverside jungle only iguanas and egrets—but also – no crocodiles. Within an hour and a half we reached the dock of the Outpost which left no doubt in my mind that this could be a scene out of any jungle themed movie set.
As I walked from the dock to the lodge, I could feel the power of the land and the lagoon. It was like I had been transported to a different world. A dangerous one as the power and beauty of the land hid the danger concealed within the jungle. Two dangers were the Fer de Lance and Maya Coral Snake. These are just two of the nine deadly serpents in Belize. Of the nine, the coral snake’s neurotoxic venom is the most dangerous. Beneficial though, the coral snake is not aggressive. If you are aware where you are stepping, there is no problem. However, if I did come across a colorful serpent, a local taught me the rhyme to determine the deadly coral from a harmless king snake: Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow; Red Touch Black – Venom Lack or Yellow Touches Red – Soon You’ll Be Dead; Red Touches Black – Friend of Jack.
I soon realized that the Outpost’s reputation as one of Belize’s finest jungle lodges seemed to be true. The open-air reception desk was an invitation to settle in and become one with my surroundings. This was surely not your typical sterile hotel setting for puppet corporate executives but one better fitted for a person with an adventurous spirit. This sense of adventure was only heightened by the jungle surrounding the lodge and the Maya ruins. The jungle was comprised of giant Guanacaste, Ceiba and Breadnut trees, Allspice, Strangler Figs and Belize’s national flower, the Black Orchid.
Since it was late afternoon, I decided to rest, get a decent night’s sleep before visiting the ruins on the morn. Over a cold Belizean beer, Belikin, I struck up a conversion with another lodger, a British woman traveling alone who was the executive secretary to the head of a worldwide management consulting company. After a few minutes of the usual polite “chit chat,” she began to open up to me concerning her suppressed feelings about her boss. Undoubtedly his work and home life was so much easier because of her diligence in handling his financial and personal affairs. In a world guided by the light of compassion and equality, we would anticipate respect and kindness in return for her unwavering efforts. But in our present world governed by the greedy egotistical darkness of Capitalism….
After a few minutes, she finally poured out her true feelings to me. I was a stranger, but a safe one, reflecting a feeling within her heart that I would listen to her unconditionally while making no judgments or assumptions about her. Always guarded in her work-life and presenting an image—a false face—that was expected of her, she truly had no one to talk to about her resentments, angers and frustrations. The following are a few of her comments paraphrased:
“I know everything about my boss—his financial affairs, even his dosage of blood pressure medication, but do you suppose that he knows anything about me… no…. He’s rude to me… even one time he told me that I wasn’t being paid to think….”
How sad, but on the other hand, how angering that one human being, so giving and loyal, would be treated as such by another human being. And to make matters even more out of balance and worse, her boss is the CEO of a company that helps other companies manage their people—the greatest and most precious resource that any company can have are its people; not just the elites at the top of the pile, but every employee is equal and worthwhile and deserves respect and a caring attitude—except in today’s world. Capitalism is a scourge on the earth. It will be viewed as the darkest of the dark paradigms that have ever occurred on this earth.
After another beer, I retired to my room with the promise of a peaceful and sound night’s sleep. I was staying in a Lagoon View Cabaña. It was a fully screened, thatch roof cabin, built with hardwood and mahogany. It was well ventilated and fitted with a high output ceiling fan. The jungle came right up to my cabin giving me the feeling of hidden denizens and concealing what little light there was cast by the cloud-covered moon. It was a little scary but then again exciting.
My sleep was deep and sound until… If I had been dreaming the cry would have been disturbing enough but it wasn’t a dream. My eyes shot open as the howl echoed through the darkened encased jungle and it sounded as if it was right under my window. Then silence—an eerie feeling of anticipation. Could it have been a jaguar seeking prey? I grabbed my flashlight and cautiously while looking out the window, I scanned the nearby jungle foliage as I wasn’t about to open the door and explore outside.
Once again the howl shattered the silence of the night; the sound seemed to be not coming from the ground but up within the branches of the trees. As I raised my light towards the source of the howl, I was greeted with—nothing just jungle foliage. Silence once again reigned supreme as I headed back to bed wondering what had just happened.
As first light broke through the dark of the night, the willowy mist swirled and rose off of the jungle edged lagoon and through the jungle canopy beginning a new day of adventure. Mystified about the howl I headed to breakfast before going to the ruins of Lamanai. Curiosity got the best of me and I asked one of the staff if there were jaguars prowling around. He shook his head no while smiling and said, “The howl you heard last night was our local residents—black howler monkeys.”
After breakfast on my walk to the ruins I did indeed spot the monkeys “hanging out” in the trees. It is amazing what our minds will conjure up in the dark of night. Entering the sacred site of Lamanai enlivens your imagination while thrusting you back into an era of Maya glory. The awesomeness of the site belays that there are still hundreds of unexcavated ruins lying hidden within the nearby jungle. Three of the most impressive excavated temples are the Jaguar Temple, the Mask Temple, and the High Temple.
Before entering I prayed, asked permission to enter the sacred site and poured a little Belizean rum on the ground as a gifting to the hidden ones and the ancestors. I explored the various temple areas such as the magnificent High Temple, the Rain God Temple, with steps so steep that a rope was laid down to help the climbers. But I must say the view from the top was awesome. Next I visited the Mask Temple and then the ball court where in the day the winners of the game would end up being sacrificial food for the gods. But of the entire sacred site, I spent most of my time at the Jaguar Temple as the “big cat” and I have a very special relationship.
The next day dawned beautiful with no rain in sight. In fact, I was told that even though it was the rainy season little rain had fallen throughout Belize. I wondered if anyone had attempted to pray or sing for rain. I was departing after breakfast back to the airport to pick up a rental car. There wasn’t enough time to return to the High Temple to pray and sing; but I thought I would do that at my next sacred stop— Xunantunich.
My next lodging destination was The Lodge at Chaa Creek outside of rustic San Ignacio, the cultural-economic hub of Cayo District. After an interesting drive through the Belizean countryside, I arrived at Chaa Cheek. It soon became apparent to me that the Lamanai Outpost was definitely heads and tails better than Chaa Creek. In fact, right then and there, I made a decision that our group would not stay at Chaa Cheek during our October journey.
One of the reasons I had chosen Chaa Creek was its proximity to the sacred site Xunantunich, a Classic Period ceremonial center. In Maya Xunantunich means “Maiden of the Rock” or “Stone Woman” and is derived from a local legend referring to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site. Beginning in 1892 this ghostly maiden was seen dressed completely in white with red glowing eyes.
Xunantunich consists of six major plazas, surrounded by more than twenty- five temples and palaces. The most prominent structure located at the south end of the site is the pyramid “El -Castillo” (The Castle) which is 130 feet high above the plaza. It consists of two temples. The lower temple is famous for its large stucco frieze—a mask possibly representing the sun god. Next to this mask, there is a moon sign with sigils representing Venus.
Xunantunich lied across the green crystalline waters of the Mopan River. The only means to cross the river was by a quaint hand-cranked ferry. As I drove onto the ferry, which is a little misleading as it has space for only one car, I once again felt trust back in time. In short order, I was driving off the ferry on the other side as it was only about fifty feet across the river.
The guide books and archeologist will tell you that the ruins of Xunantunich, although a major ceremonial site, were not as important as Caracol or Tikal. On the contrary, as soon as I approached the first ruin and the entrance I felt the power of Xunantunich. After prayers and gifting, I asked permission of the ancestors and hidden ones to enter the sacred site. Since it was morning with few people around, I was able to explore and feel the essence of the land and the memories encoded within the stones of the temples without the constant chatter of tourists. Stones are memory keepers and will reveal their knowledge when your mind is silent and your heart is pure.
When I felt the time was right, I sat on the steps of “El -Castillo” and prayed and sang for rain. As I was singing with my eyes closed I knew someone was walking down the pyramid steps passing near me. As I finished my song and blessing, I opened my eyes and saw the back of a tattooed guy and his, I would suppose, girlfriend walking away from the pyramid. They were the ones that passed by me and I wondered what they must have been thinking about me.
Intuitively, I knew it was time to depart. As I left the sacredness, I gave blessings and thanks and said “I’ll be back.” Before leaving I entered one of the small gift shops by the parking lot. While looking around at the various items, I struck up a conversation with the Belizean native in charge of the shop. I mentioned that Xunantunich has great power more than most people realized. He smiled and agreed saying that one of his friends had used a “forked stick” (dowsing) to find energy lines (lay lines) within the ruins. When finished his friend had discovered that major energy lines (also known as dragon lines) within the earth meet here at this site. This meant that Xunantunich was an electro-magnetic energy vortex. A vortex is formed where lay lines connect. The result is an increase in the electro-magnetic energy produced and released. This energy acts as an amplifier and will heighten and magnify our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual essence such as prayer and song.
As I was walking to my car after thanking my new friend, I gazed at the sky—still blue and cloudless. Instead of returning to the lodge, I decided to venture into San Ignacio as it was market day. The market a feast of colors for the eyes and senses—yellow and red apples, corn’s green husks, hanging bunches of golden bananas, colorful shoulder bags and the smells of local street food. As I wandered through the market, I found some great honey to purchase; and then I felt it coming.
As I looked off into the distance, dark clouds were forming! Loving rain and storms as I do, I wanted to reach my room before the storm hit, kick back and sip a Belikin and enjoy the storm. But as life sometimes happens, I didn’t make it in time. As I walked to my room soaked, drenched is a better word; it was definitely a downpour, the storm and rains came 2 hours after leaving Xunantunich. Standing outside my room I poured some Belikin on the ground while blessing and thanking the sky and spirits for watering a thirsty earth and for responding to my prayers and song.
Even though we were not taking our group into Guatemala in October, I had never been there myself. And let us not forget, it is the location of world famous Tikal. Since the border with Guatemala was not far from Chaa Creek, I decided to visit Tikal. It lies relatively close to the border in the El Petén District of Guatemala.
Crossing the border was not a problem; I didn’t even get searched. But as soon as I entered Guatemala, I felt, sensed and could visually notice how different it was from Belize. The feeling was difficult to put into words; the best might be dark and depressing. The energy of the land changed as soon as I passed over the border.
Tikal (“City of Echoes”) was at one time the sprawling capital of one of the greatest empires of the ancient Maya. Supposedly, its peak population was 90,000 and flourished during the Maya Classic period of 200 to 900 AD. However, the birth of Tikal happened around 600BCE.
The dark and depressed feeling that I had when I crossed the border was still there when I reached Tikal. Stones hold memories; so I thought, “What memories were the stones of Tikal holding?” Exploring this “city of voices,” I didn’t feel the power I had experienced at Xunantunich. Maybe at one time, but I could only think, “What happened to the power of this site and the land?”
As I explored the site I struck up a conversation with a local who just happened to be a Maya healer. I expressed my feelings and he agreed. He continued on by explaining what happened that led to the downfall and abandonment of Tikal. The seeds of the collapse were rooted in a problem that we face today in the 21st Century—deforestation.
Tikal’s downfall was the clear-cutting of the forests that had once surrounded it. The purpose of the destruction of trees was not limited to providing agricultural land; the primary reason was to provide fuel to feed the limestone ovens of Tikal. The limestone was then utilized in pathways and the outer coverings of the temples. As Tikal was a Theocracy, the priestly class demanded beautiful temples to honor their deities—trees to placate religion. This was vividly portrayed in Mel Gibson’s movie Apocalypto.
In today’s world the elites and their ‘temples’ of capitalism are no different. They encourage the removal of what happens to be the “lungs” of our planet—the Amazonian rainforest. This time around, due to the destruction of the rainforest, forest and woodlands and other vile desecrations of resources and species, we are on the verge of a macro-collapse of the whole civilized world instead of the micro-destruction illustrated by Tikal’s downfall.
Leaving Chaa creek I drove to the Caribbean coast to relax and write for a few days before I returned to Seattle. I was sad to leave but missed my wife and adult children. As is said, the flight back was “interesting.” The Dallas/Fort Worth airport was closed due to storm cells moving through the area. As a result we circled Dallas for about 2 hours until fuel was low and then we were diverted to Houston to refuel.
As we were sitting on the ground in Houston, we couldn’t get off being an international flight; I realized it would be a nightmare for Sher and Jess, driving into Seattle at midnight and me being still in Dallas. A person in the row in front of me had a cell phone and I asked him if I could use it and I would pay him for the use. He replied, “Don’t worry.” I called Sher and got her voice mail and explained my situation. Later I found out that she did get the message before going to the airport. And most thankfully, she was able to book me on a flight out the next morning. I was probably one of hundreds who had missed their connections. Fortunately, Sher got the final seat and final flight out of Dallas to SeaTac. Everything worked out perfectly due to the kindness of the guy with his cell phone.
But my tale doesn’t end here. We had flown out of Belize at 3:45 PM or 4:45PM Dallas time; it was 1AM when we finely cleared customs in Dallas. Since no flights had landed or left Dallas since the late afternoon, the airport was a zoo. As I was walking through the crowds of people trying to find a comfortable place to rest out the remainder of the night, walking towards me was the cell phone guy and his girlfriend, who said they were headed back to San Francisco. I thanked him again. Then with a strange look in his eyes, he said “Didn’t we see you sitting on the pyramid steps at Xunantunich?” It was the couple who had walked by me as I finished my prayers and song for rain! Life is magical.