My birthdays have always been fun and I have celebrated them with the family at home, parties with close friends, social gatherings, bar hopping, a day at the beach, weekend-long events and trips to Chetumal and Cancun. But this year I did something totally out of the box (for me) and spent my birthday doing something I would have never planned for myself and had the MOST AMAZING time and one of the Best Birthdays Ever!
This year I went 25 miles into the Mountain Pine Ridge/Chiquibul Forest, pitched up a tent in front of a Maya Temple, scaled the highest man-made structure in Belize during the middle of the night, gazed at a star-filled night’s sky atop the Caana Temple, met some fantastic new people and made friends with some other terrific ones, was woken up by the howling of the mystic Howler Monkeys and participated in a Maya Fire Ceremony of thanksgiving and spirituality.
All of this took place during Maya Spring Equinox celebrations at Caracol, Belize’s premier Maya archaeological. It is one of Belize’s most impressive and largest archeological sites and I had the privilege of being part of such an amazing historical event that very few people were part of.
Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) was responsible of kicking off the 2012 equinox and solstice calendar in the country and welcomed about 60 participants in a special tour led by Dr. Jaime Awe, director of the Belize Institute of Archaeology and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Maya civilization. Meeting Mr. Awe and taking a special tour of the site which he has spent an enormous part of his career on was more than an honor for me. He was super insightful and funny; his tour was enlightening and entertaining. This man is an inspiration to many and Belize should be very proud of all the amazing discoveries and work he had done in the archeological field.
After the amazing tour and exquisite Maya buffet chock-full of pibil, chaya soup, tortillas, ducunu and tamales, I joined the excursion to scale the main Caana temple during the middle of the night. WOW! It was simply magical being the top of the tallest man-made structure in the country. It was a view of the star-filled sky like no other I have ever seen; there were a few minutes of silence where we all just simply took in nature in all its glory. I was so grateful to have been there for my birthday.
Camping in the middle of a plaza facing a Maya Temple at Caracol was also very surreal and feeling the majesty of it looking down at me in my little tent just below was very humbling. And the best part of it was being woken up by Howler monkeys at 3a.m. just in time for the Fire Ceremony. If you have not heard the call of the Howler Monkey then you are in for a treat, especially in the middle of the night, amidst the jungle and in pitch black conditions.
The traditional Maya Fire Ceremony conducted by a group of Maya Shamans was very spiritual as we all encircled the bonfire and channeled to the Maya Gods. We took in the burning incense and put a bit of our prayers and ourselves in offerings to the fire which burnt corn, Maya spices, sugar cane molasses, among other additives.
Waiting for the fire to burn out, our attention was directed to the sun which started to peek just behind one of the temples at Caracol. It was the first day of spring and the celebration of the Maya Spring Equinox was complete. The sun transformed the chilly morning into a glorious sunny and warm day; the best part of it all was that it was my birthday. :)
One thing is for sure, this is one birthday that I will never forget. I take with me memories for a lifetime and great friendships that I take dear to my heart. The once-in-a-lifetime experience of Maya 2012 and the thrill of partaking in something that is so momentous during our lifetime are beyond me. The timing of it all could not have been more perfect to coincide with my 35th birthday.
Ku’ Botick – “Maya for Thank You”
(I thank all the people at NICH and the Belize Tourism Board for making this all happen; inviting people from all over the world to partake in this magnificent event and putting together such a world-class event that will carry Belize further into preserving, educating and sharing its wondrous Maya culture with the world.)
Ascent to the top of Caana Temple, the highest man-made structure in Belize
Resting for a bit two thirds up the Caana Temple
With friends Kim and Antonio during night scaling of Caana Temple
Birthday 'Cheers' with a class of wine atop the temple
Enjoying some palm reading over a Caribbean Rum Drink with new friends
Traditional Maya Fire Ceremony
Dr. Jaime Awe takes in the first Spring sunrise atop the temple at Caracol
Dorian Nunez with Dr. Jaime Awe
Maya Glyphs at Caana Temple, Caracol