Casa del Caballo Blanco
A shuttle van from our mountain resort outside San Ignacio picked us up at Belize airport for the three-hour drive to Casa del Caballo Blanco on the interestingly named Bullet Tree Road. We were to spend three nights with an overnight at Tikal in Guatemala. The bullet tree is indigenous to Belize, and reputedly is so hard it will deflect a bullet fired into it. It’s used in construction, posts, flooring and rafters, being very durable.
When we found the site on-line and emailed about reserving a room, we received a call from Petaluma, California. The owners live in Petaluma and made several trip, planning to retire there in a few years. They bought a rancho outside San Ignacio, cleared the land, and built an eco resort with a sanctuary for injured birds. They hired an architect who designed a modern and comfortable resort, with a small conference center and lovely dining room. We loved the classic features such as thatched roofs, hardwood floors and landscaped grounds with indigenous flowers and trees.
The dining room used to be the narthex of a Seventh Day Adventist church. The architect kept the open, high ceilings, and added wooden shutters to the windows. Every meal we ate in the dining room, the shutters were open wide, allowing natural light, a gentle breeze, and the sounds of birds, especially parrots, squawking in nearby trees. It felt like we were in a 19th century colonial villa.
Our hosts at Casa del Caballo Blanco
Over several phone calls, owner Jodi in Petaluma gave us information we needed to plan our visit, arrange the Tikal trip, and features of their resort. The director of the resort, Ricky, picked us up in a shuttle van at the Belize airport and drove us three hours over the Western Highway to San Ignacio on the Mopan River.
Over the next four days, we spend many hours with Ricky, driving around San Ignacio, walking around the 25 acre grounds, and at meals when he shared fascinating lore of Mayan culture and history. He is Mayan as is Grace, our chef. They were both proud of their culture and very friendly and helpful during our stay.
The owners wanted to preserve some of the natural attractions of their 23 acre site including groves of citrus, coconut, and palm trees. They hired crews to clear debris and to plant indigenous flowers and trees. They did a fabulous job, grooming mature trees to create a natural but well maintained grounds.
Foliage around Casa del Caballo Blanco
Cross border education
We observed an interesting situation when we were at the Guatemala border for our two-day trip to Tikal. It took about an hour to cross, fill out papers, turn in our passports, pay an exit fee, and meet out driver and others making the two-hour trek to Tikal.
During the process that morning, we saw many school children wearing uniforms with white shirts or blouses. They ranged from intermediate school to high school, and all were wearing back packs or carrying books, looking as normal as you’d expect on a school day.
But children were crossing the border in one direction only, from Guatemala to Belize. Hmmm, what did this mean? We asked our guide and he said that Guatemala schools don’t offer English language instruction. But Belize does. Guatemalan parents who want their children to learn English enroll them in Belizean schools. So children from rural Peten area cross the border every day, wearing badges around their necks to speed through the border crossing bureaucracy. Once they cross the border, they’re met by taxis, vans, or private cars which drive them to schools in San Ignacio or Benque Viejo the border town.
It was touching, seeing school children whose families were paying expenses for schooling in an another country. We were told that school tuition was not terribly expensive, but transportation is since children have to be picked up and dropped off every day at the border. What’s the price of an education? Better yet, what’s the value of an education? The benefits last a lifetime.
We saw Guatemala school children twice, crossing into Belize one morning, and returning to Guatemala homes the next afternoon. The Guatemalan children looked happy, smiling and chatting with friends, wearing attractive uniforms, swinging book bags like children you’d see in any country that values education.
Next: Cahal Pech, Mayan ruins in San Ignacio
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