Tucked away in an area of the reserve between the lodge and the ruins are the remains of an old sugar mill. This was constructed by British colonists in around 1860, and the surrounding land planted with sugar cane. It was steam operated and rather out of date even for that time, and was only operational for 15 years. It is puzzling that they didn’t build the mill nearer the water, as they had to make great efforts to transport the water needed for the processing of the sugar cane – you can still see the traces of an old cistern on the path to the mill, and the ruins of the pumping station near the visitor centre. The lack of water and difficulties in transporting it may have been one factor in the relatively short life of the facility. Another could have been its construction – heavy iron machinery rests on brick arches which may not have been able to support the weight when that machinery was in motion.
Whatever the reason for its rapid decline, the ruins now make for a rather atmospheric sight, especially when seen on a misty morning. Strangler figs and other greenery are gradually taking over the rusting flywheels, crushers, rollers and other mechanisms, slowly reclaiming this part of the forest as their own.
Directions Follow the path past the lodge’s restaurant towards the village, turn right at the sign for the ruins and left a little way beyond the ruined churches.
Two 16th century churches were built at Lamanai during the Spanish conquest of this region. The first was built around 1540, only to be burned to the ground during a Maya revolt. Raul told us that the Spanish had made the mistake of leaving a local Maya man in charge, believing him to have been converted to their faith, only for him to be swayed into revolt under pressure from his own people. A second church was built immediately next to it, in about 1610, but a widespread Maya revolt in 1638 drove the Spanish away and that church too was destroyed. Remains of Maya artefacts found here, including stelae, suggest that the local people were never fully converted and did their best to retain their own beliefs in the face of conquest.
The nearby village of Indian Church takes its name from its proximity to these two churches.
Directions Follow the path past the lodge’s restaurant towards the village, turn right at the sign for the ruins and look for the churches on your right after about 5 minutes’ walk.