BELIZE- January 2017
As I’ve said many times in our blog “books you read and people you meet”. Books are going around a second time, kindle and pick me ups! Meeting people is special and the best part of our travels, it never ever stops. Coban, Guatemala sees us writing this missive.
We’ve found the time to knuckle down. Do I feel a poem coming on? Good grief Ian get on with it. Discipline is the key! But…….. How do two 66 year old globe trotters find discipline. Answer……With difficulty.
We’ve found it so, here comes another episode on our fantastic, magical, fortunate journey.
By the way, our blog has had over 7000 reads. That in its self we find humbling.
Just finished Niall Williams. “History of the rain” second time around, (beautifully written, long listed for the Man Booker). Pen reading ‘The HIstory of 7 Killings”, a tough but excellent book about Jamaican history. Also listed for the Man Booker.
Anyways its winter here in Guatemala, but still the humidity presses down. Almost like swimming/duck diving and when reaching the surface, the atmosphere pushes you down again. Pens loves laundry, but drying our no mentionables and bigger thingies is a task to say the least. Even the furry animals run nose and tail down, maybe looking for food or more by atmospheric pressure?
By the way we are not travelling alone at the moment, Yasmin, a young Swiss woman joined us in Hopkins, (a drinking town with a fishing problem) Belice. In Kismet hotel/hostel. What a wonderful, crazy place. Thanks Tricia & Elvis and the Rastas.
Went something like this… either during the Garifuna drum night or after. Lots of Ganja aromas drifting the air that night so memory a little cloudy from second hand smoke!
Me….Where your headed!
Me….So are we! How you getting there?
Me…..We going that way , so jump on board if you want. She did and its been lovely travelling with her.
Wiggy has a dining table, and it quickly makes up a second bed.
Belize, formerly British Honduras until Independence in 1974, is a beautiful little country. Bordered by Mexico and Guatemala and its coastline is all Caribbean Sea, with a population of around 400,000 Afro, Cuban, Spanish, Creole and ex pat people, who take great pride in their little country.
Tourism is the mainstay of the Belize economy which continues to be plundered by a Lord Ashcroft (according to the local press). I couldn’t comment but Google him if you want more information.
From Corozal in the North until Belize City nothing much happens except for a couple of non descriptive towns and small sugar plantations that provide the crop for “Travellers” distillery to make Belizean Rum.
We had 2 nights in Belize City. Be very careful we were told. We were! Most tourists who come to Belize head for the Cayes, a beautiful set of Islands set amongst the coral reefs. San Pedro and Caulker Cayes are the attraction for many Belize travellers. We went out for a day trip to Tobacco Caye.
Southwards to the little town of Dangriga and a trip to the Tobacco Caye on the reef. Captain Doggy we were told was the best to take us out. He was very good although his seating on this old fishing boat would not have passed any safety requirement on this planet. A plank from gunwhale to gunwhale was where Pen and I sat, a French family of three sat just in front on a seat (somewhat garden type) not fixed to the floor which kept moving back on us as Captain Doggy steered his pride and joy through the 2 mtr swells.
All passengers on board hung on to anything that was a fixed part of the boat. The trip back to shore after snorkelling and bird watching (Boobies and Frigate birds), was far calmer. Captain Doggy took the return home via the reef fringe, and did a spot of fishing, while our French “Crew” did a bit more snorkelling. We think he uses his tourist boating to feed his family. Cap’n Doggy sure can fish! A big barracuda on a hand line, and other fish not sure what they were. But was a good fun if not a terrifying (at times) day. The ride back to Dangriga was beautifully calm.
We free camped right on the waters edge in Dangriga and 2nd night a whippet thin Belize man, Stephen , asked if we want coconuts. Sure we said and before we had time to get the camera he had climbed a coconut tree and cut a couple of for us and shimmied back down bearing the fruit with a toothless grin and macheted the tops of . Beautiful fresh coconut water. Turned out he was 64.
We stocked the freezer with some fresh fish from the market. Snook we were advised. A firm sweet white fish.
Then travelled south for about one hour to Belize Zoo. Its more of a sanctuary for orphaned and injured animals, but we had a fabulous few minutes watching a 6 month old female Jaguar (Chi Chi), taking raw chicken from her carer. She was found in the jungle, nearly dead, when she was 3 weeks old. Tapirs, Keel billed Toucans, Owls and Raptors. Free in the trees were Spider and Howler Monkeys.
Spent the next 2 nights camped alone, in the Catscomb Parque Nacional; Belizes’ Jaguar Sanctuary. Being nocturnal, we didn’t see any of these magnificent cats during day hikes, but we were told that they would have been watching us!
The heavens opened the day we left the Parque. Torrential rain and torrents crossing our path.
While in Mexico, we met a couple from Bakersfield, California. They were escaping a possible Trump for USA President, (now confirmed). San Ignacio, Belize, in the mountains, was where they were headed. We found them and camped out side of their rental property, while they searched for a place of their own. Lovely time with people who have become close friends. That includes the dogs.
The Mayan ruins at Xanantunitch were very close and very impressive, not quite on the scale of the Ruins at Pelanque in Mexico.
South again to Punta Gorda, along the Hummingbird Highway.
In all of Belize Punta Gorda or “PG” as everyone calls it, is the stand out place for us. People so friendly, the town easily walked, and few tourists.
Being the Southern most town in Belize, people there feel a sort of specialness about their little city, and are very inclusive.
First night we had trouble finding some where to camp, as there are no tourist amenities, and we asked for info at the Towns fire station. We were invited to camp right along side the station on a lovely grassed area. Later we found a fabulous little spot right on the towns edge and water side. Perfect, for 3 more nights!
As always people come up to us and start talking (Belize is English speaking), wanting to know about our travels. Children arrive, and want to have a look inside Wiggy and before you know 3 little kids are bouncing on your bed giggling their heads off and others are doing gymnastics from the front bumper, (fender).
One of our campsite visitors Filberto, told us about his village of Aguacarte and how they are providing a “Mayan” experience, complete with home stays, and Mayan food. So, we being the intrepid types decided to go. The village was fabulously set in an amphitheatre of dense jungle covered limestone hills. Homes were all dirt floored and grass covered. The charcoal fire cooked everything. Smokes escaped under the eaves. Our experience included Iguana stew with Iguana eggs for breakfast! Lots of tortillas.
We had 2 gruelling hikes during our stay, one to what the locals call a sink hole, (I would call it a cave.) Ancient Mayans performed rituals in this place many thousand of years ago, including sacrifices to their gods. There are still pieces of Mayan pottery to be seen. Really difficult to get into and out of!
Our guide told us about a lot of the natural plants they use for medicines and food, all from the bountiful jungle.
The 2nd gruelling hike was to a waterfall, 2.5 hrs. 2 guides came with us. One in front who at times had to machete his way through the jungle. One of the guides wives came too, and she walked the whole trek in thongs. She had great fun showing me her pristine little feet, while we were up to our knees in mud!
The Mayan village experience was truly fabulous. The road into and out of Aguacate was our worst ever. By far! We twisted the fridge and Ian swore lots.
Our baby Buddha was so shocked by the trip in and out of Aguacate that his head fell off! We have glued him back together, and he now has a lovely ribbon choker to hide the injury.
Our Belize visa was valid for 30 days, we still had 7 days left so decided we would go back to Hopkins on the coast, which is where we meet Yasmin. Free camped along side Driftwood Pizza, next to Kismet Inn, once again overlooking the Caribbean.
The night we arrived an open sided tent was erected outside the pizza joint on the beach, and Lo and behold, drummers and singers arrived for a great night of music. Pen finally listened from our bed, while Ian put on his Derby, and ‘maracced ‘ with the band. In payment for Ian using his maracas, the guy said, in a rich Caribbean accent. “rum and coke, man”. Ian shot off and got one for him, but couldn’t find him again, so decided to drink the one drink you don’t need! We are not sure what they felt about his involvement, but they are a kind people.
4 days left on visa so we head again for San Ignacio and once again camp at Bill & Laurie’s. When Ian was playing cards with them he had a vision of a woman sitting opposite him. He saw a ghost/spirit.
We had arranged to go horse riding while in San Ignatio, along the absolutely beautiful river. Ian’s first time on a horse. It moved as he tried to get on, and he fell off. Ian reckons the horse sensed his “seeing” and was left with under care. Pen, Yasmin, Bill and the Cowboy had a great ride around the farm. Laurie iced his leg, which had been trampled on, and no bones were broken, thank you universe.
1 day to go, we say our farewells and head 10 kms west to the Guatemalan Border.
3 of us in Wiggy, (Yasmin perched in the cab with us on cushions) roll up to the border. Immediately establishing that our Spanish is woeful, Yasmin saves the day by taking management of the situation, and bankrolling us with local quetzals to pay all the fees required. Nothing like having your own private Swiss bank account! Her Spanish is excellent, and it was a great help to have her with us. She is also calm and very tough with money vendors etc., so we were very impressed and thankful.
We cross into Guatemala.
A smidgen of info has led us to believe we may be able to drive through Costa Rica!