Published: March 11th 2008March 11th 2008
Sometimes its not so easy coming up with a "top 5" of all the things that I´ve done in my travels over the last few years. A lot of things have been cool, but for something to be rated as truly in the top 5 means that it needs to have been in a special class of its own. Shortly before I left London to start my travels, my mate Paul who´d been in Belize a few months earlier recommended that I get on the Ragamuffin 3 day/2 night island- hopping tour
on a sail boat, cruising around Belize´s many uninhabited white sand islands, stopping off to snorkel at various places along the longest reef in the Western hemisphere, to eat lot of yum seafood (including some caught from the boat) and to spend the evenings camped out on tiny white sand bits of paradise.
The first night we camped on an uninhabited white sand island called Rendezvous Caye
, so small you could have run from one end to the other in about 10 seconds, apart from the fact that you´re in Belize so why rush, and instead just walk from one end to the other in
The view from just outside my tent taken just after I got up. Quite a nice sight to wake up to...
under a minute. (Belizeans take things pretty easy, in fact the motto of the island Caye Caulker that I spent a few nights on is "Go Slow"). The island had 15 or 20 palm trees on it, plus a palapa had been built there too (a palapa is a thatched roof structure but doesn´t have any walls, just the roof and posts holding it up). The second night we were on a slightly bigger island called Tobacco Caye
with some really cool snorkelling just off the beach (think coral gardens, lots of colourful fish, the odd stingray, barracuda, etc). The island had a few places for people to rent accom and a couple of bars as well, but was still pretty small. By the end of the trip, I was pretty much convinced that the last 3 days would definitely warrant a nomination if I ever had to come up with list of the top 5 things I´ve done in all my time travelling
Tho I did some even cooler snorkelling earlier on as part of a daytrip from Caye Caulker, where we snorkelled with sea turtles, nurse sharks and stingrays in a part of the reef
known as "Shark Ray Alley" due to the high number of sharks and rays that hang around that area. Shark Ray Alley is in Hol Chan Marine reserve
, which has been a reserve for over 25 years now and as a result the animals in it are basically like domestic pets - at one point our snorkelling guide took some food into the water and the fish were pushing each other out the way to eat it out of his hands, until a big ole stingray swam up and pushed them all out of the way and ate from his hand like a well-trained puppy.
Caye Caulker was a lot of fun, its a real budget traveller place with lots of good cheap food about, esp. fresh seafood, and had a few fun nights there. The 3 day boat trip started in Caye Caulker and dropped quite a bit further south in a place called Placencia, which had an lovely beach and was nice for relaxing, but was pretty quiet and not uber exciting and seemed to be full of ageing american couples celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary or something.
After Placencia, me and 3 others
Drinking Coconuts on Hopkins Beach
It's a rum and coke in the other hand
from my boat trip decided to head a little north to a place called Hopkins, which is a classic off-the-beaten-track Belize small town, with not many tourists at all and lots of friendly smiling local folk. A highlight was bumping into some fisherman coming ashore, buying some fish off them and then taking it to a restaurant to have it cooked in Belizian spices. It was superb, and had me curious for their curry recipes :-) Drumming (Africam style) is pretty popular in Hopkins too, and after me and the others had had a sufficient amount of rum we went down to the main bar in town and joined the drumming circle they have every night, and I even had a turn for a while bashing a couple of turtle shells with some drumsticks for a while, I was a little worried that they might be from the endangered sea turtle, but was told that they were from non-endangered fresh water turtles from upstream in the rivers. (When I was researching my trip last year, I stumbled across this YouTube video
that some other travellers made about Hopkins, as far as travel YouTube videos go its one of
And the Winner is...
Although I saw many dreadlocks in Belize, this guy gets the award for having the most
the best I´ve seen).
People in Belize are different in many respects from the rest of central america. Whereas the rest of Central America speaks Spanish (or indigenous languages) and descended from hispanics (or indigenous people), in Belize they speak english and are mainly black (mainly descended from slaves that the english brought over to work on plantations) - and they even have the Queen of england on all their banknotes! In many respects, Belize is like one of the many former english colonies on Carribbean islands, its just that it happens to be on mainland Central America instead. Its cuisine is very Carribbean, and there are more dreadlocks about than you can shake a red, green and yellow beanie at. They listen to Bob Marley a lot, and like to say things like "Respect, Mon" and "Respect, brother". One enthusiastic dreadlocked dude in Hopkins who was stoned off his tits told me that all Belizians and New Zealanders were brothers because we both have the Queen of england. "Take it Easy, Mon", is another popular saying, and could probably swing it as Belize´s national motto.
Hopkins was my last real stop in Belize, although I then re-entered
Strangely enough I wasn´t allowed to take my pistol into the Guatemalan immigration office when I got my passport stamped
Guatemala on the tiny Carribbean coastline that it has (Guatemala mainly has Pacific coast) in the only town in Guatemala with an english name, Livingston. Livingston might be in Guatemala, but its actually very much like Belize, with most of the population being of African descent, english being spoken everywhere and a similar preponderance of dreadlocks and green, red and yellow beanies, and Bob Marley playing in quite a few of the bars and restaurants. People say "Respect, Mon" a fair bit in Livingston too! I had a pretty cool time in Livinston, tho didn´t do much of note. Met quite a big crew of people on the ferry from Belize to Livingston so there was just lots of faffing about, and eating and drinking.
That's about all for now. As per usual I´m a bit behind on my blog but at least this entry does take me through till the end of February. March has been a pretty cool month too, but more about that next time!
Hope all is well wherever you are.
There are more photos below