Published: June 24th 2010May 3rd 2010
The tally so far...
we´ve changed beds 32 times
bed bugs: once (read down)
long haul bus trips: 16
Not many photos for this episode due to some punk stealing our camera....
Finally we reach Belize... ahhhh the Caribbean. Caught a shitty minibus from Chetumal, on the Mexican border. Nice and cramped with no air-con.. lovely. I got the usual greeting of a mosquito bite as I was waiting in the queue at the border, definitely getting over being a blood donor for the little vampires. We discovered that we could actually read the signs at the border and were greeted in english by the officials...hurrah a break from Espanol! We boarded our minibus for another 3 joyous hours sitting in our own sweat. Our first glimpse of Belize was of myriad decrepit houses. Old wooden things on stilts, all on a lean and that hadn't been painted in 20 years and had definitely seen better days. They all had hurricane shutters too and we passed many hurricane shelters. All of the people we saw looked run down and poor, sitting out front of their houses watching the day go by and wearing as little as possible
to combat the oppressive heat.
We finally started getting glimpses of the turquoise ocean as we headed into Belize city. Our bus pulled up outside the water taxi building and we were greeted by a Caribbean man with long dreadlocks saying 'Welcome to Belize man!'....cooool. We sorted out our water taxi ticket and boarded the boat for our destination, Caye Caulker, a 45 minute ride over perfect aquamarine waters. We made a quick stop to drop off somebody at a caye near ours, it was a swanky golf resort obviously for people with a bit of coin. After that, we pulled into the jetty at Caye Caulker and left our baggage at the water taxi office so we could go looking for somewhere to stay. As we walked off the jetty, we met a rastafarian named Gilbert.. or Gil for short he told us. He was so super cool, we fell for his offer to show us a good place to stay. So we headed off down the white sand beach, with our very own rasta. He took us to some cabins that were on stilts overlooking the beach.. it looked perfect... Ignacios Cabins. The cabin was very basic,
a wooden shack with gabs in the boards.. but it had a bed and a bathroom and a deck with a hammock, plus they had a cat called Jinx, so it looked just fine to us. We moved our stuff in and found problems straight away, the power point must have caught fire some time in the past as it was black and melted. But we were ready to go check out the island so we locked up and headed straight out.
We found an interesting bar to have lunch, they had tables facing the water but instead of seats there were swings to sit on.. cool! Most bars it seems give out free rum punch with meals, so we made the most of that and then tried the other local cocktail.. called a Panty Ripper..hahah.. but quite nice, made of rum and pineapple juice and some other stuff I can't remember.. and for about $2.50 you can't really go wrong right? So after several rum punches and many more panty rippers, we headed off to explore some more of the island. We got to the end of the caye and found what we were looking for.. a bar
called the Lazy Lizard. Picture this.. a painted wooden shack with the slogan 'The Lazy Lizard, a sunny place for shady people' on the side... the view to the right is of the endless turquoise ocean with a jetty to swim off and some picnic tables straight in the water to sit at.. straight ahead is a channel that cuts the north and south island (created by a hurricane back in the 50's) with people swimming around and snorkelling checking out the bright fish at the jetty... to the left is more perfect ocean with the sunset on the horizon.. in front of the bar, a fancy yacht is moored.. at the bar are lots of travellers and big rastafarian guys and the bar is playing reggae and the drinks are cheap... ahhhh lovely.
So of course we made friends within the first few minutes and drank on until we got hungry. We all then headed off in search of food, which is difficult when there are so many choices! The restaurants cook their seafood on bbq's outside, so that customers can choose their fresh fish which is kept on ice next to the bbq...all fish caught that day
and cooked in front of you. We found a place called Jeremiah's and all sat down for a fabulous meal for a fraction of the price it would cost at home and that also included free dessert and...more rum punch. We finished our night at another bar down the beach when I realised if we didn't leave soon, Aaron would be carrying me home. We were both so tired we crashed out with the lights on. In the middle of the night we woke up and discovered to our horror that there were weird little beetles on us. In our drunken haze, we brushed them off and went back to sleep. In the morning as Aaron got out of bed, I noticed red welts on his back and stopped him to have a better look.. then found lines of massive welts up my forearms and it took us a second to realise we got bedbugs!!!! Ew.. gross!!! We looked at the bed and could actually see the black beetles on the white sheets..including spots of blood where they had bitten us. We went straight to the weird dude that owned the place (who looked like a very sweaty and washed
out version of Geoffrey Rush). So the guy had a little tanty and goes on about how the previous people should have told him the room was infested and blah blah blah. We didn't really care about his bullshit and just wanted to get our money back. Lucky for him, he gave it to us without question. We both showered and rubbed ourselves raw then had to check our bags to make sure we had no hitchhikers. Feeling dirty and soiled, we quickly got the hell out of there and went in search of breakfast to decide what to do next.
Since my bites were on my forearms, it was probably a funny sight to see me try to drink my breakfast coffee without lifting my arms up. We quickly finished breakfast and hiked on down the road in the searing heat, in search of a new place to stay. We quickly found a good prospect and haggled with the owner for a decent price. Moved into our new digs then set off around the corner to hire a bicycle. Caye Caulker is really quite small, you can ride a bike around the complete perimeter in just an hour.
The caye used to be much bigger, until the hurricane cut it in two. Caye Caulker is now the cheap side and the larger part of the island is full of expensive resorts. The only traffic on the island is foot, bicycle, motorbike and golf cart. So with supplies in the basket on my bike, we set off to find somewhere private to swim where nobody could see the still angry red marks on us. The other end of the island was quite quiet, with quite a few rich looking (but empty) houses. The coastline was mostly mangroves and bamboo. We saw lots of the islands other residents, iguanas, along the way. The locals call them the ‘bamboo chicken’, because they live in the bamboo and taste like chicken.. yummo. We found a perfect looking spot right down the end of the island, nobody in sight and nothing but a beautiful yacht and open water on the horizon. We jumped in and the water was like a warm bath. As soon as we got out though, we were ambushed by mosquitoes. I looked down to find my arms and legs with rows of mozzies on them, so we put pedal
to the metal and got the hell out of there. Sunset then found us back at the Lazy Lizard for our second, perfect Caribbean sunset.
Next morning we met the other residents at our hotel, two skinny cats. They were friendly little buggers, but riddled with fleas and too cute to resist. They joined us at the picnic table for our cheap breakfast. We still had nasty marks all on us so we headed down our private jetty, to hopefully get some sunbaking in before somebody else from the hotel joined us. Each hotel had it’s own jetty out into the water, as there is a lot of sea grass on shore. At the end of each jetty was a clear circle of water, where the owners pluck out the seagrass so it’s nice to swim there. We went snorkeling over the seagrass and found several stingrays, some huge starfish and some big crabs and loads of beautiful, colourful fish. The Lazy Lizard was calling after that, so we headed back, faithful customers that we were, to have a few beers and then go snorkelling over the shallow sand bars. The fish there were gorgeous, so many colours, shapes
and sizes. Aaron made a new rasta friend that day, just a random guy who introduced himself and welcomed us to Belize while we were walking past on the street. Then every time we walked past him again while we were there, he gave a big wave and hello. When we rode past on our bikes he gave high fives. Such cool people!
Next day we headed out to sea on a sailboat to do some snorkelling. First we headed to the coral gardens, to admire the amazing formations and weird corals and beautiful fish. Next stop, Shark & Ray Alley.. so named due to the large amounts of sharks and rays there. As soon as the boat anchored, 20 or so nurse sharks swarmed the boat looking to be fed. They know that when a boat anchors there is food to be had, so they get there fast! We jumped in the water with Kevin our guide and swam off for a little tour. He found his favourite stingray and just swam down and picked it straight up, it didn't seem to mind at all and lay there in the water for us to admire and touch. The
nurse sharks were swimming close underneath us, completely uninterested in our presence. Kevin found various corals and fish and taught us all about them. We even saw a big barracuda getting it's teeth cleaned by a team of smaller fish, very cool. We all made our way back to the boat and headed off to Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Kevin took us on a snorkeling tour again and we swam over white sand, reef, seagrass and a channel that went out to sea that was about 10 metres deep, with water so clear you could easily see the bottom. Kev took us to meet another one of his friends, a green moray eel he liked to call Frankie. Frankie seemed a bit pissed off so we kept our distance! We swam over to the seagrass, where the water was only a metre deep, to see the sea turtles (have a look at the video attached to the blog). Just past the turtles we were lucky enough to see a huge parrot fish. He was a beautiful iridescent green colour and I reckon about 60cm long, just cruising along, grazing in the seagrass.. amazing. We drunk rum punch all the way
back to Caye Caulker on our sailboat… ahhh, this is the life.
With much sorrow, we finally had to leave the Caye to continue our journey. One more thing to do before we cross the border into Guatemala though… cave tubing! We got picked up and headed towards Belmopan province, to the Caves Branch River. On the way out there, our guide told us some interesting things about Belize. He said that Belize is actually a bit below sea level, so the Belizeans believe that they die twice… first you die and then you drown in your grave! They also bury their dead 3 feet under and with 3 feet of concrete on top, so nobody else is buried on top of them. Anyway, the caves at Cave Branch River used to be used by the Mayan people for sacrifice, mostly of babies and young women… lovely. We got to the entrance of the cave and Aaron did his ritual jump off the high rocks to get in the water. The water was gorgeous, a deep turquoise colour, just perfect. We sat in our tubes with our guide in front facing us, Aaron put his feet over my shoulders
and the guide hung onto my tube and off we went, into the black mouth of the cave. We all had lights on our heads, but they were so small they couldn’t illuminate the massive cave the ceilings were so high. There were amazing limestone formations as far as the eye could see. The water got quite shallow so our guide walked through most of it, pulling our tubes behind him. We rounded one corner to see the amazing sight of a cenote (sink hole), where the limestone cave had collapsed up on ground level. It was an beautiful sight to behold, and our camera chose that moment to run out of batteries so we have no photo. The light from the jungle shone through the hole and all around the hole were limestone pillars, reaching up to the roof, all of this was surrounded by green trees that had managed to grow since the sun shone into the hole. The whole left hand side of the cave here was a low waterfall… only about a metre high, but absolutely beautiful. The waterfall made such a lovely noise in the quiet cave and the swallows that flew in and out
just added to the effect. We weren’t in the cave for very long, only about half hour all up. The end of the cave was beautiful, a big wide open cave mouth with a view out to the aqua blue river and green jungle.
That’s about it for Belize.. we headed off to the Guatemalan border after that and had a shit time trying to get through when we realized we needed 18US each to pay departure tax and we had no cash on us and they wouldn’t accept card. Aaron had to catch a cab back into town with our last 10 Belizean dollars to get money out and then when we finally got over the border all cranky and over it, a Guatemalan taxi driver tried to rip us off and we ended up waiting 3 hours for a bus... grrrrr
There are more photos below