Published: December 2nd 2010December 2nd 2010
Sandra doing her best Bear Grylls impersonation.
Guest written by Sandra Muller. Edited (heavily) by Damon Dimitrijevic.
So Damon is a little behind with his blog writing and has asked that I step in to help out. As I’m writing, I don’t know how much of this will ever be published, as I’ve been given some pretty hefty parameters on what I can and can’t say! Apparently censorship is alive and well.
So onto Belize, our second Central American country and a chance to have a reprieve from speaking Spanish and eating tacos for a while. We got off to a great start with a particularly hideous border crossing situation. To say it was slightly stressful/absurd would be a massive understatement. Damon did a superb job of keeping his cool for about 5 seconds, which as you could probably guess, did not assist us greatly in the situation(EDITOR´S NÓTE: Damon got us through the border without needing to pay are a hefty bribe) . The absurdity of the situation was exacerbated by the presence of 5 members of the Canadian Armish community, who being unable to fly, were making a 7 day trek by bus from Toronto to Belize. After assisting them with various questions about
Big Rig, Ben, Liz, Bear Grylls
Australia and its wildlife (no, pretty sure we don’t have any species called red tail sloths native to Australia. Please correct me if I’m wrong)
Somehow we managed to get through without getting shot and without having to pay the ‘unofficial’ $20 fee and on we travelled to Belize City. Belize City doesn’t hold much appeal for tourists and one reason for this is that it has one of the highest crime rates in Central America (EDITOR´S FACT: Crime rate of a country at Civil War). We didn’t feel the need to stick around for longer than 30 minutes, plus we were meeting Ben and Lizzie in Belmopan to embark on a 2 night jungle kayak and trek.
Despite threats of Hurricane Richard heading in our direction, we packed up our luxury goods, put on our best hiking gear (note to self: Country Road does not constitute as suitable hiking gear… maybe try Kathmandu next time) and met with Marcos, our Jungle guide for the adventure. Marcos assured us that he would be in contact the whole time with his son for hurricane updates and we would be safe, so we set off in kayaks through one
of the longest cave systems in the world. Marcos has at times trained the British army in Belize, so if you’re going to be in the jungle with anyone, it would be him for sure.
The caves were amazing. Pitch black, plenty of bats, stalactites, everything you would expect of caves. At times it was hard work, especially for those of us (me) who had never really kayaked before. One of the funniest things I have ever seen was Damon’s kayak filling up with water and gradually sinking, whilst he was still sitting in it. I’m laughing now at the memory. Apparently the fault lay with the kayak and after trying out another 2 kayaks, he finally settled on one that seemed to suit him and we re-commenced padding (EDITOR´S OPINION: Kayaks in Belize aren´t built for big rigs).
After kayaking for 7 hours, we arrived at our camping spot for the night. Marcos whipped out his machete and got to work clearing to site while we attempted to collect wood and light a fire. The wood was fine, but lighting the fire proved to be slightly more problematic. Thankfully Marcos, our jungle expert, came to the
rescue again with some useful tools… Matches… Note to self: next time bring matches.
Over dinner of macaroni and cheese, spam and beans, (surprisingly good combination. Try it) Marcos regaled us with stories of anacondas and jaguars. Ummm thanks. We then headed up to our hammocks for the night. The rain started about 2 hours later, which lasted all night long. Hurricane Richard was on its way.
In the morning, we packed up and jumped into our kayaks. Unfortunately we had to cut our trip short, as apparently it’s not a good idea to hang out in the jungle during hurricanes. We just had a short 3 hour kayak to meet up with our ride back to Belmopan. Along the way we encountered a 5 metre drop (EDITOR´S DISCRETION: Will allow the exaggeration this time). Fun times. I staked it. Damon killed it (EDITOR´S CLARIFICATION: In a good way). Lizzie and Ben handled it like pros.
We arrived back in Belmopan to find out that all hotels are booked out, as everyone from the coast comes inland to seek refuge. We were kindly invited to stay with Marcos and Francis (his son) at their house. In hindsight,
We did go deeper then the one inch of water shown here.
this enabled us to have one of the most amazing experiences of our trip. But more about that in a bit. We stopped to buy supplies… beer, vodka, rum, coke, juice, eggs and bacon. No water. Smart….
We started with the beers (for those of you who haven’t tried Belize beer, don’t. It’s horrendous) and then started on the spirits. Marcos and Francis are pretty much in charge of the Belmopan rescue team, so we felt in pretty safe hands. Obviously the rest of the town had the same idea as us, because by 8pm at night, there were about 35 other people in their tiny house. By this stage the hurricane was in its full force (thankfully only category 1 force) and the effects of the beer, vodka and rum were being felt. The house was full and it was a truly memorable night.
I will just summarise the highlights briefly… DJ Dima taught us what real music was… (Damon tell me about the Proclaimers again) (EDITOR´S COMMENT: Thin ice Sandra) Damon and Ben taught each other to dance… local kids taught us how to play cards… we watched while kids with no TV, no toys and
no form of entertainment sat perfectly still and didn’t whinge, we watched while the whole community pitched in and helped everyone both that night and the next day. There wasn’t a lot we could do to help that night, but it didn’t stop Ben and Damon trying to do what they could. Although, after copious amounts of alcohol, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have been much help that night.
Thankfully the town wasn’t decimated, but there was still a lot of damage and there is still probably work being down as I type . The next day was spent helping out where we could. The boys carried stuff and the girls swept and mopped. Clearly gender stereotypes and still alive and well in Belize.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, it was an incredible night and we’re so lucky we got to meet so many amazing Belizeans.
We didn’t have much more time in Belize and the next day we boarded a bus to Guatemala. Well, we tried to board the bus, but we got kicked off, as it was too crowded. This was after waiting for the aforementioned bus for 2 hours in the first place. Damon handled
the situation beautifully, almost resulting in us being deported from Belize (EDIT: Fairly accurate). Thankfully, we were leaving anyway. Ahhhh, the joys of travelling with Dima.
That’s all from me, until Damon needs me to write another blog. Next stop Flores/Tikal, Guatemala!
There are more photos below