Published: January 17th 2010January 17th 2010
After Orange Walk we got up early in the morning to take the bus to Dangriga in the south. This was our first experience of public buses - now we are far more expert.
I badly timed a trip to the bathroom before the bus ride - returning when chad and the bags were on the bus, all the seats were taken and people were cramming on so they wouldn’t get off. I could see chad right down the end of the bus, and I had to struggle my way through people who did not want me to pass (and potentially take their seats, even though they weren’t moving down themselves) and get to my seat. Though, when I got there, chad had been kicked out of his seat. He gracisouly gave me the only seat left, and he spent the next 2 hours to belize city standing up on the bus on a sandy, bumpy road, crammed in like sardines on a very and hot day.
Belize City could not come into site soon enough. Unfortunately the fullness of the bus did not allow for a whole lot of watching the scenery. From what I remember - it was flat,
savannah type land. Lots of sugar cane plantations. We only had about 30 minutes to kill in Belize City, so we stayed at the bus station waiting for the express to Punta Gorda via Dangriga. This time we planned our bus entry far more smoothly… we took our packs to the back of the bus, handed them to the man, and then jumped in the back of the bus - seat claimed very quickly. We were lucky on this bus too as the company didn’t allow any people to stand during the trip - I guess tourist bus compared to local bus.
The bus to Dangriga takes the longer, out of the way road through to Belmopan the capital. The road was long and flat, but tarred sealed so no way near as bumpy. We passed through lots of little villages with very little going on. Lots of hammock swinging, a national pastime. We passed through the outskirts of Belmopan, but being a town created for it’s own purpose, there seemed very little atmosphere about the place. Belmopan was constructed in 1962 after the former capital, Belize City, was nearly destroyed by a hurricane in 1961. The name is derived
from union of two words: ‘Belize’ the name of the longest river in the country, and ‘Mopan’ one of the rivers in the area, which connects to the Belize River.
Heading further south we were into the mountains and jungle of Belize. Lush rainforest was all you could see, strange bird noises all you could hear everywhere the bus stopped. The communities got smaller and more remote. Tourists kept getting off - we have no idea where they were going. A few luxury jungle lodges are open in the area, but they were sign posted, and this was really remote.
As the roads flattened out again and got a bit sandier, we were arriving into Dangriga - the cultural capital of Belize, home of the Garifuna people, and where we were hoping we would full in love and move to. After dumping our bags at a guest house and heading out for a much needed feed (after 9 hours on buses and no food) we realised that everything is closed on Sundays. This has it’s charm, and we often commented in Christchurch how nice it would be if everything was closed on the weekend, and all you could do is
spend time with friends and family. But after 9hours on a bus and grumbling stomachs, it was not a good thing. We walked almost the length of town (okay, so that’s only like 2 miles long, but still…) until we found a Chinese restaurant open. We thanked the Lord for the Chinese traveling the world and opening restaurants, and ordered chicken fried rice and shrimp fried rice. These huge plates arrived in front of us…we were so hungry, and oh so happy.
With nothing open and our stomachs full we wandered around and got our bearings. We weren’t too impressed with the town on day/night one, but figured we should hold our judgment until there was actual day activity. Morning we were met with hawkers - it had been so long that we actually forgot how annoying they can be. And these hawkers travel on bikes, so you are followed for a while, trying to get your whole life story to use against you so you buy their stuff, go on their trip. I know that the people are just trying to make a living, but it is one thing I have never been able to adjust to and block
out wherever I have been.
So after deciding that Dangriga was not for us, and having paid for three nights accommodation there, we spent our days walking down the beach, reading our books and drinking rum. We checked out Val’s Backpackers, basically the only widely known backpackers in Belize, and could only comment on how much better we could do and how falsely it promotes itself. We looked at the price of land in Dangriga - very cheap, about BZ$20,000 for a double house lot in the centre of town. That’s $US 10,000. We talked about how if we built on backpackers from scratch, yes it would take all our money, but with only one property to compete with, and a bad one at that, we would be a success.
We went on a roll for a while, ignoring the fact we didn’t really like the place. Eventually we remembered that we weren’t going to buy until we had residency at least, and that everyone told us how sensible we were not sinking all our money into something straight away… so we sat on the beach and drank more rum.
There are more photos below