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Published: October 29th 2012
Tuesday 16/10/12 – Our first night in Belize was everything that we expected: hot, noisy and exhausting. We awoke when the sun rose as our room had no curtains – and trust me it rises early here (they don’t observe daylight savings). We walked up to the local dive shop which backs on to the main river of Belize City. Seeing the city in the morning at high tide is really something special. The ocean is right at the edge of the road and at people’s door steps. The city is situated right at sea level and apparently when it rains at high tide the water doesn’t run off into the ocean so people get around in canoes! The city is intertwined with over 200 canals which are always full of water and rubbish. The city only survives due to the extensive reef and mangrove islands offshore that protect it from ocean swells. The city is also a likely candidate for sea level rise displacement – I had a chat to a local yesterday that had photos of an island near his house from 1980 where there is now only about one third still above the ocean. I think if another
hurricane hits like in 1961 the government won’t be so keen to rebuild the city here.
We travelled to the dive shop (luckily on foot, not by canoe) and organised a dive for tomorrow, as we already had plans for this afternoon. We got picked up by a guy called Denroy in a van pimp-mobile that was decked out in crimson velvet! He was a friendly guy who took us way out of town to go cave-tubing. He was passionate about his country and his job. In one breath he would be praising Belize for its natural beauty, and in the next berating the corruptness of his governors and police. It was an hour by shaggin’-wagon out to the interior Mayan Mountains where a river originates and flows between and through many mountains on its way to the ocean. We each grabbed an inflatable tyre inner tube and headed along a trail for a 45 minute hike through a cave and jungle. Denroy was a professional tour guide and trained as a ranger so he knew all the plentiful tree and animal species giving us information about each. Being part Mayan he also knew uses for much of the
vegetation such as to clean urinary tracts or ‘strengthen the blood’. He also had plenty of stories about animals, including an anaconda that he stumbled across once that was as thick as his chest!
Finally we came to a beautiful water hole in the middle of the jungle which was flowing into a dark cave. We jumped on the tubes, tied mine and Kenz’s together and floated into the mouth of the cave. Right at the entrance there were rapids which caused havoc spinning us around into the darkness of the cave. The flow slowed down and we turned our head-torches on so we could appreciate the stalactites and other limestone cave formations. The ceiling was covered in formations that were absolutely stunning as (being on the ceiling) they had never been touched by humans. There was one that was called the Dragon which must have continued for about 25 or 30 metres. After about 15 mins of peaceful floating we exited this cave along with a burst of bats out into the bright jungle and into another stretch of fast flowing rapids. We continued down the river for a while before floating into the next cave which was
much larger and longer. This cave was amazing, it had stretches of huge caverns, a part where the roof was so low you could touch it, and a large side cave where the ancient Mayans used to float bodies down the river and leave them in this sacred spot. To our amazement the river joined up with another river at a Y-junction inside the cave. This second river was flowing at about 5 feet higher and cascading down a waterfall into our river. The roar was incredible and the face of the waterfall stretched for about 10 metres and it was all in the pitch black! This cave stretched on for about half an hour before we finally emerged into the late afternoon sun. We then spent another 15 minutes gently floating down the river winding through forest full of iguanas and exotic birds. To top the experience off, Denroy and I climbed up onto a cliff with a large overhanging rock and jumped into the river. The only dampener on the day was when Kenz lost her rental head torch during all the excitement and had to pay an extra $7.
We headed back to Belize City in
the pimp-mobile while Denroy told us all about the city and the suburbs. He even took us the long way through some of the outlying villages and suburbs so we could get a taste of these places. We finally arrived just as the sun was setting and we scurried over to the local takeaway store to get something to eat before it got really dark. Many, many locals have warned us not to be out after dark in this city so we grabbed our fried chicken and headed home.
Wednesday 17/10/12 – Early in the morning we rolled out of bed, into our bathers and up to the harbour to jump on Denroy’s boat and head out SCUBA diving. We headed out and weaved through the offshore mangrove islands past many herons, pelicans and gannets. We also saw a couple of manatee surface for air! We arrived about 30 mins later at a reef called Pioneer which was named after the vessel that sunk on the reef a few months ago. We jumped in and checked out the wreck which was sitting on the bottom at a depth of 105 feet. We got to swim through the
cabin after Denroy cleared the area of lionfish. The lionfish are an invasive predatory fish that are absolutely stunning, but also a big problem. Denroy was regretting not bringing his spear as it’s the only fish you can (and are encouraged to) take from the marine reserve. The second dive was on a reef called Bruce’s Column which was a shallow dive containing many of the typical tropical fish which we never tire of watching.
Denroy took us to the remote Island of St. George for lunch which was the original capital of Belize. There are only a few houses on it now, but it was the site of the main battle between the Spanish and the English which resulted in Belize becoming an English colony. They got their independence from the English in 1981 (a good year) and are very proud of their place in the Commonwealth. When locals find that we’re Aussies they often get out their money and point to the queen with a grin saying we are their brothers of the Commonwealth. It’s slightly depressing to be on the other side of the world in 2012 and still have that face following me around… Lunch
was some great fried chicken with rice and beans which we enjoyed on a lonely pier off the beach. There were thousands of fish beneath the pier including a large barracouta that began chasing the smaller fish. At one point the barracouta jumped out of the water during its chase and it was about the length (and width) of my leg!
We returned home tired and were enjoying the late afternoon relaxing and reading until we realised someone had been in our room. We checked the three places that we had cash hidden and found that whoever it was knew what they were doing – they took about half from each stash probably hoping we wouldn’t notice for at least a few days. We confronted the manager who called the cops, they would be there within the hour. They never showed. After a bit of investigating I worked out that our key also opens the room next door. That’s some Topflight security!
Thursday 18/10/12 – We were up early this morning and determined not to let one scumbag ruin our Belize experience. We jumped on the first early morning water taxi and headed to the large
island of San Pedro – about an hour north of the city. We got straight off the boat and within 10 minutes we were on another boat heading out to Hol-Chan reef (Mayan for small channel) on a snorkelling trip. We were led by Lewis, a young local man who entered a ‘youth at risk’ program and now runs snorkelling tours; and 6 American Mormon mothers on vacation whose ability at holding mind-numbingly boring conversations was only surpassed by their ability to procreate (despite this, they were very friendly). After a 10 minute boat ride we hoped over the side and went for an hour long snorkelling trip along the reef. Our first friendly visitor was our favourite, a green-back turtle. It was very nonchalant about 3 quiet and calm snorkelers and 6 insane Mormons screaming and flailing about in the water. It just kept nibbling on the sea grass and came up for a breath before cruising off. We saw many other wonderful creatures, our favourite being the eels, and we also got to swim through a small cave tunnel, where Kenz managed to leave a piece of her heel. When we returned to the boat Lewis threw some
bait over the side and hordes of nurse sharks and rays came flying in for the feeding frenzy. Lewis bear hugged a stingray (Steve Irwin style) and bought it to the surface which was a surprise. He then grabbed a nurse shark that was about 3 metres long and bought it up for everyone to pat. I mimicked him and grabbed a 2.5 metre one which happily just laid in my arms, I later grabbed a one metre long one for Kenz to hold, which she did. One the way back to shore I asked Lewis if they were allowed to chum for sharks and rays in the marine park, his response was “You have to let the love flow through you”, probably the most evasive and hilarious answer one could give. I have no idea what he meant.
When we arrived back at Belize City there was a cop waiting for us who listened to our story, wrote our statement and then handed it to us. Why would he take our statement then hand it back to us? He also asked if we wanted to pretend that they stole more so we could claim more back and make
a profit from our travel insurance. Realising this cop was shady we had a chat to one of the other employees here who told us it was one of the other workers who took our money. The guy got high last night and was bragging that he took our money. Not only that, but he was apparently a gang member and the cop was his mate. He then said that he didn’t want to get involved as the crook could slip one of the junior gang members $20 and have him shot on the street. It’s hard to know what to believe from these people, if you believe everything they say then you would pack up and leave ASAP! The manager didn’t really seem to care too much. Realising that the manager didn’t really see it as her problem, I went and had a private chat with her and said I was going to write online and on trip advisor that one of the hostel employees broke into our room and stole money. That certainly got the wheels in motion. Within an hour (about 9pm) she had the cops in Kevlar vests at our door and escorted us down to
the police station where they took a proper statement (there was no record of the one we made earlier in the day!). Whilst Kenz was making the statement I was in the foyer observing the typical criminals of Belize. There was every single cliché Central American gangster that came in cuffed – it was like a film clip from a 50 Cent concept album. The main cop in the place was almost an exact replica of Danny Glover; he had the big barrel chest and the perfect moustache. One of the officers had The Offspring song ‘Why don’t you get a job?’ as his text message tone and had left his phone in the office. About an hour’s repetition of the first 30 seconds of that song was enough to make me question my own existence.
Friday 19/10/12 – The time had come to leave Belize City, however not before we had run a few near meaningless tasks that only take a minute when you are home, but when you are overseas it takes most of the morning. The notable exception to the monotonous tasks was a visit to another police station, we had to ride 4
blocks the wrong way down a one way street to get there, the cops just laughed and wanted to talk about bikes.
As we left the hostel the cops had turned up and hauled one of the guys down to the station for questioning, the hostel manager is determined to get to the bottom of the theft. We stopped at a few motorbike shops on the way out of town to try and hunt down some suitable motor oil with no success - it turns out 15W-50 weight ain’t that easy to come by in Belize. We rode through the capital city called Belmopan and headed straight to the western border, slipping through the Belize side was easy. The Guatemalan border was also easy, but heavy on paperwork and we got through with only a $4 bribe being required. Riding across the no-mans-land between the countries we passed through a huge shed to get gassed/fumigated. I saw the official was talking to his mates and managed to slip through without copping a mouthful of chemicals. Kenz however was too slow and received an unwelcome chemical shower. We headed to the ruins of Tikal planning on spending the night nearby,
however we had almost run out of fuel and had run out of money. We had to backtrack 30km to re-supply. We ended up booking 2 nights at a small B&B on the waterfront at Lago De Peten Itza. The sunset over the lake was amazing, we watched the locals splashing about in the water – fishing, bathing and doing laundry.
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