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Published: April 6th 2020
After a long time, 7 months so be exact, I'm writing another travelblog-entry. With the Covid-19 (Corona) issue worldwide, most of us are at home so I do have time to write again. I'm still behind with my blogs but it doesn't matter, I'll slowly catch up.
So I'll take you back to August 2018, when I planned a trip of just over three weeks. I flew Copa Airlines from Curaçao to Panamá, where I had to spend one night. On my way back to Curaçao I spent one night in Panama City again. Both times I took advantage to see and spend a little time with friends.
From Panama I flew further with Copa Airlines to Belize, arriving at Philip S.W Goldson International Airport. Belize was the 76th country I ever laid foot on! The immigration process went smooth and easy, once outside I took a taxi towards my guesthouse in Belize City
where I stayed for 2 nights. It's Belize's largest city, where about a quarter of the nearly 400.000 inhabitants of the country live. The city reminded me a lot of Paramaribo, capital of Suriname due to its many wooden houses and buildings.
Belize is located in Central America, surrounded by Spanish speaking countries but as a former British colony, English is the language spoken here. Culturally, Belize is considered as a part of the Caribbean. Hearing soca in the streets of Belize City really gave me that (British-) Caribbean feeling. I cannot say that Belize City is a pretty city, besides there didn't seem to be a lot to do and see. After arriving at my guesthouse I went, as always, exploring by foot on my own to know the surroundings and to see some of the city.
I crossed the "Swing Bridge", a bridge from the 1920's over the Haulover Creek that swings open to let boats pass. Not too far from there I reached the Battlefield Park, where the Supreme Court of Belize is also located. I continued and walked along the St. John Anglican Cathedral and then along the Haulover Creek back towards the bridge. On the other side I was able to see Fort Street Tourism Village, a site where cruisetourists arrive by little boats since the cruiseships cannot dock in the harbour but instead they have to stay away from the coast. I crossed the bridge,
walked along this Fort Street area and ended up by the Baron Bliss Lighthouse, next to which you find Belize written in big letters just like you find in many cities nowadays. It was almost sunset and I had some food there at a food-stand. It was quiet so I had the chance to speak a little bit to one of the girls who work there, asking her things about Belize in general: their culture, music and so on. She suggested me to visit a café/bar with local music, which I did the following evening. Not far from my guesthouse I visited the Museum of Belize, which is located in the building of the former "Her Majesty's Prison". The prison existed between 1857 and 1998 and the museum opened in 2002. The Museum of Belize is dedicated to the history of Belize, emphasizing on the Maya culture and slavery. The museum wasn't big but I found it highly interesting and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I wanted to do more things around Belize City, but being by yourself it wasn't easy and the tours were limited very expensive since they cater a lot towards cruisetourists and offering
them tours to the various Maya sites and so on. Getting to many sites by public transport was also complicated. I got the impression that there is little stay-over tourism in Belize City itself. Either way, in the evening I walked to this cafe/bar the girl recommended. It wasn't very busy. There was a small band playing "Punta" music live which was very nice to hear and see. Punta is the music of the Garifuna culture, which is a mix of African, Carib and Arawak. When playing Punta music they use drums and maracas (rattles?) and when dancing they use their hips a lot, just like our "Tambú" in Curaçao.
The next morning I woke up early and checked-out, went to the area of the Swing Bridge where I took a ferry to Caye Caulker
. Belize has several islands off its coast with the Caribbean Sea and Caye Caulker is one of them. The journey took about 45-50 minutes since it's nearest of the two main islands. The bigger island, Ambergris Caye, is about twice as far and seems to be much busier therefore I chose for Caye Caulker where I stayed for 3 nights. When reaching
the island, I wasn't very impressed since there was a lot of seaweed and it stunk. After I took a taxi, which is a golfcart, towards my hostel then I slowly started to like the place more. There are NO cars on the island, only golfcarts and bicycles and the roads consist of hard, white sand. The island is flat and very small, just about 8km long and about 1km wide. Most concentration of people, accommodation, businesses are on a 2km stretch on the southern half of the island. About 2000 people live in that small area and it's a popular tourist destination, especially among backpackers. Non-backpackers can also visit and there is up-scale accommodation available. I loved the atmosphere on this tiny island: "relaxed, no hurry". I thoroughly enjoyed my few days there: "have drinks, take a massage, play beach volleyball, eating a delicious jerk chicken at a local food shack along the coast, go out in the evening"...that was about the things I did on Caye Caulker. The island is split in two and that area is called "The Split". Apparently a strong hurricane in the early 1960's caused this split; I'm not sure if that's true though.
At The Split you can swim, play beachvolleyball and there are bars/restaurants with music. It was the place where I went everyday, especially later in the afternoon when it wasn't too hot anymore. I visited the other side of The Split too, I rented a kayak and went a little bit through the mangroves there. I finished at Koko King Beach where I left the kayak on the beach, had some food at the restaurant there before kayaking back. In the evening there is some nightlife on the island at a few bar/cafes where you will always encounter the same people. The parties can get pretty wild sometimes (in a positive way). The island gave me a similar vibe like Boracay in the Philippines, which I visited in November 2008.
Belize is an excellent divers destination due to the presence of the 300km long Belize Barrier Reef. Many diving and snorkeling tours depart from Caye Caulker, including to the expensive tours to the famous Blue Hole. Since I enjoy snorkeling, I took a snorkeling tour. The experience was "amazing"; no other words to describe it and it was a highlight without a doubt! The coral reefs looked stunning and I
snorkeled along nurse sharks and the stingrays. They were literally next to me, very exciting to say at least! Luckily I was able to bring the GoPro camera of my best friend and I was glad to be able to capture many of these beautiful moments.
I left Caye Caulker and took a ferry back to Belize City, then a taxi to a bus-station where I boarded a public bus towards San Ignacio
. The bus was one of those old, American school buses with mostly locals onboard and just a few tourists. The bus stopped in the capital, Belmopan, which was not on the list to visit anyway. About 10-15 minutes before reaching San Ignacio, the bus broke down and we all had to get off the bus. And there I was, sitting alongside the road not knowing when I'd reach San Ignacio. Not much later another bus came, we hopped on and went further to San Ignacio. It's a small city, quiet and a different atmosphere compared to Belize City. It's located to the west of the country and has about 25 000 inhabitants. Immediately after arriving in San Ignacio, I made my way towards my
hostel, checked-in and went by foot to Cahal Pech before it was too late. There are several Maya ruins in Belize and Cahal Pech is one of them, built about 3300 years ago and is in good shape. The next day I took a tour to visit the so-called ATM-Cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal) and it was truly impressive; another highlight of this trip!!! You had to take swimming clothes with you since you'd get wet in the cave. The ATM-Cave system is more than 4km deep and part of it was used by the Mayas in the past for ceremonial purposes. Inside the cave you'll see old clay pots, bowls, artifacts, human skulls and even a whole skeleton. Cameras are strictly prohibited inside the cave, including GoPro cameras. That was a rule they imposed since a tourist dropped a camera on a skull a couple of years ago. There are seriously no words to describe the experience in this cave and if you ever visit Belize, do not miss it!
Most tours were rather expensive, incuding the ATM-Cave tour, therefore I decided to rent a 4WD vehicle together with 2 other backpackers from Germany to
visit the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. I was behind the steering wheel and we drove through the beautiful, green landscape. On the way the vehicle would stop working a couple of times since the battery cable wasn't tightened well and we had no key tool to fix it. Eventually someone else passed and helped us to tighten it. It was a pretty long drive, mostly over unpaved road which was wet and at some places pretty muddy. Suddenly it was so muddy that I lost control of the vehicle, it turned around completely and we almost hit the side of the road. Mind you, I was not driving too fast and luckily I remained calm and was able to bring the vehicle to a stop. What an experience and my heart was pounding! We drove further, much more carefully and finally reached out first stop: Big Rock Falls. And the best part of it was the fact that we had the waterfall to ourselves! We went all the way to the actual waterfall, almost underneath and when I go to places like that I do not want to leave. It is very relaxing and I just adore waterfalls! We
continued afterwards to Rio On Pools which consists of small waterfalls and different "natural pools" where you can relax.
I was happy and satisfied with my visit to Belize. The country obviously has much more to see and do and I wouldn't mind to visit one day again. I left San Ignacio and crossed the border, seeking for more adventure. More in my next entry!
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