The short version; it’s small and they speak English.
The slightly longer version: Feeling not too bright (not helped by humidity and heat) after spending the night before drinking rum and coke with a young German couple, we left the delightful Lake Bacalar and headed towards the border. The border crossing itself was straightforward on both sides and within an hour we were through and into Belize. We were mostly pleased by the fact that the Kg of Oaxacan cheese we had in the fridge was not confiscated! What is obvious straightaway is that Belize is much more aligned with the Caribbean in its style and approach than other Central American countries. There is also a larger mix of creeds and cultures than we expected, Mayan, Black, Chinese, Indian and White all call Belize home.
Corozel is nothing to write home about but spotting a place that did window tinting we stopped and had the rear screen done by a very friendly couple. Ah – the simple joy of speaking English and understanding what the other person is saying. 😊
Our first stop was Crooked Tree Nature Reserve, and an 11 acre campsite which was largely under water but we found a dry area and made ourselves comfortable watching the birds on the lake, that is until the mosquitos put an appearance in. At that point we retired to the tent and hid– not long after 6pm!
Having deliberated about the best place to go in the cayes that was both time and cost effective we had booked ourselves an overnight excursion the following day to Tobacco Caye to sleep in a cabana built out over the sea so were up early to make the most of our time on the island. Sadly, we soon realised that everything happens at a Caribbean pace so had to wait until a captain was ready to ferry us out to the island. The ‘ferry’ was a small open skiff but we arrived safely and mostly dry. The caye is part of the worlds 2nd largest coral reef, can be walked around in 6 minutes and consisted of numerous coconut trees and a few huts/cabanas and a bar. Unfortunately, the visibility was not great on our first snorkel excursion but rays swimming past were cool. Our neighbours were a lovely Dutch couple, Abraham and Lisette, who we befriended and hung out with on the deck for the evening. The next morning we were told we would be returned to the mainland around 9am, so of course were ready promptly; still having not grasped ‘island time’ – we finally departed at midday!! There are worse places to be stuck.
Reunited with the car we hit the Hummingbird Hwy from the coast inland towards San Ignacio. A pretty (and easy) drive through lush forest. On arrival at the campsite we found the French family we had last seen in the Grand Canyon and Abraham and Lisette already ensconced. Reunion drinks ensued!
Having decided to hang around in San Ignacio and explore the area for a few days, the next morning we swapped half the contents of the car for Abraham and Lisette (filling their cabana with everything that lives on the back seat in the process) and headed off to find some Mayan ruins and a butterfly research station. First stop Xunantunich, some not very unique ruins (maybe we are getting ruined out!) then off into the back country. Sadly, after a long drive down bumpy dirt roads we found the butterfly sanctuary closed; however, further down the road we found Big Rock Falls and refreshed ourselves with a swim in the river and a beer in a nearby fancy resort apparently owned by Francis Ford Coppola.
The following day we took a tour to a nearby cave system where Mayan people undertook rituals and still holds numerous artefacts and a couple of well preserved skeletons which having been covered in calcite means they appear crystallised. Access involves swimming across a river, a 45 minute hike and then swimming, wading and climbing 2000 feet into the cave to reach the areas were the rituals took place. Our guide, Luis was a fount of knowledge and we had a great time. Sadly, no cameras allowed at all (apparently due to the fact someone dropped their camera on a skeleton) so here is a lovely photo of a bird instead.
Finally, we figured we had best move on, we need to be in Panama for new year and still have 5 countries to go! One of the benefits of Belize is its size, nothing is very far away so we were at the border in no time. Cheers Belize and Hola Guatemala.