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Belize - the last of Central America

BELIZE | Tuesday, 16 July 2013 | Views [384]

Finishing Tikal, we made our way across the border to Belize with ease.  It surprised both of us how drastic and sudden the cultural change between the two countries from one border agent to the other.  Everyone in Belize speaks English, where as very few Guatemalans speak more than a polite word or two. Most citizens also speak Spanish, Creole and (where we traveled down south) Garifuna. The culture is more westernized, having been under British rule for so long, yet retains a wonderful mix of Mayan and Caribbean flare – including in the food.


San Ignacio

Stopped in San Ignacio for two days, but extended to three.  Due to having lost a day in transit from Guatemala City last week, we decided to forgo seeing Caye Caulker all together and spend more time in each of the other places in the country we planned to see.  We’ll be back some day to explore the numerous Cayes and do some diving. The weather was rainy the entire three days, but allowed us to explore both Xunantunich and Caracol ruins in relative comfort regarding the heat.  Xunantunich is impressive, but nothing like the pure mass and volume of the main temple (Caana) at Caracol. It was much grander than Tikal, but there is overall much less uncovered in Caracol – and it’s a bitch to get to – which explains why most tourists visit the ruins in Tikal instead.  The four wheel drive road out there would be fine, except that you have to stop at the guard station and be escorted in by the Belizian army at a specific time, as well as wait or rush around to leave the park with the escort in the afternoon.  Apparently, there used to be issues with Guatemalan armed robbers on this stretch of road close to the boarder, but since they instituted the “escort” there are no more issues.



When I read up on Hopkins, it sounded very quaint: “a sleepy fishing village that had grown up a bit with some higher end resorts and frequented by honeymooners”.  We made the 4 ½ hour bus ride (three buses) fine, but were quite disillusioned when we arrived.  Our little cabana on the beach (at Lebeha Drum Center) was lovely and we even got an upgrade to the larger one with the kitchen and separate bedroom. We were right on the ocean and had great weather the five days of our stay.  However… the northern end of the village (basically all of the village except for the few high end resorts located over three miles south of town down private roads) was quite dirty.  There had been a flood earlier in the week due to a large storm (which kept washing up garbage onto the beach while swimming – not the beachcombing I had in mind), but we couldn’t seem to explain away the multiple broken down cars and shacks along with the garbage throughout town.  Oh well, the resorts were outside our budget and our immediate surroundings were nice. There was a great little beach bar next door (Driftwood) and hammocks on our deck so life was good.  We even attended a drumming performance which was fun!  Jackson had a hard transition to Hopkins, getting off the bus only to be assaulted by the first mango tree he walked under – it dropped a mango right on his arm, making for a traumatic welcome to our hotel.  But, having stayed there for five full days, we adjusted to local life and the nice relaxed pace.  I even cooked a few meals in our kitchen and began to feel a little at home.  We did nothing but relax – just what we needed after a week of hiking and running around.

Chris’ brother Jonathan and his wife Jamie joined us for our last night in Hopkins and we ate at the famous “Chef Rob’s” for a treat out. J & J traveled with us for the last five days of our Central American trip. We were very excited to have company for the first time during our travels!!!



The village of Placencia is much more well-traveled than Hopkins, and rightly so. It is a great little beach town, with a raised walkway you travel to walk through the restaurants, cafes and cabanas.  We again had a little cabana on the sand with a view of the Atlantic.  We were there with Jonathan and Jamie for the last weekend in June – Lobsterfest.  We had lobster at every meal in every way you can imagine.  So tasty! Although we also think we found the best cinnamon roll on the planet at a little café just behind our cabanas.

But, hands down, the best part of our entire trip so far was the snorkeling trip out to the Silk Cayes. The reef around the Cayes had great coral, as well as seeing jellyfish, barracuda, and colorful fish.  The second stop blew our minds!!  We floated, unmoving, as we watched gigantic sea turtles, three types of rays (Caribbean rays, Sting rays and Spotted Eagle rays) and Nerf sharks (no teeth) swim/feed/fight together in a small space.  It was so incredible to be around approximately 20 of these enormous creatures all together.  I had the largest turtle and largest spotted eagle ray both swim within about a foot of me! We took turns with Jackson on the boat, and even the nice captain waited with Jackson a bit while we were all in the water. All four of us agreed it was the most amazing thing any of us had ever seen.  Chris and I can’t wait to come back and dive!

Overall, we really enjoyed Central America.  We would like to return and have more in-depth experiences in both Guatemala and Belize.  But for now, it’s off to Europe…

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