From Mexico, we crossed over into Belize. This country of a mere 357,000 souls is frankly paradise. I would tell everyone to go there, but too many people would certainly ruin the place.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye – This was our first stop in Belize, and not entirely planned. As mentioned earlier, we accidentally booked an apartment on the island for 2 nights, but in fact it worked out a treat. After crossing the border, we drove down the northern highway through the many bush fires. We even drove past a car that had overheated and caught fire, which scared us a little. The road was nice, but The Belizean’s are a big fan of placing speed bumps in the most unlikely of places, and will not give you any warning. We did manage to get to Belize City, park up and catch the 3pm boat to the island. The speed boat was a lot of fun, and the islands we rode past were absolutely stunning. I distinctly remember a lone house on stilts that appeared to be all by itself perched on the horizon. Once we got to the island, we had to dodge the golf carts (the main source of transport), and get a taxi to our apartment. San Pedro was for me the image of an idyllic Caribbean town, with colourful houses, fishing boats and happy people. We rented a lovely apartment which had an iconic pier, which was great to enjoy a beer of an evening. It truly was a special place, and it worked out to be a happy ‘accident’.
San Ignacio – On the 21st May, our party left the island to continue the adventure. Kat had to leave to meet a friend back in Mexico, so our chief organiser was lost. We met up again a week later, and we didn’t exactly follow the itinerary!
We caught the boat back to Belize city, picked up our car and drove right across the country to the town of San Ignacio. On the way we passed through quaint towns with names like Hattieville and Teakettle. You would never tell it was a former British colony! Crossing the whole country only took 3 hours. Our surroundings changed drastically from beaches to a balmy rainforest town. I felt more like a backpacker this night as we said goodbye to the luxury of air conditioning and solid walls, and hello to ants and dodgy fans. It was all good fun though. The feeling of the place was a bit more insecure than what we had been used to in Belize, but nevertheless it was ok.
Xunantanich – Initially we had planned to venture into Guatemala to see the infamous Tikal mayan site, but instead we changed our plans based on Safety and cost, and went to a local Belizean ruin. And what a great decision this was! The ruin was only 15 minutes outside of San Ignacio, and definitely had an Indiana Jones feeling to it. To get there we had to cross a river with the aid of a man and his barge. Then we had to negotiate a windy track before coming to the site. We were delighted to find there were only 5 other people there. The ruins themselves were absolutely stunning. Not all of the buildings had been excavated, and you could still climb on them. The main temple was the highlight as upon reaching the top, you could see for miles. Arguably the best place of the trip.
Belmopan – We stopped briefly in the capital of Belize for some lunch and internet. Both were surprisingly hard to find. There was nothing to the place apart from the administrative services of the government.
Caves Branch – As we continued east along the Hummingbird Highway, we made a stop at Caves Branch. Of course, as the name suggests, this involved a visit to a cave. We were the only ones in the vast cave, which made it a bit eerie. There were no lights, and barely a path. I wouldn’t have been overly surprised if Gollum jumped out at us. Nearby to the caves there was a swimming hole, called the ‘blue hole’. No it was not the famous blue hole, but it was a magical place. There was a small waterfall cascading into a seamlessly infinitely deep lake. It made for such nice swimming, especially with the array of fish in the water. We didn’t have that long here unfortunately, but it was a great place.
Belize City – After the packed day of Xunantanich, Belmopan and Caves Branch, we arrived late into Belize City. Our accommodation was a little bizarre as it was in the style of a Tudor house. Unfortunately our late arrival meant we did not have the opportunity to explore Belize’s biggest city, but I confirm the promenade is worthwhile, and there are some great places to eat.
Altan Ha – We continued our journey north and towards the Mexican Border. En route we stopped at yet another mayan ruin site, called Altan Ha. Despite being a bit off the main highway, this was the most famous Belizean Mayan site. It was definitely more touristy than Xunantanich, but nevertheless it was still fairly quiet. You could still climb the main Castillo for instance.
Orange Walk – Quirky little town. A nice square and the people we came across were friendly. A useful place to base yourself perhaps.
Corozal – This was a last-minute decision to stay here, but I’m glad we did. We stayed at a lovely hotel that I only found at 6am that morning. The views from the roof were great. Despite being on the coast, the town did not have a beach-side town feel as the waves battered against the sea walls with great consistency. Instead of bathing on the beach, the locals preferred jumping off the walls. I enjoyed the atmosphere in this place, which was so clearly under intense pressure from nature. To celebrate our successful trip in Belize, we treated ourselves to some local rum named Caribbean Rum. Real quality product, and a very reasonable price.
Overall, I loved my time in Belize. The people, the sights and the smells make it a charming place, where I felt I could truly relax.