Belize a Caribbean feel.
Heading off from Corozal we managed to purchase another gas canister for the stove from a hardware store and some snacks, the stores don’t stock as much as the Mexican one especially lacking in cake.
We had several small towns to pass through and the area has a strong Caribbean feel to it, houses of wood, built on sticks some with verandas.
Chickens and pigs roaming free and lots of horses. Some houses of top quality and others falling down shacks.
We past a hurricane shelter as hurricanes a frequent occurrence here, looking at some of the homes it hard to imagine them surviving a hurricane.
Ginette – it was clear to see the effects of the hurricanes, lots of wooden buildings were falling apart and looked uninhabitable but still people lived in them. I suppose they don’t have a lot of choice but they looked very dangerous to me. Several had broken staircases, and wooden beams hanging off the properties. People sit outside of their properties on car seats, settees or hammocks, other work on their properties or in their gardens/fields. The island has a very laid back feel to it but we’ve been warned that crime levels are high so we are on our guard.
It is great to see signs like:
No working during drinking hours
and Go Slow
In addition to these signs there are many religious ones on the road side like this one:
Prepare to meet thy god. – A little sobering as you cycle along.
Ginette – The Belizean’s love puns and all over the country there are bill boards and tourist gifts with a play on the word Belize including:
You better Belize it!
Do you Belize in life after love?
Some of the locals are looking much more Jamaican and there is a real mix of nationalities here, it seems the shops are run predominantly by the Chinese.
The people are really friendly waving and chatting with us, a lot of English is spoken here and it’s still strange to be in a foreign environment but being able to converse easily. I think my mind is conditioned to not be able to understand the language.
Ginette – a lot of people speak creole in a supermarket I heard an exchange between a group of older men and the only word I could understand started with F and had four letters but was peppered throughout the conversation, along with a lot of laughter.
We arrived at Orange walk town around lunchtime and had a meal of chicken rice and beans (no chicken for Net) in an air conditioned cafe. The cafe guests represented the eclectic people in Belize, Chinese, Rastafarian, Amish and British. Walking out into the open air we were struck by the heat again.
We have been lucky with the weather, we had big black clouds nearby and thunderstorms but managed to miss the rainstorms, theses cloudy conditions stop the sun from making the heat closer to unbearable.
We had a long boring cycle in the afternoon along a straight road with no more towns, however each side had flooded woods so there was a bit of bird life around. Road kill today was a mammal like a raccoon and a tiny tortoise.
Ginette we have passed a number of churches mainly presbyterian and baptist they are small community buildings and do not compare to the large catholic churches that are in most Mexican towns. A number of buildings and houses have large posters displaying the 10 comandments. Most people we have met or passed in Belse have been very friendly and have gone out of their way to welcome us to their country. It is great to stop and have a conversation with people, we’re bemused by their expressions when we explain we are cycling to Guatemala.
We ended the day at Crooked tree national park staying at Jacana Inn right next to a large lagoon. The main migrating birds don’t arrive till next month but there was still a bit of exotic bird life around.
It was dark shortly after we arrived and with no street lights, it was pitch black so we didn’t venture out. Instead we ordered chicken and chips for dinner, I made Ginette a cheese wrap.
Ginette – I really struggled with the last 4 miles, it was an off road section and very muddy. I lost control of my bike a couple of times and for the first time in a long while walked my bike along sections. I was a little annoyed with myself but didn’t feel in control, so walking suited me but it meant we took much longer to cover this stretch than we would have if we’d cycled.
On 27 Oct 2019
Sweeps retirement forest (as in Sooty and Sweep). Belize city, a bad reputation!
We was up early, both had an uncomfortable night due to the itchy mozzie bites we have accumulated.
Ginette – you would not believe the amount of bites we have, I think there must have been a mosquito party on my bum, I have at least 20 big angry bites there alone, Gary even managed to get a bite on his cock. We are trying not to itch them but it is really hard to ignore them.
We went for a short walk by the lagoon and around the village, there were a few birds around singing away to us, we recognised the large white storks and the groups of green parrots also a fairly large Kingfisher.
We also saw another bird looking just like a Stork but with pink feathers like a Flamingo, it was definitely not a Flamingo.
The biggest treat and surprise was finding Sweep. One of the birds call we recognised instantly as Sweep from the Sooty and Sweep show, this must be where he has come to retire.
Walking in the village along the chalky roads we were greeted kindly by all the locals and in clear English, the village had a very rural feel to it and as it was Sunday morning everyone seemed chilled. Some where dressed in Sunday best on the way to church.
We opted to cook our own breakfast of porridge and coffee then set off back down the 4 mile dirt track back to the main road, yesterday Ginette struggled with this route but this morning it was a bit drier and she managed with no problems.
We stopped at a garage for a break and sat with a local Creole family chatting about the weather and mosquitoes amongst other things.
We bought some local wine from a man by the roadside, one made from Cashew fruit the other from a red local fruit. We learnt from the man that Cashew nuts grow on the outside of the fruit, he had pictures of these fruits with the nuts on the outside.
Stopping at a supermarket nearer Belize city the pay counter was behind a wall of steel bars for security, we have read that Belize city is improving but has had a bad reputation for crime.
Cycling by a large river there are signs for Manatee sight seeing trips and Manatee notice boards. This is an animal we have never seen so maybe we will be lucky on this trip.
Arriving at our hotel “New Chon Sing restaurant “ we were greeted in the bar by two or three friendly locals who were stoned and drunk, they were openly preparing Dope and offered us some saying it was legal here, we declined the kind offer.
Ginette – In almost every city we have visited since leaving the UK we have been offered drugs but none so openly as Belize. Locals have shouted at us to come and buy their Ganger (weed, ya know, good quality, cum try).
Walking around the corner to our rooms was a bit un- nerving as the street had shanty houses and loud Reggae music playing, but our room was behind a gated courtyard and actually quite modern.
Ginette – We had dinner in the restaurant attached to the hostel, it was chinese food and delicious. We ordered three dishes and they were huge, somehow we managed to clear them much to the waiters surprise apparently people normally only order one dish.
On 29 Oct 2019
Chilling on Caye Caulker.
We took a ferry over to one of the islands off Belize city’s coast that this area is famous for, the ferry ride was smooth and cost us $27 Belize dollars each return.
Arriving at the island we were both a bit disappointed, the sea was choppy and green, not the flat calm, blue sea we had been expecting.
The streets had hard packed sand and the only vehicles allowed on the island were golf buggies and push bikes (but we did spot a JCB and a truck). There were lots of hotels and hostels, bars and restaurants so although the place had a laid back feel it was also a major tourist attraction. There were also signs warning people to slow down and relax.
It didn’t take long to walk around the north end of this Caye, at the tip is a gap called the split, the island has been cut in two and to access the top section you need a boat or swim. Swimming across would be easy enough as it’s a short distance but there is a bit of boat traffic so you would have to be careful.
We settled ourselves in a sea front bar area called the Iguanas reef inn, the sea around this side of the island was flat and calm, it was still a green hue but was really warm to swim in. There were hammocks set up in the sea and swings to play on, I had a photo shoot with a Pelican sitting on the end of my hammock. The owner had laid some netting near the jetty so Seahorses can nest safely, these things are tiny and blend in well with the sea weed but we did spot a few.
We had a couple of Fry Jacks from a street vendor, these are like pancakes with a savoury or sweet filling of your choice.
The rest of the day was spent chilling by the sea, swimming and reading until the 5pm ferry back. The ferry ride was fun as we managed to get seats on the top deck and watched the sunset one side and a lightning storm the other.
Ginette – We enjoyed Caye Caulkner but unless you have very deep pockets there’s not a lot to do, we had hoped the snorkelling would entertain us but there wasn’t much to see from the beach and the tour operators on the island wanted to charge a further $50 to take us out to the reef. We didn’t mind chilling on the beach, occasionally retreating in the bar from the rain. We are still out of season but I can imagine the island is very lively with backpackers in the height of the season.
Ginette’s job interview and of then to Belmopan.
Ginette had a Skype interview for a potential job on our return, so we had a later than normal start.
We were supposed to be cycling to just past Belize zoo then taking a non paved road to the southern lakes so we could camp there and then visit the Manatees, but when we reached the turning a local advised us that not only was the road in a poor condition it was also dangerous, so we opted to continue along the highway to Belmopan which is Belize capital city. On route passing lots of sugar cane fields.
There were not many stops on route, at one of the few garage stops a guy I was chatting to told me how he had left the States as he didn’t like the prisons, he said he wasn’t a bad man but had some mental health issues which sometimes got him in fights. He said that his worse experience was 20 days in solitary. Amazing the conversation you have after sharing your biscuits with a stranger.
One of the things I like about Belize is that I can converse with most of the people, they all seem really friendly and genuinely interested in where we are going, however there is a dark edge all the time as there is a lot of poverty and abundance of drugs so I wouldn’t go so far as say I would trust any of my new friends.
I have now found another Belize dish I like, Estache. It’s a chicken soup with a tang and is served with a separate plate of rice.
Ginette – the food in Belize is really good, helped by the fact that we can read everything on the menu.
As we approached Belmopan we saw a Toucan perched in the tree unfortunately it flew off before we can take a photo we were within a couple of miles of town so was surprised to see one so close to a built up area.
Ginette – I spent the morning reflecting on my interview, I had thought the FaceTime call would be to discuss the logistics of me attending/participating in an interview which if successful is scheduled for the end of Nov but no this was an interview with a recruitment agency to see if I would be shortlisted for an interview. Keeping my fingers crossed, it would be good to return to the UK with a job lined up especially a job that I would enjoy and feel enthusiastic about.
Toucan + toucan + toucan = sixcan
We woke to heavy rain but it soon cleared and we set off down the hummingbird highway towards Hopkins.
The city of Belmopan doesn’t fit my image of a capital city, which is not a bad thing. It is more like a large residential area with few high rise buildings.
We had a long ride today of 67 miles and got into Hopkins just before sunset, the last 25 miles were just hard work but before that we where cycling along a beautiful stretch of road and the first set of hills we have encountered for a while. Although the hills are hard work they keep thay and overtook me to set a faster pace, I think she was in a hurry to get a cold beer.e route interesting, we had forest either side of us and the trees were huge plus some very different and exotic looking trees and plants.
We did see lots of birds, even had three toucans fly in front of us, we didn’t see any hummingbirds or Howler monkeys. Also I didn’t see any Elephants but apparently there aren’t any here so that could explain that.
Road kill of a coral snake and a little tortoise.
The people have been really chatty, one car pulled along side whilst the family leaned out of the windows asking questions, the other cars had to go around him.
In a cafe we were given some local knowledge by an off duty deputy police commissioner. He explained that it is legal in Belize to carry 10oz of marijuana but it’s illegal to buy or sell it, a bit of a dilemma in how you can end up with the drug in your pocket under those rules?
Ginette – He also informed us the citrus fruit crops were bad this year due to greening disease. We also discussed the cost of living the price of petrol in Belize is an unbelievable 10 Belizian dollars thats approx £3.90 per litre. No wonder Belize is so expensive compared to the other cental american countries.
Ginette – we were served by a local girl who had a huge, black, hairy birthmark across her face, it did not detract from the fact that she was beautiful. She didn’t seem to be embarrassed by it so neither Gary or I mentioned it until later that evening but on reflection I wish I’d told her how pretty she was.
Ginette was on a mission today and overtook me to set a faster pace, I think she was in a hurry to get a cold beer.
Ginette – too right, it was hot, humid and we had a long ride to do before sun set. It was a beautiful highway with lots to see including lots of citrus of trees. However at times I found myself willing Gary to go faster we crawled along at 8 -10 miles an hour. In the end I decided it was easier if I set the pace. Only to find there was a head wind but I was determined to go faster than 10 miles an hour so put my head down and fortunately we hit town just before sunset, which is at 6 pm. The sun goes down very quickly and there are very few street lights and we do not have sufficient night lights to be riding out on the country roads so it was worth the extra push. It was knackering but the beer tasted so good.
On the subject of beer, the popular drink here is Belikin it is served in a regular 12oz bottle of beer but the glass is thicker. It feels in your hand like a regular 12oz beer but the bottle is weighted. It’s priced the same as a 12oz bottle of beer but you’re only getting 9.6 ounces of beer. 9.6 OUNCES! Added to this it is not cheap at 5 Belizean dollars a bottle.
It rained heavy in the early morning but the sun soon came out for us. Hopkins has a long beach area but the storms had stirred up the water and the sea was a brackish brown with debris in its wash and on the beach.
We cycled through to the North end of town to a river inlet to the large wetlands area in the vague hope of spotting a Manatee but no luck.
The houses in the town were a mix of well built brick houses and shanty wooden shack, some very stylish with ornate verandas . The people are lovely and welcoming.
Ginette – a lot of the verandas have ornate swans built into their frames, these are pretty but an unusual sight for Belize – Perhaps linked to England??
Last night we ate in a cafe with the locals, a boy of about 6 was hanging with us, he wanted to learn to whistle like me so we spent some time trying to get a noise from his lips
Ginette – the boy was really cute but as I tried to eat my dinner he informed me his favourite food was beans and rice and he had an empty tummy. I asked him if he’d had dinner or lunch and he simply shook his shoulders. His heavily pregnant mum was sitting at a table close by and I asked her if I could share my meal. She waved her finger at me indicating she did not approve. The boy begged her with his eyes and backed off a little. I felt bad and hoped if I left my dinner he may be able to eat it but his mum still disapproved. We realised later that his mum worked in the cafe and we could only hope as she cleared our plates away that the food we’d left would be shared with the boy.
We cycled the 20 miles back up the road to Dangriga, like Hopkins this town had an African Caribbean feel to it, however we weren’t there for long as we managed to get us and the bikes onto a small ferry boat for a trip out to Tobacco caye.
Arriving on this tiny Island we were left at the jetty by the ferry with no one else in sight, we walked the bikes in the sand through the many wooden huts and within minutes had reached the other end of the Island. We had found someone to ask about somewhere to stay and ended up pitching our tent between the wooden huts with the use of one of the huts toilet and shower.
Ginette – there are no vehicles on the island or roads or paths so you can imagine the bemused looks we received off the islands residents. Apparently 17 people live on the island and cater for tourists all year round. The island has no electricity and relies on generators, most of the bars and cafes shut for hurricane season.
This camping pitch couldn’t have been more idyllic, we had a wooden pontoon reaching out to sea in front of us and we were surrounded by coconut trees and wooden beach huts, we had to take care not to camp under the coconuts for obvious reasons.
The snorkelling was nice in clear warm waters and the reef was a short swim from the beach. We needed to be careful though because there were a lot of sea urchins around so we needed to watch where we put our feet
Ginette I struggled with my snorkel gear my eyes stung and watered in my mask and my snorkel kept letting in water. As I couldn’t see nor could I put my feet down I decided to swim back to the pontoon. On my way back I could see a big round shape under me, it startled me, but I reassured my self it was probably the sun throwing shadows on the water but later realised it was a big black ray. How amazing is that.
We watched four or five eagle rays (white spots all over their backs) gliding gracefully right under our feet whilst stood on the wooden pontoon plus another larger black (no spots) and a smaller whiter coloured ray. We spent ages watching these graceful animals circling around us.
We met a Canadian couple, they are surf ski kayakers so we had a lot in common along with the fact that the lady played the Ukulele.
We spent a few hours with this couple playing the Ukulele together, singing and chatting. It was a lovely evening
Chilled out island
Ginette was a bit tired this morning after last nights broomstick flying and general spelling and curse laying she was doing in the night
We had a hot sweaty night with rain in the night and in the morning, but the weather here changes fairly quickly so we had a hot but overcast day to relax in.
We cooked our own breakfast and lounged about reading and playing the Ukulele.
I set up the fishing rod, the first time since the Canaries and spent some time teaching my bait how to swim and avoid all other contact with fish, my issue is firstly my patience and secondly my choice of bait. Later in the day I had another attempt this time using little hermit crabs that I broke out of there shell, the little fish went wild for this bait but it was too small for the big ones I was after, a local fisherman offered to help me in the morning if I was still staying on the island.
We had a few goes at snorkeling but the snorkels we bought earlier in the trip are rubbish, they have a weird valve that doesn’t work so the snorkel slowly fills with water. This makes the snorkeling a challenge as you have to set up a rhythm to clear the snorkel before you are choked. But the snorkel issues to one side, the sea life is great, the sea is really warm and the water isn’t to deep so you spend ages in the water (if you wasn’t having to concentrate on not choking)
Some of the hotels have opened today for the first time in nearly 6 months as it is the start of the season but that said we nearly have the place to ourselves with a small handful of holiday makers and approx 18 islanders
Tonight on the jetty in the pitch black we witnessed a flashing white light display under the water as some form of luminesant marine life discharged its light show for us, unfortunately Ginette lost her reading glasses in the sea, perhaps we can swim in tomorrow to try to find them
Ginette – A very chilled day, a managed to read a book from cover to cover. Several of the locals stopped during our stay on the island to share their stories. Several of the men looked much older than their years, probably due to being out in the sun all day, drinking (they started drinking at 9 in the morning and smoking weed). They found it hard to believe we were in our 50’s. In contrast to that several of the men on the island have referred to me as Mama, I suppose I should be grateful it is not grandmama.
The wheels on the bus go round and round.
Another very hot night in the tent, there was a fairly strong wind all night but also rain so we couldn’t just leave the tent door open.
Breakfast of porridge and coffee on the Omni stove. On the table next to us a local was hammering open conch shells to get at the meat inside and then cutting out the bad bits so he a large plate of what looked like large white whelks.
I had a little dip in the choppy sea in the hope of finding a Ginette’s reading glasses that she dropped off the pontoon last night while we were watching the luminescent lights in the water, no glasses found.
We packed the tent and kit away, the weather wasn’t brilliant so we planned to get the 9am ferry back to the mainland. The ferry driver knew we were leaving this morning and was hanging around the island waiting for us and another two locals who were also going back.
We said our goodbyes to the locals and took the bumpy small ferry ride back to Dangriga.
We arrived at the bus stop just as a bus was about to go, but the bus was too full to the our bikes so we were asked to wait for the next bus. There is not a lot to see in Dangriga other than local shops and eating holes so we opted to wait in the bus station, we didn’t have to wait long.
We managed to get the bikes in through the buses back door with the front wheels removed and we were charged double as the bikes were taking up a seat but it was still
Cheap at £14.
Once in Belmopan it was only 12.30 so we headed off to cycle the 22 miles to San Ignacio.
On the ride we had to stop for a rain storm for 30 minutes in a school playground, it’s Saturday so no one was in the school. A man stopped to offer us a free camping site at his home but having spent the last two nights camping we had already got our hearts set on a room for the night.
As we neared the town a large group of Brahman bulls ran alongside us fortunately they were enclosed in their field as they are huge. They’re the result of cross-breeding four types of cattle brought over from India. They’re able to withstand extreme heat and drought.
Ginettes bad luck day today, losing her glasses, then she left her top box open during the downpour and her waterproof top box did a good job of collecting water. Then shortly after this her front brake cable snapped. I am not letting her touch me tonight in case it falls off.
The good news is that we found a new cable at the first shop we stopped at, it was a hardware store with everything in it, also another can of camping gas.
Ginette – it truly has been a day of disasters for me, I ended the day by opening a can of beer on the bed and it exploding all over the covers, the floor and wall.
Belize has been amazing, the locals are so proud of who they are and their heritage, where ever we have cycled they’ve been keen to welcome us and ask if we’re enjoying their country. In nearly every town someone has stopped to talk to us, either to ask about our journey or to provide us with some information about the local area. I will always remember Belize as a warm welcoming country. Tomorrow we cycle over the border to Guatamala.