December 17, 2004
Belize City, Belize
Well I am off into another country. So far so good. I took the bus in from Tulum to Chetumal taking the 9:15am bus. When I arrive in Chetumal I looked at the bus schedule board and there was a bus heading out to Belize City in fifteen minuets. The big challenge was getting thru the ticket counter line fast enough. As is three other Gringos (a Swiss and two Americans) were trying to make it thru so they quickly became my friends and we bought five tickets all at once and rushed down to the bus. We made it on and headed out.
About half the people on the bus were backpackers of one sort or another. Since I have been near Cancun the number of short term (two weeks or so) travelers have increased. I dont know how people make so hard to get thru Customs and Immigration. Maybe it was just that growing up I tagged along on getting not only the family thru immigrations but the boat thru customs.
The Belize immigration form is easy, even in English so why do people panic over every question? Why do they keep trying to give it to the Mexican official when we are leaving Mexico? What part of dont louse your Mexican tourist card didnt you understand? (One girl wasnt allowed to leave with the rest of us for that oneE I dont know, I just dont get how normal intelligent people suddenly cant read or follow simple directions when faced with border crossings.
Belize City is a place we visited when we lived on the boat. My impression of it was a big, dirty, third world city. Although I arrived at dusk my impression is still the same. We shall have to see what my morning walk reveals.
Mostly my time here is as a jumping off point to the Cayes. I will take a little time to try to see the sights and give the town a chance but I am more interested in the worlds second largest barrier reef than another big city.
Of course the weirdest thing is that Belize is an English speaking country. They have a Caribbean accent but it is English. I keep trying to speak in Spanish or listen in Spanish, but I dont have to. Weird. I suspect I will feel the same when I go to Guatemala. Also its a new currency and hence new currency conversions to do. Not that the U.S. dollar to Belize dollar is hard (two Belize to one U.S. period.) It has been this for something like eleven years. Counting change is a bit odd if you have a mix because the U.S. counts for double.
Actually today has been a good day. While I was waiting for my breakfast I decided to dig thru my day pack and see how many cats cradle strings I had left. (I gave another one away) and in the bottom I found my favorite red string and the little flashlight I had given up as lost. I have even been looking in the markets for a replacement for the key chain flashlight and I am so happy to find them.
I have also come to the realization that my getting sick in Merida was also well timed. I was getting tired of traveling and it was time to sit in one place and get ready to go again. Well being sick gave me lots of time to wish I was back home and to realize that if I was there I would be just as sick except when I was well again I would have to go back to work and catch up on all I missed. The last couple days I am back to being excited when I read the guide and think of going to Belize so I guess this is one of those times I am starting my trip for the first time again. (Also if you look back it is about three months since my last little whinny need for a break, so you can mark your calendars for sometime in late March early May for me wanting to go home again.)
December 25, 2004
Marry Christmas everybody! I am having a white sand x-mass, although I would trade it for a few days up there in the frozen north with my friends and family. (Not to mention the upper 90 degree heat is getting to me a bit.)
After my last entry I did wander around Belize City for hours in the morning, getting cash, buying a piece of cheap fabric to use as a beach towel, and seeing the sights that make up the city. My impression is a little better than it was twenty years ago, but I still dont want to move there. It is just not a town that has a lot to offer as far as I could tell. (Not to mention it has been getting wrapped up in the drug trade and is not necessarily very safe.) I did get a picture of the old grave yard though. By noon I was ready to head out so I caught the water ferry off to Caye Caulker.
Caulker is the more budget friendly of the two cays (pronounced keysE in northern Belize. Although there is some local economy the big money maker is tourism with a little fishing and boat building mixed in. Although the island (about four blocks at the widest and about two miles long) has lovely white sand the real interest is the snorkeling and diving on the reef.
After finding a hostel on a back street my first evening there I headed out to look at the snorkeling tours. As I am from a land locked state I decided that a nice little half day tour would be a nice warm up. There was a nice little shop on the beach that looked like it would do a good job.
The next morning at 10:30am I was off in an open boat with a couple who live on the island for a bit of snorkeling. We had three stops and it was a guided tour so the boatman went in with us and used his stick to point out various fish and coral features for us. It wasnt bad. Although I have had better. That is one thing that I have to remember is that I have been to some really amazing snorkeling with my parents on their boat. The places we could get to, as far as snorkeling goes, on our own boat are hard to beat.
My original plan had been to spend a few days on the caye and then go back to Belize City and take the bus south, but the dive shop I took my snorkeling tour with was also running a three day sail boat trip down to Placencia and after running into a couple who were going to take it I decided that it would be fun. (It was a bit out of my budget but I figured this was a time to splurge a bit.)
The trip was three days of sailing with two nights camping out on the beach with food and everything included. The boat was a little twenty something food sail boat with a little shelter but mostly you were out on deck. We had a guide and captain and eight tourists for ten on the boat. About the right number.
There was a English couple doing a year long trip who are still here in Placencia and I run into them from time to time, a couple who have been living in France working at a hostel, a woman and her son from Germany who have been living in Spain, and a student on holiday from Canada. Not a bad bunch.
The days settled into a rhythm. Wake up with the sun, have a big breakfast, sail for a couple hours, snorkel for a bit, have a snack, sail again for a couple hours, snorkel eat lunch, sail, snorkel, snack, land set camp and have a big dinner.
The first day we stopped at English Caye, a caye with a light house on it where we picked up the lobster that was to be our supper, and then we camped on Rendezvous Caye. Rendezvous Caye has a total of eight palm trees, two mangrove trees, a lot of sand, and just enough space for our five tents. And that is it. This would be your classic desert island. Each person on the trip seamed to come for a different reason, the Canadian for the sailing, the English for the snorkeling, and I was here as much for the camping as anything else. (Actually the sailing part I found sort of dull. I guess having lived on a boat I see sailing simply as away to get around and not something that exciting in its own right.)
Rendezvous Caye as a secret double life, as we discovered in the morning. As was waking up I looked out and saw what looked to be a beach bar on the horizon. I thought it was odd as I didnt remember seeing it the night before but it had been dusk as we set up camp so I may have missed it. I went around my morning routine and looked up and saw that the beach bar was definitely closer. Eventually the beach bar arrived at the island and proved its self to be a pontoon boat with a thatched roof cover loaded down with swim mats, plastic kayaks, and scuba gear. At the same time another boat arrived and started setting up a beach bar at one end of the island while the rest of the staff started to unload the pontoon boat on to the beach. By the time we had broken camp and retreated to the boat for breakfast they were on to raking the sand and setting up souvenir shop. As we moved the boat out and anchored off shore and ate breakfast we watched our lovely little island transform into the classic resort beach and two boat loads of cruise ship tourists arrive and start snorkeling. There were probably 150 people in their bright green life vests bobbing around the little island we thought about the right size for the ten of us.
The next day had some lovely snorkeling and although our camp sight on Tobacco Caye wasnt as lovely remote as the night before still a good day.
Here in Placencia has been nice. It is a small laid back little area, but still has all the stuff I need after a few days at see along with general catch up. I have finally gotten laundry done, visited the bank, and getting caught up on this journal and letter writing. It is funny when I get some place I generally am not too sure why I decided to go there but eventually figure it out. Placencia is know for its beach and not much else and since although I do enjoy going to the beach now and then Tulum was only a week or so ago and I dont really need any more beach time for awhile. In the end I decided that part of the reason I wanted to come here was because of my parents. Back when they were on the boat they stopped here a couple times and used it as a quiet harbor to catch up on mail and such. Since this is where they did mail I have gotten letters and phone calls from here so that is why it has entered my imagination. Not so much for interesting things my parents did here, but because there is where they were when they wrote about them. Funny the reasons we do things when we look at them.
Christmas has been a little anticlimactic here. I miss my friends and family and to some extent even miss the cold. (I saw a CNN weather report at dinner last night and it said Minneapolis was at 1 degree with hopes to get up to 17 degrees for today.) As my concerns are more on the lines of sun burn and heat stroke some how being cozily wrapped up back in Minneapolis is appealing. Oh well you win some you lose some. I hope all of your X-masses how ever you did or did not celebrate them are well.
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