Baboons, Strangling Heat, and Coool Creole
28.02.2007 - 04.02.2007 33 °C
Well, we are in San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize right now, and in a couple of hours we will be making a break for it to the border, and to Tikal. We have spent 4 nights in Belize, and definately will be returning.
Things are winding down to a close, now, too. Since Jay and I decided to get married, things have been going on at home and we want to go back to help with the planning. Also, Jay decided last week he was tired of travelling too, so we thought perhaps we'd shorten the timespan from 2 months to 2 weeks. Now, we have one week left. We leave on March 11, and I don't think we'll be missing out, if anything, this just gives us more of an excuse to return back to these fantastic countries.
So, anyway. We woke up from Tulum and caught an early (I mean, EARLY - 6:30am!) bus to Chetumal, 10km from the Belize border, the very bottom of Mexico. As we rolled into the pretty capitol of Quintana Roo, we passed by a shopping mall and a movie theatre. Jay looked out the window and saw a listing for "something Fantasma" and knew it was Ghost Rider. He wanted to go see it before we went to Belize really badly, but I didn't think we'd have enough time. I really overestimated the size of Belize, though, and it turned out that it would be 1 1/2 hours sooner to hit our destination of Orange Walk, than I thought. So, we did some calculations, discovered there was a bus that ran at 3pm to Orange Walk and that Ghost Rider played at 11am. We hopped into a taxi to the theatre, and with 5 minutes to spare, we were watching GHOST RIDER! It was great, air-conditioned (in 35 degree heat that was well welcomed!), and we were even able to enjoy some chinese food in the food court before heading back to the bus station. Fantastic!
We knew we were in for a change when we saw the bus that would take us to Belize. Remember when you were in elementary school and you took the yellow school bus to school? Well, it's the same bus that takes you to Belize, only now it's named "VENUS" and is bright purple and orange, and 20 years older. Awesome. It drove us and about 20 other tourists to the border with Marley crooning at full capacity, and we waited in the most chill border lineup for 45 minutes while they asked us the routine "where are you going/staying" and issued us a 30 day visa. The bus waited for us, obviously not in a rush (We've come to the conclusion that "GO SLOW" is the Country motto), and less than 2 hours later we were in Orange Walk, Belize.
Orange Walk is possibly the most international small town I've even seen. Mennonites, Creole, Chinese, Mestizo and Tourists spice up the life, if not the food. Actually, the food in Belize is not quite up to the Mexican standards, with the local dishes consisting of rice and beans, and chicken, and panades (which are like empanadas but greasier). We stayed in the best hotel we've stayed in yet, St. Christophers, which was like any fancy hotel at home, and the next day we took a riverboat ride down the New River to Lamanai with Jungle River tours.
Mom, Dad, remember Tortuguero, all the streams and jungle and herons and birds? Here I went again... only I saw crocodiles, a Jabiru Stork (12ft wingspan and an endangered species!), and at the end of the ride was the interesting mayan ruins of Lamanai, which was the longest occupied mayan site in the whole world, remaining there until the 1800's! Out of 750 structures only 5 were excavated, but they were impressive none the less and we were lucky enough to see howler monkeys and a toucan there as well! It all culminated in a great tour, and the next day we took the bus to Bermudian Landing.
Bermudian Landing is a small village which first received electricity 7 years ago, and a paved road only 4 years ago. They had only 1 hotel open, and no restaurants. What they did have, however, was the community Baboon Sanctuary, where a collective of there and other towns live in harmony with the rare Black Howler Monkey, protecting them and the land where they live. We stayed at the Howler Monkey lodge in a room and the originator of the sanctuary, Fallot, invited us over for lunch before we went to see the monkeys, since Jay was starving! He served us a mountain of rice and beans, and at 4pm we went on a tour with Juliet, who showed us various medicinal plants, a hummingbird nest, and finally, the howlers themselves.
Although there are over 1600 monkeys in the sanctuary, the particular group near the town is very tame and in fact we were able to touch them and feed them bananas and play with them! There were 9 members of the group, including 2 brand new babies. It was very special! We had plans to leave the next morning, but the hotel had a pool and the sounds of the jungle, the lack of any traffic and the calmness and remoteness of the place convinced us to spend another day here doing absolutely nothing but swimming, reading, visiting the babboons again and chilling. Our hostess at the hotel made dinners upon request as well, so we wouldn't go hungry.
That evening too I took a nighttime tour with another local guide. Jay stayed behind so it was just him and I, and we saw a prehensile tailed porcupine, nightjars, heard armadillos, and he taught me about all sorts of jungle wisdom and remedies. At the end of the 3 hour personal tour we went to the local bar and they gave us a drink, local rum and coke. Wow, potent! Everybody in there spoke creole and it was interesting to listen to, sometimes you thought that you could understand what they were saying and other times, not at all. They didn't ask us to pay either, I looked at my guide and he was like " no man! I'm local here, you don't have to pay!". Seriously, I have never been to as chill a location as Belize!
As foretold, the next day Jay and I did nothing but swim, play cards, revisit the monkeys and eat amazing meals prepared by our hostess. We discovered however that the only way to leave town on Sundays was to drive or hitch, and so since we don't have a car to drive, we would have to hitch a ride... so this morning we did just that. Amazingly this seems to be quite normal in Belize, and we left Bermudian landing on the back of a pickup truck with 6 other people at 8 thirty to Burrell Boom, caught a minivan with another Canadian to Belmopan by 10am, and Finally by ourselves on the back of another pickup truck by 10:30, and we were in San Ignacio, where we are now, at Eva's Restaurant. I can safely say we have travelled halfway across Belize on the back of pickup trucks, it's great!
So, tonight we will try to be in Tikal. Tomorrow it's the ruins, and we'll be home on the 11th or the 12th. Posting soon,