13/3/17. We returned to Flores for the night as the bus to Belize left at 8 o’clock next morning with “check in” (a very informal process) an hour earlier. The bus was a grand affair compared with the rather tatty minibuses we had been in for the two long hauls across Guatemala – a full sized coach with toilet. And, of course, instead of every seat being taken there were only 9 of us so we had ample space.
Four of the other seven passengers had been on the ride from Pana to Lanquin (including Mark our interesting and inspiring dinner companion) and we saw several other faces we recognised when wandering around Tikal – sort of reassuring that others were on a similar programme to us – but also “not” when we have our contrary/unconventional heads on!
The border crossing from Guatemala to Belize had been flagged as an hour and a half affair. Thankfully, it only took about a third of that time – and involved no fees/taxes at all! Result!
Immediately on crossing the border there was a different feel. It was much more “Caribbean” rather than “ Hispanic” (helped by English signs everywhere and HM’s picture on the money!) but also it seemed more affluent – there were far more private cars (albeit somewhat beaten up) and the houses looked better. The predominant skin colour was also much darker.
The bus dropped us in Belize City (not the capital since 1970 despite being the largest place with a population of 50-60,000. Belmopan with 16,000 people has that honour.) from where we caught a (very) fast (almost 60 mph!! according to the GPS app on Stephen’s phone) water taxi to the island of Caye Caulker (pronounced “key corker”).
Mark had given us the heads up that life here was “relaxed” with a capital “R” – and he was not wrong! What a great place for “chillaxing” (we’re down with the kids!) this is. Everything is “No problem” – in a Caribbean accent!
The only vehicles (including taxis) are golf buggies – or bikes but everything is within walking distance anyway (although the “roads” are hard packed sand for the most part). It is definitely geared up for the tourist trade but that, of course, made life easier (but more expensive) for us.
A hurricane a few years ago cut the island in half, creating “The Split” – a channel 100 feet wide – so the uninhabited north part is pretty much inaccessible. As a result it could be a bit claustrophobic after more than a week – but a short stay is wonderfully relaxing.
We both hired bikes for an hour which was enough to explore all of the accessible part of the southern half of the island (parts are private land or “airport”) so we could tick off another country as “cycled in”! (Sad, isn’t it?)
However, Stephen’s highlight was a half day snorkeling trip out to the reef (the second largest in the world – after a bit of coral plonked somewhere off the coast of an island called OzSomethingOrOther”!!). The fish and the coral were beautiful and then there was “Shark & Ray Alley” where we swam with (thankfully) harmless nurse sharks and sting-rays by the hundreds. That was before we saw the giant turtle with a huge chunk of his shell missing (shark suspected! Eek!!)
Christine very much enjoyed the church service on Sunday – it made a nice change to understand the majority of what was being said!
Despite our reservations about a long (say 2 week) stay , we were not really ready to leave after 3 nights/2.5 days when it was time to catch the water taxi to Chetumal in Mexico, from where we will be flying back to Houston – especially as it was another early morning check in.