100% Guate? 100% Guatemalan! We knew nothing of the country before we arrived to its border but now having spent over a month here we feel that we have gone through a “Guatemorphosis” of sorts. Though we certainly stand out with our milk faces and our western clothes, we have been accepted into the population as voluntarily Guatemalans. We eat, work, and play like the Guats.
We left Caye Caulker behind and headed back towards Sarteneja where we had left our truck. We took a quick pitstop in Ambergris Caye as we waited for the next ferry.
We made friends with a Coatimundi (You may remember these guys as “Crock Snacks” in Mexico. Now I feel kinda bad, they are awfully cute.
The entry fee for the zoo was a bit steep ($15US per person??) but all the animals were rescues so we figured it was for a good cause. It turned out to be a great little zoo, with lots of native Belizean animals we have never seen before.
THE HARPY EAGLE! The largest and most powerful eagle in the Americas. This thing eats Coatimundis for lunch. (Coatis got it rough…) The harpy eagles are practically extinct in Central America due to deforestation. What a wild looking bird.
After Lauren burned her clothes we jumped back in the truck and headed towards Barton Creek Outfitters. A small hostel deep in the jungle of Belize.
We met up with some other overlanders in Barton Creek. It was great hanging out and swapping stories. The badass LandRover Defender belongs to Stefan and his wife from http://www.kontraer.com/. The equally badass oldschool Isuzu Troopie belongs to Paul and Suzy from http://headsouth.travellerspoint.com.
Some of us got together and decided to take a trip deeper into the jungle to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. We loaded up the trucks and headed off. Here you can see Zach and Jill’s modified AstroVan from http://anywherethatswild.org
After about 2 hours of driving and a 20 minute hike we made it to “Big Rock Falls”. A beautiful place we had all to ourselves. We dived from the rocks into the refreshing pools below and took a shower under the power of the falls.
We eventually found the cave, We were expecting some dark hole bat-filled hole in the ground. What we found was much more impressive.
Creating a gaping cathedral inside full of huge stalactites and a sandy beach next to the river
We left the caves and found a nice pavilion where we posted up for the night. None of us had prepared to camp for the night and we did not have much in the way of food/water separately. However, once everyone brought what they had and laid it out on the table, We had enough for a feast!
Yesss! Been waiting for this post just so I can use this tacky title. We added a “Gear Review” section to the site, It is a little thin right now but check it out if you are planning your own trip and need some ideas on what works and what doesn’t. If you do decide to order something we get a small kickback from Amazon, every little bit helps. We have also started up a photo gallery where you can purchase photos, magnets, postcard etc. if you are interested.
After a great night in Bakalar, Mexico we headed south to the Belize/Mexico border. Unsure of what to expect we checked out our friends “Life Remotely” blog who recently crossed the border and posted a great detailed report explaining the crossing in detail.
It turned out to be a simple affair. We found the Mexican customs office, relinquished our Mexican visas and stopped at the Banjercito to check-out the truck. We received an exit stamp in our passport and they removed our Mexican vehicle import sticker from the trucks windshield. We were officially in “No Mans Land”. The area that exists while you are checked out from one country but not checked into the next. You may know it by the term “duty-free zone”. They had a large mall here where you could pick up cheap booze, cigarettes, and crappy knock-off brand name clothes.
After stocking up on junk we hit the Belize border. We had just learned the day before that Belize’s official language is actually English. Quite a surprise to us. It took a while to get used to saying, Thank you, instead of Gracias and Yes, instead of Si. But man were we happy to finally be able to have a full-on conversation with people instead of standing there like idiots trying to communicate.
The check-in process to Belize was simple, a few stamps in the passport, a cursory check of the vehicle and we were in. Welcome to Belize! We picked up vehicle insurance just past the border, $23 for 2 weeks.
While we were in Bakalar we met up with “Team Equipt” who gave us the line on a great campsite just past the Belize border, We headed off towards the GPS coords. The road was not on our map but Ben assured me, we could make it.
Cruising down the road we hit a river with a ferry crossing. This was no ordinary ferry, an ancient hand-cranked job which looked as if it would sink at any moment. (I later learned that it actually did sink about 3 weeks before…) It could hold about 3 cars at a time, apparently it runs 24/7. The conductor sleeps on a wooden bench in the ferry.
We met some cool Mennonites on the ferry who were partying it up, we shared a few beers while we took turns cranking the ferry across the river. Hard working farming folk, there is a large Mennonite community in Belize. Apparently they got fed up with U.S religious policy and a large population relocated to Belize in the 1950s. Most are still very religious leading an almost Amish lifestyle, preferring horsedrawn buggies to automobiles. We met some of the more “progressive” boys. Ha!
Pressing on towards the GPS coords we eventually found the spot. And it was worth every mile! Thanks again Team Equipt! We enjoyed this secluded beach cove all to ourselves. We stayed here for 2 days not seeing a soul, soaking up the sun and waves.
From our cove we headed towards a small town in Northern Belize by the name of Sartenja. Sartenja, Belize is home to the “Backpackers Paradise” A great little hostel/restaurant run by an amazing French and Swiss couple. They have carved out their own little piece of paradise here. They rent out cabins, tents, and hammocks to travelers for great rates. Natalie also can cook like nobodies business, we had amazing French/Belizean fusion meals for dinner every night.
A little friend paid us a visit one night while we were hanging out. Luckily Natalie is also a biologist and not afraid of crazy death spiders. She took care of it post-haste while Lauren and I clung to the hammocks afraid to touch the floor.
As we explored Sartenja we noted how different this country is than Mexico. Belize is an interesting mixture of culture’s. You have Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west, and the Caribbean islands to the east. Throw in the fact that up until 20 years ago Belize was actually a British colony and you have a country that stands alone in Central America. It was not uncommon to hear Spanish, English, Creole, and dabbles of Mayan in one conversation. The cherry on top? All languages were spoke with a thick Caribbean rasta accent. The people are warm and friendly. Here everyone seemed happy to see us, smiling and waving, even if they had no idea who we were. We’re lovin’ Belize!
We agreed to store our truck in the jungle at Backpackers Paradise while we struck out to the explore the treasures of Belize. The Cayes. (Pronounced Keys)
Coming from the jungle to the shoreline, while less than a mile-walk was like being in an entirely different world. We left behind the biting mosquitos, menacing spiders, and unknown deadly jungle plants for sandy shores, warm waters, and beautiful turquoise seas.
Following a tip from Natalie at the Backpacker Paradise we hunted down “Ignacio’s Cabins” at the far end of the island. A quiet tranquil spot where the only sounds you hear are the waves lapping the shore and iguanas crawling all over the place.
We spent the next 3 days taking a “vacation from our vacation”. With our accommodations set and no truck to worry about we found ourselves free to stroll around all day. The island is small and we found our favorite spot the first day.
We lost They did give away plenty of free shots during the event though, which made up for our $1 bet.
Little known factoid: Belize is home to the worlds second largest barrier reef. There were plenty of tour guides peddling trips out to snorkel/dive the reef. We thought the prices were a bit steep and opted to rent a kayak and snorkel equipment from our man Ignacio. For 1/4 of the price and 5 times the fun we kayaked out the reef and snorkeled among sharks, rays, and millions of beautiful reef fish. Would have been nice to have a water proof camera for this. Maybe next time?
After 3 days of relaxing we headed back to the ferry to return to our regularly scheduled vacation.
Hello again ladies and gents! Yet another month has come and gone south of the border and it is time once more to take a look at the expenses for the month and see what the damage is.