and the clocks go back an hour when you cross the border, so this meant there was not a bus for nearly another 2 hours. Really glad we left behind our nice, cold room up the road to sit in a boiling hot smelly carpark for 2 hours. The room was too far away to walk back though, and there was a big, busy market all around the bus stop so we used up the rest of our mexican coins on snacks for the journey and chatted to the bus drivers...very cool that Belize is an english speaking country, although the creole and strong afro-caribbean accent makes it almost as difficult to follow as spanish at times. The bus finally left and took about 15 minutes to reach the border crossing, and they were so bothered about us leaving mexico they didn't even open Lou's passport
. But at least we didn't get asked to pay any departure tax, which we were happy about. Getting into Belize was easy too and went no further than a 'have you got any drugs' - 'no' - 'welcome to Belize' interrogation...if only the USA customs officers would learn a thing or two from these guys.
It took about 4 hours to get to Belize City and we were the lucky ones as we'd got on at the start of the route and didn't budge from our seats. Once again though, and as opposed to the posh buses with assigned seats, the bus was full to bursting with as many people standing as there were seats, heaps of shopping, kids, and people jumping on to try and sell tacos, drinks and gum at every available opportunity. Everyone was very friendly towards us and these slower buses tend to take the scenic route through the villages and market towns so it's nice to sit back, take it all in, and watch literally hundreds of people jumping on and off the bus going about their daily business. The lack of air-con also means the windows are wide open and you get plenty of fresh air and the smells from the country outside...good and bad. From the bus terminal in Belize City it was a 10 minute walk along Orange Street to the dock to pick up the water taxi to Caye Caulker where we were heading to do some diving on the second biggest barrier reef in the world. Not quite the 'passenger ferry' we'd imagined, the water taxi was a medium sized speed boat, with around 60 people on-board (plus luggage) crammed in like sardines and boiling hot, but luckily nobody got sick within the 45 minutes it took to reach the Caye
. We found a cabin on stilts, right on the beach and complete with balcony and hammock for around 12 quid a night (albeit a bit rough around the edges), and spent the evening sharing a bottle of rum on the balcony with our new neighbours Alex and Quinn from Los Angeles.
The next day we'd booked to go on a snorkeling trip to some different reef sites around the island, but alas when we woke up it was chucking it down with rain and the boats weren't going out. Bit of a shame as we were diving the next day so wouldn't have time to go, but we got our money back and spent the day chilling in a rooftop cafe, watching the tropical rain and catching up on the blog...there are certainly worse ways to spend a day. To top it off we spent the evening indulging in fresh BBQ'd lobster with Alex and Quinn, hearing about their exciting plans to spend the next year travelling and working on farms across central and south america. An early night followed as we had to be up and at the Big Fish dive centre very early the next morning for a long day of diving.
It was a two hour boat ride to the dive sites, hence the 5.30am start. The dives were great...warm, clear water, lots of sharks, and all kinds of fish and corals. In between dives we saw dolphins from the boat jumping in the wake
. For lunch we spent an hour on Half Moon Caye, a paradise island now designated a world heritage site, fringed by white sand and palm trees and inhabited by hundreds of iguanas, hermit crabs and the comically named red footed boobies, a rare kind of large sea bird. The sea was pretty choppy for most of the day and it was a good job the lobsters we had the night before behaved themselves and we both had our sea legs on, as we really got thrown around in the back of the boat. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the 30 stone man from El Salvador, who had come along for the day to go snorkeling (why oh why when you could snorkel 50 metres from the beach?). After consuming a considerable amount of biscuits and fruit and polishing off his chicken, rice and beans within seconds, the entire boat was treated to a scene not dissimilar to the exorcist when he couldn't make it to the back of the boat or the toilet in time. Utterly disgusting, he covered one poor man's feet (although luckily he was asleep and didn't know too much about what had occurred when he woke up) and he set a whole load of others off too. Back on firm ground, we headed up to 'the split', where in 1965 Hurricane Hattie split the island in half and is now a nice place to chill out by the bar, take a swim and lay in the sun on the beach.
We caught the water taxi back to the mainland the following morning and continued from Belize city by bus to a small town called Placencia
. The journey took us down the southern coast of Belize, from where we could take a boat over to Honduras, avoiding a long haul through Guatemala by land. The bus ride was another classic, we headed out of Belize city on a rickety old US school bus heading for the capital city Belmopan (the wrong direction) on the promise that our bus would connect with another en-route to take us south to Placencia. After 3 hours the bus stopped at a crossroads and the conductor began shouting 'Placencia, Placencia'. Off we got obediently, and when we looked across the road another old american school bus was slowly reversing down the road led by another conductor who grabbed our bags and stuffed them in a rear compartment along with their oil cans, fuel and the spare wheel. The bus was blasting out RnB music for the entire journey...it was so loud you couldn't hear the person next to you and we now know the words to every Rhianna and Leona Lewis song out there. Sure enough though we arrived exactly where we wanted to be, 2 hours earlier than we had expected, in time for dinner down by the dock, watching the sunset and the local fisherman filleting the fish they'd caught that day.
We'd been advised by one of the locals at the bus station that the second class buses to Belize run every half an hour or so, so we got up in our own time and made our way over to the bus stop. Within about 5 minutes of being there we learnt that there was a bus at 9.45