Caye Caulker and San Ignacio

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Apr 15, 2007

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Flag of Belize  ,
Thursday, August 31, 2006

We stepped off the ferry in Caye Caulker for a welcome break after 6 days of non-stop planes, buses and ferries. We ended up at The Tropic, a dilapidated two story clapboard hotel right on the beach. At $15 a night, it was exactly what we were looking for, and exactly what you would expect in that price range. A tub and sink that didn't drain, paper thin walls and a mattress that left bruises. You do get what you pay for. But the toilet flushed, the ceiling fan blew the sheets off the bed, and the view was as good as it gets.

The 3 days we spent on Caulker were a blur of inactivity chased by laziness interspersed with naps. So yeah, it was great. Sure, we did some stuff along the way, snorkeling a bit on our own, and all day on a tour out to the barrier reef where we swam with sharks and stingrays and whatnot. I fished a bit every evening, catching a bunch of different stuff including bonefish and barracuda, but mostly it was all about relaxing. Pretty sweet really. And every walk around the town included a little local color, with random encounters with local eccentrics like CrissCross, Beadhead, and Castaway Bob.

The next morning we caught the ferry to Belize City, the one place in Belize you really don't want to visit. While we only saw a bit on the bus out of town, it all looked blatantly neglected, like a bad neighborhood on a citywide scale. Swaybacked wooden stilt houses gone all tilty beside newer cinderblock neighbors, fences slapped together with bricks, planks, rusty tin sheeting, and often all three. Given that the city has been pretty well destroyed by hurricanes three times in the last 60 years, maybe you can understand their not investing too much in home improvement.

The bus out of Belize City was typical of what we'll be traveling in for the next few months. A retired American school bus, it slowly rattled its way from the coast to San Ignacio, a mountain town near the border with Guatemala, where we are now and will be for a couple days. It was probably just another bus to Karen, but for me it was a bit surreal, the incredibly familiar mixed with the completely new. The daily transport of my youth carrying me through a land dotted with palm trees and mangroves, filled with Creoles, Indians, Mayans and Mennonites.

On arrival we explored a local Mayan ruin as it was just a mile walk from town. The fact that it was closed for the day just meant it was free and we had the place to ourselves. Much smaller than Chichen Itza, in some respects it was better. Still half enveloped by the jungle, sun getting low in the sky, bird calls echoing through the forest and no one else around. Perfect. We repeated that performance the next morning, catching an early bus headed for the border, but getting off at Xunantunich, the biggest Mayan ruin in the area. Except for a couple local kids and a 6' iguana we had the place to ourselves. We wasted no time in climbing the main structure, a 130' rough pyramid that afforded us a view of jungle and farms stretching to the horizon while butterflies did circuits round our heads. Perfect again.

Heading back to the coast tomorrow for more seaside fun.
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