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#491026 - 05/18/14 11:39 AM Operation Get This Party Started
Marty Offline

Belize Untamed

We exited the plane directly onto the tarmac of the tiny international airport in Belize City on May 1. We were greeted by live reggae music as we walked into the building toward Customs and Immigration. We stood in line for no more than 15 minutes and smiled broadly at one another when the official said, “Enjoy your stay!” in a thick Caribbean accent. Operation Get This Party Started had officially begun.

We were shocked when we walked out of the terminal to find a taxi and not a single person asked us where we were going or if we needed a ride. We ended up walking straight past the nondescript taxi pick up area and asked an older man for a ride. He let us that there was an order for the drivers and showed us to the man that would take us to the water taxi. Honesty and hassle free; it was a great way to start.

The water taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker. We went with the San Pedro Company which, according to the locals, is better than the Caulker Co.

The water taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker. We went with the San Pedro Company which, according to the locals, is better than the Caulker Co.

Our first stop was Caye Caulker, a small island with a population of around 1,300 made up of Belizean, Creole, Garifuna and Chinese people. Though we only planned to stay for a few days, we ended up staying for a full week. We have a tendency of doing this. In 2011 we went to the Philippines with intentions of staying only three weeks and ended up staying for three months! On our first night we met a local 22 year old named Leroy who ended up being our unofficial tour guide for the first two days. We learned quickly that Belizeans aren’t pushy and don’t constantly try to sell you on the different activities like in Mexico and SE Asia, however, they offer to show you where certain things are (regardless of if you’re already on your way there) and then ask for money after the fact. We’ve had to get creative when it comes to saying no, but remaining respectful and friendly.

We did share plentifully with Leroy and in return he showed us the places on the island that made our time there so amazing. Most importantly he showed us where we could fish in the mangroves with just a line, hook and sardines for bait. We fished for all but maybe two days and caught our dinner every time! I caught a fish for the first time in my life – it was a small, but tasty sea bass. Generally we caught grunt fish, but Jordan did manage to get red snapper once which was delicious!

Cutting the sardines with a shell. Bait.

Cutting the sardines with a shell. Bait.

Jordan’s first catch!

Leroy's first catch.

Leroy’s first catch.

Leroy introduced us to a Guatemalan family that ran a restaurant of sorts on their front porch. Two tables with six chairs total and a washing machine were crammed onto the porch under a dim florescent light bulb and the watchful eye of a faded painting of Virgin Mary. We always brought our catch of the day here and the women fried the fish and gave us rice, beans and freshly made corn tortillas for $1.50 USD each!!

Sharing the fresh catch - Wha da for me da for you!

Sharing the fresh catch with friends – Wha da for me da for you!

The catch.

The catch.

On the days we didn’t spend fishing, we hung out on a long dock on the east side of the island where locals go to chill out and swim. Sea grass surrounds the island, so docks are the best way to avoid having to wade through it. We met an awesome expat couple, Dan and Kari, who relocated from Pittsburgh to the Caye at the beginning of the year and spent hours drinking Belikins and rum and chatting. (If you two read this, we found out how to renew your passport here so contact us via email or Facebook!)

The dock.

The dock.

Enjoying the sunset.

Enjoying the sunset.

After much deliberation (we’re on a shoestringer budget afterall), we decided to pay the $35 USD each to go fishing and snorkeling on the second largest barrier reef in the world. Little did we know that it also included fresh conch sashimi, fruit, booze and various other Caribbean party favors. We went fishing first and then to shark ray alley where we got to swim with nurse sharks and manta rays. Jordan grabbed the largest shark he could find by the tail and went for a short ride and I came face to face with a couple of curious rays. It was a great experience! We went snorkeling on the reef at Hol Chan, but to be honest we didn’t find it to be all that impressive. That evening the staff at Dirty McNasty’s Hostel fried up the catch and we had another feast of fresh fish!

IMG_1283 IMG_1287

Snorkeling crew.

Snorkeling crew.

The lookout shack in the middle of the water.

The lookout shack in the middle of the water.

Jordan with the sharks and rays.

Jordan with the sharks and rays. Photo courtesy of James Price, NZ.

Incredible!

Incredible! Photo courtesy of James Price, NZ.

I could write so much more, but those were really the highlights for us. We’re on the mainland in the south of Belize now and plan to stay for one more week before heading to Honduras. Stay tuned for more posts about our experiences on the mainland of Belize soon!

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#491336 - 05/24/14 12:16 PM Re: Operation Get This Party Started [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

We’ve spent the past two weeks zigzagging around mainland Belize and it is hard to sum up the experience concisely as each place we’ve stayed has been unique. Generally speaking, Belize is probably the most chilled out country we’ve been to (with the exception of the bus drivers) and while there is plenty to see and do on the mainland, the infrastructure isn’t quite set up to make it easy or affordable for backpackers on a budget.

After Caye Caulker we went north to a town called Sartaneja on the Shipstern Penninsula where we were the only guests at a place called Backpacker’s Paradise in the jungle. We arrived in the evening and weren’t able to get a good feel on the area before dark, so what could have been a romantic night was actually kind of creepy as mangos fell heavily on the tin roof of our bungalow and the resident dogs barked consistently throughout the night.  It was beautiful to see the jungle, but we were looking for a bit more human interaction so we decided to move on the following evening.

Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris Caye.

We spent the afternoon in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye before heading to Sartaneja.

We spent the afternoon in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye before heading to Sartaneja.

Our "bungalow" at Backpacker's Paradise.

Our “bungalow” at Backpacker’s Paradise.

Ripe mangos drop like flies, but sound like bombs. ;)

Ripe mangos drop like flies, but sound like bombs. ;)

The communal area and kitchen at Backpacker's Paradise.

The communal area and kitchen at Backpacker’s Paradise.

B.A.N.A.N.A.S.

B.A.N.A.N.A.S.

We took another boat up to Corozal (8 miles from the border of Mexico) and were stoked to get a room at the Sea Breeze Hotel owned by a feisty Welsh gentleman by the name of Gwyn. Besides a small Mayan ruin there isn’t much to see in Corozal, but we liked the vibe of the guesthouse so much that we stayed for four days and enjoyed the beautiful view, the ability to cook for ourselves, and the good company.

 

Happy hour on the dock at the Sea Breeze Hotel.

Happy hour on the dock at the Sea Breeze Hotel.

Corozal Bay.

Corozal Bay.

Biking to the ruins. Corozal Bay in the background.

Santa Rita ruins in Corozal.

Santa Rita ruins in Corozal.

Morning yoga on the deck at the Sea Breeze Hotel in Corozal.

We traveled south by bus from Corozal to Dangriga with stops in Orange Walk, Belize City and Belmopan (a good example of what I meant by infrastructure not really being figured out yet). It was beautiful getting to see the mountains and fertile farm land, although our driver was hell-bent on getting the bus onto two wheels. We were surprised to see a lot of trash in remote areas despite the government’s attempts to curb littering and also to roll over an insane amount of speed bumps. Maybe someday they’ll put them up in the mountains where the drivers get crazy. Dangriga was just an overnight pit stop for us, but cool to see.

Bus travel = glamorous.

Bus travel = glamorous.

The public buses are retired school buses. Cheap and terrifying depending on the driver.

The public buses are retired school buses. Cheap and terrifying depending on the driver.

The view from the roof of Chaleanor Hotel in Dangriga.

The view from the roof of Chaleanor Hotel in Dangriga.

Our room (to the left of the alien) at the Funky Dodo Backpacker's Hostel in Hopkins.

Our room (to the left of the alien) at the Funky Dodo Backpacker’s Hostel in Hopkins.

Our path to the beach from Funky Dodo.

Our path to the beach from Funky Dodo.

 

Hopkins, a small Garifuna fishing village, was our next destination in search of other backpackers. As it turns out, we found them there along with an infestation of sand flies. Jordan and I both got eaten alive, but enjoyed our stay regardless. We met lots of other backpackers, were able to cook for ourselves and swim at a sandy beach. It’s the little things.

a.k.a. launching them off of a hammock.

Playing with some of the local kids…a.k.a. launching them off of a hammock.

After four days we’d had enough of the bug bites and came to Placencia with a lovely couple from Denver, Brian and Karis. It’s a much cleaner beach and is a destination for vacationers looking for a good place to dive. We found a great place to stay called Deb and Dave’s Last Resort and have thoroughly enjoyed a nice bed and pillows. Both have been hard to come by so far.

Deb and Dave's Last Resort - great place!
Deb and Dave’s Last Resort – great place!

 

Placencia Beach.

Placencia Beach.

Jordan, Karis and Brian.

Kayaking through the mangroves in Placencia with Jordan, Karis and Brian.

While we’ve enjoyed the Belize experience, Jordan and I both agree it is a better country to visit for a vacation rather than to travel through as a backpacker. Mainly due to the fact that it isn’t cheap! We’re looking forward to heading to Honduras tomorrow where we will experience a new culture, different language and more confusion. :) La vie est belle.

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