Part 1 - Getting There is 1/2 the Fun
(pics posted later - I still have to offload them from the camera)
I left Caye Caulker on the 1:30 p.m. water taxi to Belize City (18 bzd 1 way, 30 bzd RT)
Taxi from marine terminal to James Bus Line - not at the regular bus station, but outside the Pound Yard, or the Impound Yard 3 bzd per person
The James Line Express Bus to Punta Gorda (old Bluebird School Bus) leaves at 3:30 p.m., but get there early and claim a seat... and sit in it... or you could be standing 5 hours (22 bzd one way) We arrived in PG at 8:30 p.m.
Spent the night in Punta Gorda at the Charleton Inn (50 bzd for a double) Hot and cold water, ceiling and floor fan, very clean and basic. I would stay there again. We had reservations at TCs By the Sea, but when we got there, no one was around or answering the door, even though we called ahead. TCs was supposed to meet us at the bus station and drive us to their place right out of town, but never showed up. We tried calling a cab, but no one was answering, so the police drove us around until we found a hotel.
Sightseeing in PG
My friend hired a driver for the day to take us around town and then way up into the hills near San Pedro Columbia to the Fallen Stones Butterfly Ranch, $100 U.S. with many photo stops, stopping for beer
to pick recado seeds, the spice that is ground to make stewed chicken.
to look at the horse
to jump in the river
to see my friend's aunties, uncles, cousins. I thought the $100 U.S. for the day was a bit pricy, since it was a friend-of-a-friend who was supposed to give-us-a-good-deal. Gas is over $7 bzd a gallon, so that explains some of the expense.
Fallen Stones is up in the hills about an hour's drive west from PG, and several miles of the trip are on a single dirt and stone track. I was glad we were in a 4WD Jeep. When we arrived, the view was breathtaking. At the top of the hill we saw what looked like classrooms, a dining hall, conference and teaching facilities, but no caretaker. Our guide/driver took us down down down down down stone steps. About half way there, I wondered.... are we there yet? If not, that's a LONG way back up there. With all that wondering I wasn't paying attention and slipped and fell in a pineapple patch and picked pricklers out of my arms the rest of the afternoon. That will teach me. I killed that pineapple plant, splat... being very antisocial about things. There is a small charge for taking the tour, and you get to go right into the butterfly rooms the rooms where they are storing the larva and catepillars, then into the rooms where they have hundreds of butterflies. Its an amazing sound and site, all those butterflies fluttering around. If you stand very still....
Wear lightweight cotton pants, solid footing (not flip flops like me), bring bug spray, although the bugs weren't too bad, and water.
Later that afternoon we checked out of immigration in Belize, which is located near the municipal pier in Punta Gorda. The captain had a manifest with our names, country and age. Left Punta Gorda at 4 p.m. on the "Eirey" for Livingston Guatemala. Little did we know that it was the maiden voyage of this new water taxi service to Livingston. A 1 hour trip on a boat (skiff) over-packed with 18 people and luggage, rough water, boat loaded wrong, taking on water, had to adjust the load, I was completely soaked and had to sit between the 2 little engines, hands over my face as the waves crashed me right and left. I didn't mind getting wet, I was worried about flipping off the back of the boat in the rough seas. If I had been traveling by myself I wouldn't have gotten on the boat and waited for another one. Knowing that is was the first trip for this new water taxi service to Livingston made me more forgiving on how fumbly the captain and crew were. The trip back to Belize from Livingston on the "Eirey" was much better, they had worked out the kinks. Even with the crappy boat ride, the captain and crew were very nice. Immigration in Livingston is a breeze, we were thru it in about 5 minutes, got stamped into Guatemala, and went off to find our hotel. (On the return trip, you give your passport to the captain, and he stands in line and gets you stamped out of Guatemala) We arrived a day earlier than our reservations, and our hotel was booked. We went to 7 hotels. There were 3 adults and 1 child in our group, so finding rooms were a task. Our cab driver wasn't much help. Livingston is a very popular place for vacationing Guatemalans and Belizeans. I met a girl on the bus who was going to be staying at National Flags, and recommended it, so we went by there, and voila they had 1 room left! National Flags is a Belizean/American owned hotel. 3 stories, new construction. Simple clean rooms with tile floors, decent beds, private bathrooms, and fans on floor stands. Unfortunately, it was so hot that night that the 1 floor fan couldn't cool the 3 beds. The courtyard is gated and stays locked, and the owners/managers live on-site. Lots of Belizeans staying there. If we didn't already have reservations at Casa Rosado, I would have been content to stay there. It was a little bit further out of town than Casa Rosado, and up the hill.
That night we went walking around town. Its an interesting mix of Garifuna, Maya and Spanish and European traveler's. The people seemed relaxed, not so much stress as when I was in Guatemala in Sept/October 2003 near election time.
National Flag Hotel email: [email protected]
Hotel Casa Rosada in[email protected]
tel: 011-502-947-0303 fax: 502-947-0304