Though the ATM Cave tour was the highlight of my trip to Western Belize, I enjoyed my time in San Ignacio. A small town which gently sprawls along a beautiful, slow moving river a brief 15 minute taxi ride from the Guatemalan border, the city of San Ignacio definitely harbors its own character and charm.
The evening before had been enjoyable. Earlier in the day I’d bumped into a friend i’d made during the Raggamuffin Tour in the local internet cafe. When I’d last seen him we’d been setting sail and heading south towards Placencia, leaving him marooned on Tobacco Caye for Christmas (upon his request). After finish up our e-mails home and quick blog posts, we struck out on the town to rustle up some chow. The place we eventually found started out promising but ended up being disappointing. A small place, upstairs and across from the main tourist hangout in town – Eva’s, pictured above – they offered a menu with several cheap specials. Upon inquiry as to what the “pork” plate came with/entailed I got confused shrugs and mixed answers. Ordering a 2nd Belkin Stout I figured what the hell and ordered it anyway. The plate ended up coming with a variety of rice, beans, salsa and some sort of pork chop/pork loin that was so over cooked I was tempted to use it as coal. It turns out, the cook was playing computer games behind the bar…which explained a bit about the service, and even more about the over cooked nature of the food.
From there it was down to Eva’s for a drink or two more before turning in. I ended up crashing at the PACZ Hotel which was very clean, affordable, ideally located, and had a wonderfully warm and friendly owner/manager. If you find yourself in San Ignacio, definitely stop by and ask for Landy. He not only was friendly and helpful, but had a wealth of stories and even went so far as to share with me a local DVD of Belize’s marine life and natural wonders.
The following morning I set off to find a bit of food, only to discover that the town’s outdoor market was bustling with activity. As I wandered through the outdoor market, it struck me that the wealth of bananas, colors, and fresh produce made for a beautiful sight. With my mouth watering I paused briefly and picked up a shucked Coconut and fresh Banana before setting off to find lunch.
Just across the street, a few paces down a small side alley I stumbled into an open front restaurant bustling with local activity. The kitchen was a small open area off in a corner with a small flat space for plate preparation and a blender for fresh horchata and juice drinks. I sat down at an open table, only to realize that it didn’t offer any leg room. After a few minutes with my legs sprawled out to either side one of the girls working as part chef/part waitress noticed, chuckled at me and herded me over to a different table, which had just cleared. In heavily accented English she told me the two plates they were offering and offered a suggestion. I followed her suggestion and opted for the Belizean specialty; stewed chicken, rice and beans served up with a side of salad and a fried plantain served up with a side of horchata, which i later followed up with a Coca Cola. It was hands down the best Chicken, Rice and Beans I had in Belize which is saying something.
Stuffed, I continued my exploration of the city. Wandering down along the river I paused to watch and ponder the strange garb, traditions, and out of place appearance of the local Mennonites in the market place, before poking a hole in the coconut I’d purchased earlier and downing the fresh coconut water. One of the things I love about traveling in tropical environments is the presence of fresh coconuts. Coconut water is a great way to re-charge, very healthy, and perfect for re-hydrating.
After exploring the town for a bit, I made my way back past a colorfully painted bus to the hotel where I settled in for a relaxing afternoon.
The following morning a new adventure, and country awaited.