How an Unexpected Delay Led to a Wonderful Trip to San Ignacio, Belize
Sometimes, when it seems like things are going from bad to worst, all you gotta do is hang in there for a bit until the sun comes out again.
After barely being allowed into Belize, we were able to get to the insurance office on time. At 3:00p.m. we were still harboring hopes that we’d be able to get down to Belize City in time to catch the 4:30p.m. Water Taxi to Caye Caulker.
“So, Insurance Guy, how far are we from Belize city?”
Insurance Guy, who looked suspiciously Guatemalan, responded in perfect Belizean-accented English:
Oh, about 2… maybe 2 and a half hours.”
Our hopes dashed, I mentally made a note to check the wireless signal on my Guatemalan Tigo modem when the vehicle’s paperwork was complete.
After meeting the all-Black crew manning the Customs’ entry port, I assumed, like an idiot, that the guy was a Guatemalan guy that lived across the border. So, I asked Insurance Guy where he was from.
“I’m from Belize,” he cheerfully replied.
Instead of just nodding and smiling politely, I put on my surprised face (I told you I was an idiot) and asked him:
…in a tone that probably sounded something like “I don’t believe you! Show me your birth certificate!”
Insurance Guy was slightly ticked off, but I credit him for smiling and politely responding through semi-clenched teeth:
“Of course I am… I was born here.”
Luckily, he was almost done with my vehicle’s papers, so I thanked him and high-tailed it out of there.
The Cold War
Listening to people that looked perfectly Guatemalan speak in a Belizean-accented English was something that took some getting used to. My first instinct was always to address them in Spanish, and when they gave me that “Whatcha talking ’bout, Willis?” look, I knew to immediately switch to English.
Turns out that Belize was, in fact, part of Guatemala not that long ago. To this day, there are still skirmishes between the two sides and disputes as to what land belongs to whom.
And yes, I’m grossly exaggerating thet “Cold War” part on the sub-headline.
According to an expat I talked to, racial tensions exist between the Latino and Black communities, though I never had the chance to broach the subject with an actual Belizean person.
Something that I did notice when I left Belize, was the curious workplace division between Belizean Customs Officers. Both times I passed through Customs, I noticed that on the Belizean entry side, the entire crew were Black officials, while on the exit side, the post was Latino-manned. Whether this was just random coincidence on both days I passed trough, I do not know. Just something that caught my eye.
Landing on the Nest
Back to the story.
After successfully connecting to the Internet from the Insurance office parking lot, we looked for options on where to stay in San Ignacio Belize. This town, I later learned, is a nice base for expeditions into nearby Mayan sites and other exciting outdoor-type stuff.
Since we were only spending the night, I chose to go to Parrot’s Nest, a lodge located in the Belizean jungle. I thought it’d be pretty cool to stay in a jungle. That and I read it had a tree-house, and
I wanted my little girl has wanted for the longest to stay in a tree-house to see what it was like.
The directions were not clear on the website, so I just scribbled the address and decided to wing it and show up without reservations in place. Turns out it was super easy to get to the lodge.
As soon as we made our decision and hit the road, the rain stopped, and everything cleared up. Fifteen minutes later, we were in San Ignacio.
Heading to the Jungle
San Ignacio proper is not very big, and while a bit confusing at first because of road construction, I found my bearings quickly.
We asked one of the construction workers for Bullet Tree Falls Road, which leads to the part of town where Parrot’s Nest is located, somewhere out in… Bullet Tree Falls. The road was easy to find and led almost straight out from the town’s center.
It was a fairly pleasant drive, if somewhat long drive, about 3-4 miles, out of San Ignacio’s town center. I mean, it was a “jungle” I was heading to, so I should’ve known it wasn’t going to be located next to the town’s Kwik-e Mart.
After fumbling for directions, I found the dirt road that led deep into the jungle…
After dodging a jaguar and a pack of wild howler monkeys (not really), we arrived at the lodge. Marcus, the friendly owner greeted us. Well, the friendly dogs did first, to be honest.
Marcus showed us around the property and the various tree-houses. According to Marcus, this lodge had the first ones available to the public in Belize.
We couldn’t stay in the one below, since it was designed for two people. Or one of me.
Macal Mopan River (thanks Cayo Scoop for the correction!) runs right behind the lodge. After doing a snack run to the supermarket in Bullet Tree, we returned as quickly as we could, peeling off layers of clothing en route as we jumped into the river to cool off.
The water was refreshingly cool, and we spent the last part of the afternoon relaxing in the river’s slow-moving current.
We had a filling, community-style dinner, during which all guest sat in the dining room and ate together, swapping travel stories and itineraries.
After dinner, on the way to our tree-house, we ran across thousands, if not millions of leaf-cutter ants, crawling their way back to their colony. It was pretty amazing to watch a live Discovery Channel documentary.
And on that note, we called it a night and went to bed happy.
After a good night’s sleep, it was time for breakfast.
After breakfast, we took one last look at the river…
…and I snapped some pics of the local wildlife.
It is actually a lot harder to do this when you don’t have a telephoto lens to take care of business from a distance that does not scare away the butterflies.
We could’ve easily hung out for two more days at the lodge. It was a great place to relax and enjoy nature (the nightly firefly show is great to watch).
But, since we were doing the typical tourist tour, it was time to go and hit the road to make it to Caye Caulker on time.
We hit Burns Street, San Ignacio’s main shopping street, and had lunch at Mr. Greedy’s, a nice pizza place.
We crossed Hawthorne Bridge on the way out of town.
Highways are in great shape, and it was a scenic trip most of the way down to Belize City.
Houses of Belize
Something you immediately notice upon entering Belize are the colors of the residences. If you’re from the USA and ever wondered whatever happens to all those always-on-sale-at-50-percent-off cans of loud, garish paint, I have a theory about where they end up.
Even the Police Department gets in on the action.
The house below was the cutest one I saw in my entire trek through Belize.
The buses actually on the road were few and far between. Maybe the fact that it was Sunday had something to do with it.
Overlanding Through Belize? Leave Your Car With Dave
At last, we arrived at Ladyville, where we met Dave, owner of EdgarsMiniStorage. We left the car locked at Dave’s place while we spent a couple days at the Cayes.
Dave charged me only $10BZD per day to store the car, and gave us a ride to the Water Taxi dock for $30BZD each way. A good option, since there are no public garages in Belize City. You can reach Dave at e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone number 00-501-602-4513.
Another option is to leave your car at the airport, in their unsecured parking lot, for $19BZD a day.
After dropping off the car, it was off to the docks to purchase tickets and wait for the Water Taxi to depart at the scheduled time.
It was super hot, but we consoled ourselves knowing that paradise awaited just a 45-minute boat ride away.