Diary of Recent Belize Trip

Posted By: Marty

Diary of Recent Belize Trip - 05/03/00 05:40 PM

Hi, here is the diary of a recent (April) trip to Belize by a Tetworld Center for Peace and Global Gaming member.

I think you will really enjoy it.

Magda's Diary--


Friday. Arrive at the Quaker-owned Seaside Guest House and are
greeted by John, who brings us
upstairs, past the verandah to a small but pleasant room with a
window open to the Gulf We contact
Emory King, friend of Mark, head of Belizean film and author of
many books and plan to meet him
in the morning. Then a walk along the water that borders the
city, and dinner in an outdoor patio
enclosed by trees and flowers.

Saturday. March 24. San Ignacio ... A tiny bit like Woodstock
with its cluster of tourists at the Eva
cafe. Very colorful. Very hot in the Belizean sun. Shops and
small restaurants along the main street.
As we arrive early Saturday afternoon, musicians are playing in
the shade of an improvised band
stand. We drop our belongings in the little Hi-et Hotel - not
really a hotel but a home with three or
four small rooms. We head for the ruins of Cahal Pech.

A very steep hill. A press of heat, we pause outside the San
Ignacio Hotel, segue toward the
door. Ahh. Air conditioning. In the back glistens a blue pool.
But can our budget afford it? We feel
the cool dimness of the spacious interior.. Choose it for the
coming two nights.

We continuing toward Cahal Pech,. Halfway up the dirt road to
ruins, a truck splutters to a
halt and stops. Would we like a lift? It is David of Davids Tours
and in his very colorful, very
cheerful Rastafarian-inflected voice, he invites us to try his
trip down the Makal River. Sounds great.
Being intent on reaching the ruins on our own feet, we decline
the ride, but agree to meet for the trip
on Monday at his spot next to the bus stop.

Sunday. Breakfast at Eva's - the local tourist hangout. I enjoy a
conversation with Jeff, a longhaired
man with from the states. A former army medic, he is planning to
be of assistance for this day's
bicycling-kayaking-running marathon. Later, lugging our luggage
toward a taxi, the bicycle riders
roar past. Careening behind them in the truck, red bandanna over
his forehead, stands Jeff waving.

A pleasant bus ride to San Jose Succottz. A very brief ferry
across the Macal River and here
we are on the road to Xunantunich.. Another dusty hill at midday.
A long one. We resist a ride and
trudge up, drinking water from our bottles and hungering for
shade. But finally, there it is. The
marvelous temples. The long steps. The imposing whisperings of
history. At the top, I find a narrow
niche between two large stones, and with all due respect for the
awesome structures and view, read in
the shade a chapter from "The Poisonwood Bible", while Carole
chats with a Guatemalan man eager
to improve his English. After visiting the museum, we descend the
long hill back to the main road,
where we take a taxi ($1.00) back to the San Ignacio Hotel. Oh
swimming pool. Oh shower and soap.
Oh gorgeous flowers everywhere. Supper under the stars.

Monday David's Tours.

Chat with David's father while waiting for the tour to begin.
Very pleasant man. Ten children.
Worked to see that all had good education. One is now in
Guatemala. Two in the states. All well-
employed. Three American students arrive and the trip begins:
David at the wheel and his assistant,
Bob, sitting with us. We pass rich farms including one of citrus
owned by a man from Lebanon. His
house is a stunning white and red. We descend to the Macal River,
where the truck stops and we walk
across the shallow, fast-moving water. I go for a swim while the
others climb the 123 steps that David
has worked into the hillside of his estate. Wet, but cooler, I
join them
under the thatched roof for fresh watermelon, mango and banana.
Bob now takes us on tour of the
grounds, with its trees, (cohoune, coconut), plants (potato) and
ruins. We see the site where the Maya
played ball, and where they built a temple. Then for the fun. The
three young men take one canoe.
Carole, Bob and I another. Bob paddles (steers) from the back, I
from the front. In some places we
must get out. This is the dry season, although, according to Bob,
before they built the dam upriver
(for electricity) there was always enough water to canoe without
stopping. We pause to swim .... a
long, delicious swim. We paddle. We pause to swim.. We slowly
paddle. We pause to swim. Sun and
water numbs the mind hypnotically. Along one section of
shoreline, people are washing their clothes.
Now we stop to climb up to a waterfall where we can jump into its
pool. It's getting dark. Not a good
idea to canoe in the dark. But who cares. We move a little faster
now. Hard to see. The stars are out as
we bring the boat to shore.

Tuesday. Our day to travel to Belmopan-Dangriga-Placencia. As I
wait outside the S.I. Hotel,
purple bag over my shoulder, who passes by in their truck but
David and Bob. And would we like a
ride to Belmopan. Well, really. Now that you ask.

Many farms along the road to Belmopan. Excellent farms owned by
Belizeans, Chinese,
Mennonites. Some very small homes along the road also. Beautiful
palm trees everywhere. Flowers
of every shade. We stop at a small store where David offers his
condolences to a man whose son was
just killed on his motorcycle outside the travel agency. The son
had been a student of David's when
he was teaching. We consider visiting Guanacaste Park, but it is
already near twelve and the bus to
Dangriga is soon due, so we swing past the government buildings
and into the intense heat of the
market-terminal where we look for some water and snack for the
long trip to Placencia. Seats are
close. The bus is full, but as it gathers speed down the
magnificent Hummingbird Highway it cools.
The orchids are magnificent. Here and there clusters of neat,
thatched cottages. Hills like waves to
east and west. Beside me is a medical student from Seattle,
reading "The Secret Life of Plants".
Friendly, interested in herbs, he is heading toward the Cayes for

Dangriga. Hot. A two-hour wait for the Placencia bus. Our only
shakedown. At first he
appears to be working for the bus company. Puts my luggage in a
room to be locked. I'll show you
the walk along the beach, he says. Where are you staying in
Placencia? In the Seabreeze says Carole.
Oh, that's where I work ... He is carrying a bag of roots. My
daughter has cancer-ulcers he says. I
need money to get home with these herbs. Give it back to you
tonight. No, we say. Well, then, give
me money for a beer.

The road from Dangriga! Dust speed and mist. Night fell. How
the bus driver see? It is
fun with the moist air pouring through the windows. Keith, the
friendly fellow behind me studies
volcanoes in Guatemala. Every three (four?) months he is required
to leave in order to renew his visa.
He is currently reading "Endurance", the fantastic-but-true story
of Shakleton's Antartican voyage.

Finally, Placencia. A strong, warm breeze. A room with a fan,
twenty feet from the water. A
cold beer. A plate of beans and rice. Goodnight.

Wednesday. A swim on awakening. Sun rising on the horizon. Warm.
A walk along the narrow
sidewalk. Houses, guesthomes of various sizes. Many small. No
clear sense of property boundaries.
Brilliant flowers and palm trees. A coconut plops into the sand.
Blue-uniformed children walking,
skipping along the path to the Anglican school. Hot already. Down
to the dock.
A motor boat chugs off into the Gulf Breakfast in a cool place.
Fresh slices of papaya, pineapple and
mango. Perked coffee, eggs and toast. Into the warm, warm water.
Buoyant, salty, clear. Nobody
here. Ahh.

Under the thatched canopy. The breeze is very strong. A woman
lies in the hammock. next to
the palm tree. I talk with Michael who is working with a small
religious group in the garbage dump
in Guatemala City, trying to feed and educate. Terrible poverty
he says. drugs. Michael, like Keith,
must leave to renew his visa. Talk with a couple who have lived
in Amazon and Sri Lanka. He made a
comparative study of the two peoples living in similar
environments ... one group peaceful, the other
highly aggressive.

Thursday. Trip to a paradise island. 2 tour boats. Twenty miles
out. We jump off the boat to swim
with the dolphins. (Yeah!) On to snorkel heaven. My mask doesn't
fit. Try another. Third try and I'm
off. Awesome. The coral rises, falls. Fishes of all sizes and
colors swim by. Whose world is this?
Lunch prepared by the guides. Well, really, is this not lovely?
We hyperspeed back to the dock
bouncing like children on pogo sticks. I call Adventure Tours to
plan my Saturday Lamanai trip.
Out of reading material, scrounge around. All I can find is
Michael Crichton's "In Need"... a 1969
"tough-male" medical detective story.

Friday. Placencia - Belize City. Morning. Swimming. Lounging and
such. Carole stays in Placencia
while I head to the airport. Why does the taxi driver stop here?
This is the airport? A box for an
office. I'm here way too early. Hot, hot, hot. My brain is
gelatinizing. Finally a small propeller plane.
The Belizean lady sitting next to me works with an organization
to improve the condition of women.
Working on self-image and expectations. Also teaching about aids -
a serious problem in the
country. Arrive in Belize and return to the Seaside Guest House
run by David and John, who wears a
black shirt with a red ribbon

Saturday. Lamanai. The air-conditioned tour bus picks me up.
Fifty miles to where we
embark on a New River boat for a twenty-five mile water excursion
to the Ancient City of Lamanai.
A canopy covers us from the hot sun. We motor past monkeys, a
large turtle, a Mennonite village,
fantastic birds and foliage, a huge termite nest high in a tree,
hanging vines, trees with roots high
above the water. At Lamanai we visit the giant temples, the large
stone face of an ancient ruler, the
museum, the winding paths between the ruins, while our guide,
Chino, tells us of the history of this
ancient civilization. A palpable sense of pride is present in his
friendly discourse. After a box lunch
of rice and beans, banana and soda, we speed back along the Long
River, which we had so
lingeringly traveled this morning. Last night in Belize. Chat
with a couple who work on health care in
a small Belizean village. She is an American nurse. Another guest
is a Finnish fellow who now lives in
Brazil and runs tours there.

Sunday a walk along the narrow stone wall which the Gulf water
slaps, spraying the air.
Strong wind blowing. A sinking ship still sinking. (Turns out it
is shallow where it lays on its side).
As the taxi prepares to take me to the airport, I ask a
Guesthouse neighbor the name of the beautiful
flowers by his wall. . Bouganvillea, he says, and gives me a
spray, which I put on my back pack and
which, surprisingly, are still quite alive and well here on my
desk. Good-by, Belize.
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