BELIZE IT OR NOT: RAINY DAYS AND CHANGING PLANS - 01/30/14 11:21 AM
Hey everybody! This has been a decidedly strange time for the Big Adventure. After spending what felt like forever in Mexico, my favorite new place in the world, we were on a whirlwind through Belize. My family was super excited about starting the next part of our trip, but as Iíve come to see during my new traveling life, things donít always go according to plan.
First off, there was the day we left Mexico for Belize. My Family had planned on getting up first thing in the morning, as early as the sun. Instead, we stayed up super late the night before with some new friends, and ended up getting a slow start on our border crossing day. This caused the smell of stress to fill the big truck, leaving me shifting around nervously on Victoriaís lap. The trip to the border of Belize and Mexico was super quick, and we got out of the country exactly as My Family thought we would. The interesting part started once we got to the Belize side of things. I knew there might be trouble, because all My Family had been talking about for the past two days was the fact that we didnít exactly have my papers in order. I guess Belize doesnít like new dogs so much, or theyíre nervous about making sure everyone is healthy. Given all of the lonely, sick dogs I saw wandering around, I didnít understand what sort of harm I could do. But they required My Family to Ďimport meí, with all sorts of applications. We hadnít received a peep back that our application was ready, and as Victoria had feared, the nice health officer had no paperwork on me.
I tried to look well-behaved and bug-free in his office, but it felt and smelled too much like the doctor for me to relax. I dragged as hard as I could towards the door, while Victoria smiled a lot and chatted constantly in her happiest voice. We had all of the rest of the border crossing handled quickly, but ended up waiting three whole hours for the paperwork to go through! Finally we could all breathe a sigh of relief. I was going to be allowed into Belize, and so we continued on our Big Adventure.
Of course, with our late start and delay at the border, the drive to our first camp spot started WAY later than we had hoped. Once we saw the road that would lead us to Sarteneja, a tiny village out in the northeast corner of Belize, Jason started seriously worrying about time. I had to agree. Iíve been on all sorts of roads on the Adventure so far, and the paved ones are my favorite. The bumpier the road, the less comfy Victoriaís lap starts to feel. And her lap is usually the best place to be. This road was like one, long, continuous bump. There was some beautiful stuff to see, though. Bright green jungles, a free ride across a river on a boat pulled along on a rope, huge farms with people wearing suspenders and bonnets (Victoria said theyíre called Mennonites, and they certainly didnít look like anyone else we had seen since leaving California!), and lots of horses, cows, goats, chickens and other dogs. The drive was actually a lot of fun, until the sun started going down.
My Family debated for a while about what to do, but there werenít many options. We were literally in the middle of the jungle. It was too late to go back, and there was nowhere to stop and wait for morning. The only choice was to keep going, and break one of the few rules My Family had set up for this trip. We were going to drive at night. Soon it was pitch black, and Jason steadily and slowly wove in between huge potholes and across muddy ditches to get us to Sarteneja. There were some nervous moments to be sure, but I managed to curl up and catch a little sleep. When I woke up we were at Backpackerís Oasis, our first stop in Belize!
Even at night I knew I would love this place. Itís a working farm, and it smelled amazing. There was a nice, jungly spot with soft grass for us to park, and a common room for hanging out with the other dogs and campers. It was the first time I had seen local dogs with their own comfy chairs, so I knew immediately that weíd get along. The girl dog was a little bit mean at first, but once she saw that My Family was cool and I wasnít going to try and take over we got along just fine. And the other campers were super nice as well. We were all there from all over the world, somehow finding each other in this tiny spot in the middle of nowhere. We spent two awesome days here, and on one of them we walked into town. There were lots of dogs there, and not many of them liked me. But the people were super nice, and the food I got to try at the restaurant was really really yummy.
We left on a nice day, just before everyone was expecting a big rainstorm. I guess My Family didnít want to attempt those roads when they were even more muddy, and I was happy to go along with that plan. We started early, but took some extra time before we left so Jason could take some of the air out of the tires. This ended up being a really good idea. The trip away from Sarteneja was way less bumpy and bruising than the way there. Especially considering we passed some spots where huge trucks were literally plowing the dirt road back into shape as we drove by! We finally found some pavement, and soon reached a place called Belize City.
We passed through Belize City super quick, which suited me just fine. The place smelled strange, desperate and scary in a way I had never experienced in Mexico. The peopleís houses were in bad shape, and no one looked particularly happy. I didnít really understand this that well. Jason and Victoria were talking about their surprise. I guess Belize is expensive? That means food and treats cost too much money. And yet the people didnít seem like they could afford any treats at all. Sounds pretty unfair to me. Jason drove the Big Truck out of Belize City to a place called Old Belize. I could smell the ocean and the fish long before we saw the Marina where weíd be parking.
This place was super neat. Very pretty, with big boats rolling along on the water. Now, I am not a fan of the water. Itís cold, itís deep, and you canít run in it. My Family had tried to get me to swim a couple of times in Mexico, and I was pretty sure I had made it crystal clear that I wasnít interested. I took one look at that huge ocean with its rumbling waves and dug my feet in. I wasnít getting anywhere near that, thank you very much!
Luckily, My Family wasnít planning on that either. We parked well away from the water and settled in for the night. They left me inside while they went to eat dinner, but I wasnít too disappointed this time. It was windy and cold outside, and I was more than content to curl up under my blanket and wait for them to get back. They returned soon enough, and we settled in for the night.
I dreamed about a relaxing day, digging in the mud, running towards the water and then quickly away, and maybe strutting by the other dogs to show off my designer collar and fine, Venice Beach grooming. Instead, the alarm blared way too early, and unlike on most mornings Jason and Victoria actually got up and turned it off. We were packing up the camper, but differently this time. Backpacks were coming out. Did that mean another trip to a hotel? I got pretty excited, because that probably included a super comfy couch somewhere. I soon found that there was going to be a bit of an adventure before Iíd find myself on that comfy couch.
We waited for a taxi that didnít show up. My Family was getting nervous, so they accepted the offer of a nice man at the Marina who said he would drive us into Belize City. I saw his two-seater pickup truck and quickly realized there wouldnít be room for all of us and our stuff. Would they leave me behind?! Instead, Victoria and I climbed into the truck while Jason and the bags went back in the truck bed. We bounced and jostled our way into the city with Jason out in the open air, holding his hat to make sure it didnít blow away. It didnít look particularly safe to me, but Jason was smiling big so I stopped worrying.
Our next destination was a ferry terminal. This is when I started to get nervous. Wait, My Family expected me to get on a boat? I donít do boats. They go way out into the water, and thereís no escape. Iíd rather be forced to swim in the waves all day than get on a boat. But it appeared I wasnít going to be given a choice. Jason hoisted me up, and I gripped him just as hard as I could as we got onto the boat. I tried my best to sleep through the next forty-five minutes of noisy, rolling chaos, but I just could not get comfortable. I couldnít smell land at all, and was completely surrounded by water smells. In espanol, I would say this was absolutely, no bueno. Just when I thought I couldnít take it anymore we arrived on Caye Caulker, a beautiful island.
I was immediately in a better mood. There was sand all around, and I got to pounce and prance through it while My Family lugged all of our stuff behind me. I have to admit, itís not a bad life. We walked and walked, and finally showed up at a series of strange cabins with bars on the windows. I wasnít getting a good feeling here, and sure enough, my nose was proved correct. The owner of the place wouldnít allow me to stay here, even though he had said he would! Jason smelled desperate and sweaty, while Victoria was super angry. We trudged off, and soon I realized we had no place to stay! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where My Family could use the internet, and with just a little bit of work they found a solution. Boy, was I happy about this! As soon as we got to the Hummingbird Cottage, I knew Iíd be totally content if we never left.
This place reminded me so much of our Wee Blue House back in Venice that I almost thought it had been built just for us. There were comfy couches, a big porch I could wander off leash, and even a comfy chair with a pillow that was just like the one we had outside back at home! The only downside was being left in the bedroom while My Family went out for dinner. But the Cottage was far away from town, and they didnít think the restaurant would allow dogs. What is with the dog prejudice in Belize?! I hope some really good writer who works for a bigger blog reads this, because there should be an expose or something.
The next day I was allowed to join in the adventure across Caye Caulker. Victoria set me up a comfy seat on the front of her bicycle, and we rode up into town as a Family. The roads were just dirt, which were mostly mud now from all the rain, so there was a lot of zigging and zagging going on. We eventually stopped at a place to have breakfast, where I didnít get to taste very much at all. At least I had a good view and a great breeze on the front of the bicycle. We rode on from there to a place called The Split, which is the small bit of beach where people go swimming on the island. It was a pretty spot, and I was enjoying myself nicely until Jason made me go in the water. I donít know why he laughs every time I doggy paddle; I sure donít think itís that funny. Now wet and shivering, Jason and Victoria started studying the sky. It was getting dark; rain was on the way.
We werenít on the bikes for more than two minutes before the downpour came. At first My Family tried to ride through it, but I was happy to see them heading under an overhang for some shelter pretty quickly. It was freezing in the rain! We waited until the rain slowed down a bit, and then rode carefully around the huge puddles to get back home. It rained in bunches that day, but cleared up enough for My Family to ride out to dinner that night. I was left home, again! But at least I was warm and cozy in the cabin. Victoria and Jason got home super late, covered in mud and laughing about basically everything, so I guess it was a pretty good person night.
We got up the next morning very early again, to head back to Belize City. My Family had debated staying on Caye Caulker longer, as our initial plan was to spend four nights on the island. There is a cat sanctuary there that Victoria had hope to volunteer with. But the cottage wasnít available any more and we didnít have any other options. Not that Iím all that crazy about cats, but I saw that Victoria and Jason were pretty sad that they were going to miss out on another opportunity to help out the animals. I wanted to tell them they could help me out tremendously by getting me back to dry land any way but on a boat, but itís clear my communication skills need some work. We took the same boat back, and this time in the pouring rain. Seriously, I am not a fan.
We spent a very rainy day back at the Marina, and a long night filled with noisy dogs and noisier people. Everything felt wet and cold, and I would have been happy to never get out from under the covers. But we had to dry out and pack up, so we could make it to the next destination.
San Ignacio was to be our next campsite, a town on the border of Belize and Guatemala. Yep, you read that right. We were already heading to our next country! I was pretty shocked to hear that. I mean, we had spent three months in Mexico, but only one week in Belize? I took a peek at the map before we started the drive, and even I could tell Belize was a lot smaller than Mexico. But I could also tell we were missing a lot of it. Thankfully, the drive to San Ignacio was super pretty. The rain held off a little bit, and the countryside was incredible. I noticed that the signs were all in English, and realized I hadnít heard almost any Spanish since we crossed into Belize. Apparently, Belize people speak English as their main language. Theyíre the only country in Central America that writes in English, and uses measurements like miles, pounds and dollars when dealing with people things. They also listen to a lot of reggae music, which made Jason super happy.
Our final campsite in Belize was a place called The Trek Stop. It was really pretty here, in the jungle with all sorts of birds and butterflies to look at, plus tons of delicious bugs to chase down. My only complaint was their camp dogs. Boy, were they pushy! They certainly wouldnít get by in Los Angeles with those sorts of manners. Because of those bullies I ended up staying in the camper most of the time, which isnít much fun. But I didnít mind after a little while, because it got really cold outside! My Family stayed at the restaurant pretty late, using the internet to post photos, and they were both shivering when they got back to the camper. Thankfully, no matter how rainy and wet it was, My Family and I were always warm and cozy under the covers.
As I was drifting off to sleep, I tried to collect my thoughts about our time in Belize. It felt pretty hectic. Nothing seemed to go exactly to plan, and the rainy days that followed us from Mexico definitely threw a wrench in things. But I still met all sorts of nice people and dogs, had some delicious food, and enjoyed two great days in a cottage that reminded me of home. Maybe it wasnít a perfect leg of My Big Adventure, but it sure left me with a lot to blog about. Thanks for reading!
PS: To see some of the photos My Family took while we were in Belize, head over to Facebook!