17 - BELIZE
14/01/04 - 17/01/04
Miles and gallons, Texaco & Shell, English breakfast and pots of tea. We arrived in Belize and home was all around us. It was so odd to have everyone speaking English again.
The border crossing was no problem, all very efficient and was all done in about half an hour. The immigration guy was very cool, really laid back with a strong Caribbean accent. R went in first while I stayed with the bike, they had quite a chat. I went in and as I approached he just grinned, a bit wickedly and said "so you're the wife, and you like it on the back?" Didn't quite know what to say!
The first big difference I noticed was that all the houses had lawns round them. In Mexico it was all dirt. Then every town we went through seemed to have a Chinese restaurant.
And it started to rain. We skirted round Belize City which we had been told to avoid by several people and headed west towards San Ignacio and the Guatemalan border.
Trevor heading to Tikal
As we approached the town we spotted ahead a BMW. As we got closer we realized it had a British number plate.
Paul and Sarah had started in Canada too so we found a place to stay and spent the evening comparing routes.
We were going to leave the next day but decided to check out the caves we had heard about from John & Melissa in Xcalak.
We went in to town the next morning where R had full English breakfast and we had a pot of tea, hurrah! We spied a biker getting all his gear on his bike so we went for a chat. His name is Trevor and he's traveling from San Diego to Brazil doing research for his post graduate course. Comparing health and education in Latin American countries. He only learnt to ride in April, made me feel a wuss for being pillion, but he's young. And a boy.
He was off to Tikal along the road we had heard horror stories about, so we wished him luck and hoped to see him there.
We ended up doing two cave trips. The first we had to canoe in to the caves with big spot lights on the front. At some points the stalactites came so low we had to lie face up in the canoe and drift through with the points about six inches from our noses. On the way out we could choose to stay in the canoe or drift out in inner tubes. I stayed put & R chose the tyre which turned out to be very hard work as there was no current at all. Haha!
The second cave we went to was truly amazing. The day started with an incredible drive through Mennonite farm land and forests. The roads got so bad we kept having to pull the other jeep out of the mud. We had a much better driver. Another groups Land Rover got totally stuck and they had to get out and walk the last half mile. By the time they got there they were completely covered in mud!
The jeeps were left at the end of the road and we then hiked in to the jungle crossing the river three times, sliding down muddy slopes and hanging on to trees where necessary.
After an hour we reached the entrance of the cave. It was a short swim in to the cave which was very welcome as we were then covered in mud too, but it was bloody cold.
We then spent about another hour swimming, wading and climbing through tiny gaps and passed many rock formations glistening like crystals.
We were in a group of eight; the guide at the front was passing back instructions for every step as we climbed. Left foot here, then right foot, turn round and bounce up on to the ledge, mind your head here, don't touch the formations on your right, big rock under the water, careful of the strong current.
It was a bit like Chinese whispers but we had to make sure whoever was at the back got the right message.
Finally we got to an open area in quite deep water where we had to climb up some rocks to a ledge about twenty feet up.
Once we were all up there we had to take our shoes and socks off to make sure we were extra careful. We went through some very tight bits of rock and then it opened into a large cavern. All around were pots of every size and shape which had been used by the Mayan's in ceremonies performed in the caves. Everything had been left just as it was found by the archeologists. Most of the pots were broken as the final part of the ritual was to break the pot and let the spirit out.
Through some more little gaps we came to a ladder leading up to another ledge. Here was the most incredible thing of all, skeletons of human sacrifices that had been left where they died.
One of a young girl was complete and had hardly been moved by the water which had covered her for hundreds of years. Every bit of her sparkled as the torch light caught the salt crystals that had been deposited on the bones.
We then retraced our steps out in to the jungle and back to the jeeps.
The journey back was another adventure. Our jeep got so deep in mud we couldn't open the doors to get out. At one point the exhaust was under water and it sounded like we were in a boat. I couldn't believe that we actually got out. Our driver Oscar turned in to the trip hero even though he managed to put the jeep in reverse with his door open! He and the door were covered in mud and we and the American couple we were with were desperately trying not to laugh. He just looked at all the mud and said "oh, that was my mistake".
We were sliding and tipping and bouncing all over the place.
I thought the engine was going to go on fire.
Half way back the battery went flat! Luckily we could nick a spare from the stranded Land Rover. It then turned out that the alternator had gone. So with the battery draining, night drawing in and about half an hours journey still to do our little party fell quiet.
Somehow Oscar managed to get us back to San Ignacio where we piled out and fully expected the jeep to fall apart on the spot like a clown’s car.
All the time we had been in San Ignacio we had been hearing bad things about the road to Tikal in Guatemala. As soon as you cross the border the road becomes dirt and because it had been raining so much had become very muddy. We had heard that Lorries were getting stuck up to their axles!!
Luckily the two days we were caving had been really sunny. When we woke up the next day and it was sunny again we decided to go for it before the rain came back.
No battery? Never mind.....
We said goodbye to Maria who owned the place we were staying at. We had had some really interesting conversations with her. She had been married to a guy in the British Army and had tried to live in England but everyone had been so unfriendly she'd given up. We have had to apologize several times now to Mexican's, Belizean’s and others about the English manner, it's getting embarrassing.
Her brother is a politician in Belize and she'd been telling us all about Michael Ashcroft. What a sleaze ball. "Allegedly" - he has made millions in Belize and managed to make a deal with the government years ago to pay no tax. He has a monopoly on the bank system and charges extremely poor people horrendous interest. He owns the phone company which is hugely expensive to use and most of the media. Also turned down a request to help the schools of Belize with computers and internet access.
La La La, rant over.
So off we went to our next border. It was baking hot and I had to stand right in the sun with the bike for about 40 minutes. Poor Richard though had to run around sussing out what to do and where to go and what everyone needed. It all went very smoothly though and we were off to face the road of doom!!
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