Crossing the border into Belize was an isolating experience with its severe security: an empty 2km road in no man’s land – with enough razor wire to withstand a zombie apocalypse perhaps? And a customs officer who accepted proof of our pre-paid exit fee through BA but insisted on a second payment as we were leaving over land, not by air. A common scam, but we stood calm and firm and saved ourselves £50.
Corozol is a run down border town of dilapidated shoddy buildings, and ruined roads and pavements. Only eleven buildings survived a hurricane in 1955 “ could do with another one” Charles. But it is friendly and noisy, busy with markets and people: a real wild west feel. The only other English couple were in the room next door – indefatigable Kat and her partner Glyn. She is another lady from Coventry! It’s a small world.
Usually crossing a border entails a transition from one population to another. Not so in Belize. Immediately we are in the Carribbean. There are less than 400,000 in the whole of Belize. Sadly the truth is that there just aren’t enough people in this country to destroy the environment. The population is dominated by four main groups: Mestizo (European/Amerindian descent), Creole, Garifuna in the south (Nigerian slave survivors of a ship wreck/Amerindian) and indigenous Mayan. Currency is the Belize dollar, sporting our Queen’s head. 25 cents is a shilling and weights are imperial. Most speak English, with archaeic but endearing quirks such as ‘Mr. Charles, Miss Suzanne’. There is no tax on income in Belize, only on purchases, making everyday produce expensive: a kilo of peanuts for example is US$37!
From Corozol we took the Thunderbolt (!) to San Pedro, and Jim’s Hotel del Rio, on a quiet stretch of beach. Our thatched roof cabana was spacious and cool, right in front of the central palapa with hammocks, breakfast and lovely company. Yesterday morning our personal guide took us out to three snorkeling sites here at Hoi Chan Maine reserve (on the second largest reef in the world) and we are still giddy with pleasure! A manatee!!!! It came up for air right in front of me. So many nurse sharks, 8’plus, they skimmed against my body (a mix of shout and laughter from my snorkel!) three type of rays – the spotted eagle ray looked like it was flying! A huge old loggerhead turtle, parrot fish, eels, dense shoals of horse-eyed jacks swimming with us, a myriad of small fish darting in and out of the healthy varied coral. No photos but a visit I will treasure forever.
Caye Caulker is a smaller island south of San Pedro – only a few golf buggies, no cars, lots of bicycles but no motorbikes, and all of the roads are packed sand. It is very chilled, no traffic, no fumes, quiet with balmy breezes!! Caye Caulker pictures are at the top of the page.