You Better Belize It – Day 9 – Belize City

Yesterday I walked up to the Iguana Reserve at San Ignacio Resort Hotel. I missed the 8am tour, and had breakfast at the restaurant there. I wish I had investigated staying here for one night; the views were nice and they had some birds that hung around.

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Breakfast burritos were average, but very expensive.

After breakfast I met Eddie for my tour. He was very friendly, and enjoyed his job. In addition to giving tours, he was caretaker of the iguanas, and had been for 4 years.

The iguanas were of the green kind, and were apparently endangered, as they are hunted for their meat.

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Eddie let me hold a few of the iguanas.

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Afterwards, I cleared out of the hotel, and got on a bus to Belize City. The trip was uneventful and slow because it was not an express bus. I briefly regretted not going to the zoo, which was on the route, but I was tired.

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My driver to the hotel was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. He doesn’t vote, because he believes that he should only participate in the Kingdom of God. He got into a lengthy discussion on the prophecies of Daniel. I was complacent, because I mostly wanted to arrive safely at the hotel.

Best Western Biltmore Plaza was expensive, had a pool and poolside bar, a tiny TV, and a king size bed. I took a nap, then went to the pool and read the rest of my book. I had an expensive hamburger at the restaurant and went to bed.

This morning, I had a disgusting breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards, I read the book of Daniel, and for some reason part of the Constitution as well.

The cab driver picked me up as planned, and discussed some more about Daniel and Job, and encouraged me to get a book interpreting the prophecies of Daniel. I had a master plan to tell him that if his god existed, I thought him a tyrant; however, I am not feeling well (because of the cut on my foot) and decided to go peacefully.

Not sure how Hitchens does it on chemo.

On the plane now, headed to Houston. Overall, my impression is that Belize is a 3rd world nation with some interesting attractions. My vacation has been a little stressful, a little fun, I met a few people briefly, and got a few photos.

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Not a bad week, but not my favorite place.

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You Better Belize It – Day 7 – Tikal (Guatemala)

Really tired today, and my foot hurts. Ready to go home.

Casablanca didn’t have any trips to Tikal, so I went through Pacz again.

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Went with 2 couples, two girls and a black guy from LA who was born in Belize. Sutan and David were very friendly, and had the Panasonic G1. They let me use their telephoto lense for some pics of a monkey. Hope it came out.

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Sutan was a resident doctor, and Davic is an oceanic chemistry scientist.

Tikal was amazing. We crossed the Guatemalan border, and already things started to look more like they had in Peru, in terms of housing and people.

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At Tikal, we saw 4 giant pyramids, rising out of the jungle. Apparently a couple of these are featured in Return of the Jedi.

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The jungle overtakes them if not maintained. There were massive mounds, completely covered by dirt and huge tree, that contained other pyramids. The largest pyramid had only been partially uncovered. The trees had been removed in the 1800s, but already they were back.

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We also saw some wildlife.

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Our guide Juice stayed with one of the couples in Tikal, and we were driven back to the border. After crossing, we waited for our ride for 20 minutes before someone called him for us and we discovered he was on the Guatemalan side.

Tomorrow I’ll hit up the Iguana rescue before I head to Belize City.

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You Better Belize It – Day 6 – San Ignacio: Caracol

Talked to Raj for a while last night. There was also a guy traveling alone, looking for property to buy. He had found a place with 30 acres or so for 200K. He had also looked at a farm with 200 acres, sheep, orchards, and farm equipment for a similar price. He was from Canada, and had lived in SB for a while. His wife had dies from breast cancer a couple of years ago.

Took the tour out to Caracol today, again with PACZ. Anastacio was our guide, and was much more explanatory about the terrain than Danny. Very knowledgeable about the Maya as well.

The drive out took about 2 hours, and we stopped at a large cave first.

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When we headed out to Caracol, we were accompanied by a military guide. Apparently, because of its proximity to Guatemala, there are bandits who prey on tourists when the escort is not around. The last incident was two years ago, but the guide told us on our way out that they had tried again last month when the escort left for a while.

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There were also armed police at the site, following us as we toured the ruins.

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Eating at Flayva’s again. Pretty good food.

The other tourists on the trip were a little quiet. There was a couple from England, an American couple, and a guy from Italy.

Monkey!

On the way back we stopped at some pools, which were very picturesque. I didn’t want to swim, but decided to get in for a minute. I slipped and scraped my foot.

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The trip back was uneventful, except for an ominous alarm that sounded on the van’s dashboard.

Ran into a couple from Sacrimento at the hotel who are having an identical vacation as me. Melissa and Ethan.

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You Better Belize It – Day 5 – San Ignacio: Actun Tunichil Muknal

After dinner last night, I talked to a couple of people on the balcony. One couple was from Canada, and had gone to Dangriga & Placentia – said they were good. Wish I had more time. The other couple had gone to Lamanai9 & Orange Walk, and seemed to have liked that as well, although said the town was a little small.

The guy is a nurse, and we talked vaccinations.

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This morning, I went to Hannah’s where I had a huge breakfast burrito. Then I walked down to Pacz, and waited for my tour.

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Three girls from Poland joined us a little late, and wearing makeup and nice sandals and carrying nice bags. There was also a family of four (Jeff, Diane, Sam, & ____), who live in Orange County and work as geology professors.

We took a long drive out to ATM. Our driver & guide, Danny, seemed impatient with the girls and was not initially very friendly.

We talked about the local politics for a while. The UDP and PUP are the primary parties. One of these had been in power and privatized a lot of the infrastructure. But they were also corrupt, and took the money when they were voted out.

Danny gave a nice tour of the caves, but didn’t talk any about the jungle during our 45 minute walk out.

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We swam into the cave, and continued for another 30 minutes up the river.

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Then we climbed to another level, which was dry, and immediately there were artifacts. The cave had been used by the Maya for bloodletting and sacrifice. Inside we came across a couple of skulls almost immediately. It was not clear at first they were even skulls, because they were covered in dust. The bones had been jumbled up in most cases and looked like fuzzy mounds of dust. It’s not clear to me how the archaeologists get any information about sex or age without disturbing these bones.

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Speaking of disturbing, all but one of the sets of bones were open to being walked around, protected by nothing but some pink tape on the ground. And in fact one of the skulls had teeth missing from where a tourist dropped a lens cap, and another had a hole in it from where a rock fell after being disturbed by yet another tourist.

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The final skeleton was nearly intact, although apparently the cave fills with water when it rains and covers much of the body.

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When we returned the Polish girls snapped photos out the window like crazy, also rudely taking pictures of the locals.

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Danny cursed at a bus driver who didn’t pull over. He carries a lot of stress with him. He said he works for 8 months with no days off.

After I got back, I extended my stay here for two nights. I also met a strangely familiar Indian guy name Raj.

Tomorrow Caracol, Thursday Tikal.

BTW, eating at Erve’s. Best steak I’ve had in a long time. Friendly staff.

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You Better Belize It – Day 4 – San Ignacio

Hard to “Belize” it’s almost half-way through my trip.

Left Caye Caulker after another good breakfast at the Happy Lobster.

The boat ride back was uneventful.

Took a cab to the bus station, and got right on the bus. Ride to San Ignacio was about 2 hours. I had a nice conversation with a Guatemalan named Walter. He is a travel agent for a bus company in Guatemala. He recommended going across the border, crossing the bridge, and taking a bus for much cheaper. He also told me 1:7.7 US to Quetua.

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After I arrived, I easily found my hotel and checked in. The owner seems very nice.

I read in the tour book to take a little walk to where the rivers converge, so I headed north. Very quickly the road became unpaved, and there were fewer people out. I passed a construction company and some small houses and inns before I came upon an older guy on bike with his grandkids.

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He stopped and said, “You’re not afraid of walking alone in the jungle?” After I said no, he said there were lions and tigers in there. I asked if I should turn around, and he said he was kidding.

But then he warned me of the dangers of getting robbed after dark.

“Comforted” by this news, I had a nervous walk the rest of the 20 minute hike. (I was nervous before, but he confirmed it.)

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Once, a truck approached, and I was so convinced I was going to be robbed I accepted it.

I wasn’t robbed.

I beelined to the rivers, questioning at every turn if I should go on.

Once there, I discovered there wasn’t much to see. There was a huge pig grazing, but it disappeared before I got my camera out, and I didn’t want to cross the suspension bridge.

I started to leave, but some kids called me over. One had a guitar, and promised a song. None of the kids wanted to sing. I was too nervous to get a picture.

I booked it out of there and straight back to my room, where I collapsed from the heat and stress for an hour.

Afterwards, I walked up to Caych Pech ruins, overlooking San Ignacio. Pretty small site.

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There was a girl there making drawings. As I left the ruins, I asked her if she was traveling alone, and we had a nice conversation as we walked down the hill.

I was able to get a trip to ATM tomorrow with Pack’s Tours. The guy seemed nice enough, and told me El Ramate was nice stay at. Might have trouble going to Caracol though — tough being by myself.

Having dinner at Flayva’s bar and grill, and a group of drummers just came in. A few of them had masks and seashells, and those danced. The others looked like hoods, but played drums well. I was worried they would extort me for money, but somehow they didn’t even ask, and I was spared.

ATM tomorrow.

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You Better Belize It – Day 3 – Caye Caulker

Alarm failed to go off today, but “fortunately” a barking dog and some roosters woke me up.

I was able to make reservations for San Ignacio this morning, staying in an award winning and recommended hotel.

After, I had breakfast at Amore Y Cafe, which had some pretty good scrambled eggs.

Goff’s Caye was off, but went on the other day trip to see manatees and 2 snorkel stops. Carlos led the trip, and I was impressed that he kept looking for Manatees, even when they were hard to find.

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When we found one, it seemed content to float around the boat. Hope I got some good photos with this damned camera.

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There was a family of 7 from the UK that seemed nice enough, but I wish I had talked to them more. Didn’t even get their names.

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The snorkeling was nice, out at the barrier reef. I think I like deeper reef better — it makes me nervous when the water is so shallow I feel like I can touch the corral.

Carlos led the first trip, pointing out tiger fish (lion?), lobster, and possibly an octopus, although I couldn’t really tell.

The second trip was self led, although I got some good pics of the lion fish.

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Next time, I need to tell the guide to wave me in, because inevitably people quit early and enter the boat, causing a chain reaction. Probably could have stayed out another 20 minutes, but anyway I’m pooped and I think I’ve gotten enough snorkeling for a while.

Having dinner at the Rainbow Bar & Grill now. The service here is much better than usual. The restaurant is built on a pier overlooking the sea, and has the best ambiance I’ve seen yet.

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The music here is interesting. A lot of the tunes are familiar — e.g. The Lion King — but seem live covers, with Caribbean beats behind them. Tomorrow – to San Ignacio

You Better Belize It – Day 2 – Caye Caulker

Started the day with breakfast at the Happy Lobster with some tasty scrambled eggs and hash brown “eyelets” patties.

After, I went to French Angel for snorkeling. Cost $80bz for a 4 hr trip. Ash was great, and very helpful.

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There were 2 American couples and a group of 4 from perhaps Mexico.

Went almost to San Pedro and snorkeled, seeing a string ray and a couple of turtles. I think this was Hol Han.

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Then went to Shark-ray Alley. Snapped some interesting photos of nurse shark from the boat, before getting in and swimming with some sting-rays. No corral here.

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Then we went to another place on the reef and saw lots of corral.

Ash tried to let us see the croc that lives near the dock, but it scared away before you could really see it.

After, I walked to the nature reserve by the Air Field. Not much nature there, but lots of trash. Walked there by the beach hotels, if I come back.

Returned on the road and saw some locals. Didn’t feel safe, but maybe that was just me.

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Bad service seems endemic to the restaurants here — but the food is good. Just ate a red snapper at Sobre Los Olas.

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The Belikin beers are tasty.

Tomorrow I’ll go see some manatees and maybe Goff’s Cay with Carlos from Hiroco. $160BZ. Should be good.

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