Belize

Belize is a tiny, carribbean-coast country in Central America, the only one that does not include spanish as its official language, and probably the most ethincally diverse and mutli-cultural place. It’s a fusion of ex-colonial British influence crossed with the reggae-rhythm lifestyle of the West Indies, and a dash of latino mixed into everything. The architecture switched from the one-storey concrete blocks typical in Spanish colonial towns to the two-storey, stilted, wooden houses encircled by verandas, less subtly affected by annual hurricane damage. Even though it was by far the most expensive place, poverty was still severe, but the extreme class separations seemed more balanced. They say Creole English is the spoken tongue, but I’m not sure how long you can call a language a dialiect of English if it develops into a completely new way of speaking, incomprehensible to most native ‘English’ speakers. The super-thick accent, rapid but lazy way of speaking, and the number of novel slang words made it tough for even me to understand, even though I grew up with my Mom and Grandma speaking Creole English from Guyana.

the water taxi port from Belize city to Caye Caulker

I spent all my time in Belize on water, mostly on the coast but also on the New Belize river to see Lamanai. I spent one day in Corozal, in transit from the cayes to Chetumel, Mexico. I thought it would be more tourist-friendly than it was, but upon arrival realized there was only one budget place to stay at $20US per night. The Sea Breeze hotel turned out to be one of my main Belizean highlights, since the owner decided a hefty discount, a complimentary bar tab, and breakfast included would be the proper way to treat a solo-lady traveler nearing the end of an over-budget trip. He was an older guy from Wales who decided to retire to Belize and run a hotel after spending his golden years managing some amazing rock bands like Phish, the Grateful Dead and The Who. I also couldn’t get enough of the hot, pressurized shower, a queen sized mattress all to myself, and the shining white, clean towels and sheets.

boating down the New Belize River from Lamanai back to Orange Walk

who wouldn't want to hammock in Caye Caulker?

In the north east I spent some time in Belize City, but unfortunately planned my entire day there on a Sunday (its a pretty religious population) which meant everything was closed an even the main streets at midday were ghosttowns. From there I took a 1 hr motor-boat taxi to the caye’s, and instantly felt like I was surrounded only by sand and tropical ocean. Caye Caulker is basically just a mile-wide strip of sand surrounded by ocean along its 5 mile length, and an altitude of maybe a couple metres above sea level. There are only golf carts or your own two feet to get around, and you’ll quickly get to know all the locals that line the main streets trying to sell you today’s catch for dinner. During the day tourist guides and shop vendors all shout out hello to you, wanting to know how you are, directing you to walk slow, or just flatter you with compliments until you give them a big enough smile. All the houses were pretty colourful, and the resident population is probably always dwarfed by the constantly renewed tourist population, but somehow it maintained a really local, laid-back vibe that anyone picturing a small-island getaway would consider perfect.

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