Belize: Many Terrible Things Are Waiting. Right?
Before we got to Belize I didn’t really know much about it. I knew that the official language was English and most tourists spent their time in the island system off the coast rather than inland in the jungle. I knew that Mennonites had a strong presence here. I knew that Floyd Landis was raised a Mennonite and ended up taking banned drugs to win the Tour de France. So basically the country had a strong presence of people linked to people who cheat to win the Tour de France. My knowledge was clearly a bit thin. I had heard that there were no fast food chain restaurants in Belize. Well at least that’s redeeming. We were also told that we’d be robbed blind the minute we stepped over the border or may even fall prey to some druggie. Things can change in a moment and the tables do not take much time to turn.
Oh, but before we talk about Belize I have good news to report. While my research over the last couple of months has indicated that the Pacific Ocean is almost completely devoid of life, the Caribbean has proven to be a cornucopia of edible fish. Meet my red snapper.
Of course I was only able to get to this one after catching a barracuda and a triggerfish. Boo ya! (or whatever the hip kids say these days). More on fishing in the next post.
Feels good to get that out in the open. Life is good again.
We beat the odds by crossing over the border and not getting robbed blind. Things were looking up. By the evening we had arrived in the country’s capital, Belmopan. We stopped at a Chinese-run hotel and asked if we could pay to camp in their parking lot. They nearly robbed us blind, but then opted to let us camp there for free. Camping in a hotel parking lot in a country’s capital might seem uncomfortable, until you realize that the population of Belize’s capital is only 16,000. That’s exactly 80 times the population of Farmersville, Pennsylvania; the town where Floyd Landis was raised as a Mennonite before growing up to be a big fat cheater.
While camping in the parking lot of that Chinese hotel in Belmopan, we made friends with Durman, the parking lot security guard. He told us that Prince Harry of England would be hosting a party in Belmopan the following evening, and everyone was invited. Our minds wandered to what could come of this. Belmopan’s population was small, so the party would probably be small. We imagined ourselves laughing at really funny jokes with Mr. Prince, doing belly button shots, and making impersonations of Ace Ventura. Later, in a moment of weakness he would scribble his cell phone number on a napkin and invite us to stay in Buckingham Palace when we get to London.
We slept on it, but in the morning decided to forego Prince Harry’s party and instead drive to Placencia to camp. It sounded like more fun than belly button shots and Ace Ventura impersonations, albeit only a little bit. We accepted the fact that we’d regret our decision in a couple of years when we find ourselves camping in a wet London back alley, creating little perimeter dams out of soggy saltine crackers to keep the hobo urine from soaking into our sleeping bags.
Accepting our fate, we drove on. A couple of hours outside of Belmopan we came across a sign advertising “Blue Hole”. We pulled over and walked into the jungle to find a nice little swimming hole created by a sinkhole that collapsed into an underground river. Just downstream from the swimming hole the river ducked under a mountain and disappeared into darkness. With a guide you can take an inner tube down the river into the dark subterranean cave, and presumably come out somewhere else. We didn’t have a guide so I just stood in the cave entrance and watched leaves disappear into the darkness as I dropped them into the current. It kind of felt like when I was a kid and used to send cow pie boats through the rapids in trout streams, except that if I slipped here I would be sucked under a mountain.
On our way to Placencia, a small town on the Caribbean coast, we passed through dozens of small villages. Standing in stark contrast to the scary robbers that we expected to see based on everyone’s warnings were the smiling, happy faces of Belizeans. Most don’t own cars, so they walk or ride bikes. This gave us an opportunity to see hundreds of people on our drive across the country, and nearly everyone was smiling. Furthermore, we didn’t pass a person on the roadside, be it a walker, cyclist, or someone sitting on the porch of their home, without them giving us a wave and a huge smile.
Oh, but the fast food chain restaurant thing? Turns out it’s not true. Subway opened a store in Belize City, but the government later required that they obtain their bread rolls from a local source. If Subway would exist in Belize, it would serve its sandwiches on Belizean rolls. They said “no way” and closed their doors. Later, McDonalds tried to open a branch in Belize City. They were given permission with one stipulation: they would have to source their beef from Belizean ranchers. They also said “no way” and pulled the plug. Later, Subway relented and reopened their doors. Now if you want to eat at a fast food chain in Belize, you’ll have to find the only one in the country: a Subway serving its sandwiches on Belizean rolls. I don’t know about you, but I find this story very refreshing.
What we thought we’d find in Belize based on hearsay: scary robbers. What stands out in or mind after actually having visited Belize: all smiles. To hell with naysayers. The Mennonites even looked nice and nonthreatening in their horse drawn buggies with their suspenders. So to hell with Floyd Landis too.
Glad to see you liked Belize! My husband and I went there last year! We did make it to the islands, but not before I drug my husband through Belmopan and to see the howler monkeys and caves…haha!
Good luck on the rest of your trip, it looks beautiful!
Comment by Amber Rice on March 17, 2012 at 10:42 pm
Thank you for the up-date on your trip to Belize. Life is so different here with so many things going on, THANK YOU for uplifting my spirits on your journey. I remember when you both were Wales and I would read about your life there. I could not quit laughing and my face was so sore from smiling. Thank you again for your blog. Sheen is lucky to have you as her Knight and Shining Armor. Luv U both Mom
Comment by Barb Wieber on March 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm
Be sure to mention Contador when you travel through Madrid. I feel he deserves the same. Glad the visit to Belize was good. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the country. Glad the wheel issue is fixed!!!!!
Comment by Steve on March 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm
We spent our honeymoon in Belize and we encountered nothing but smiles as well. Good people!
Comment by Cason on March 18, 2012 at 8:34 am
Enjoying your trip.
Did you eat your fish? (I assume you did.)
Personally red snapper is one of my favorites. Trigger fish were generally considered non-eating fish 4 decades ago in Fla but I understand it is regularly eaten now.
Consider comparing fish you’ve caught (now that you’ve left the barren Pacific coast – if you’ve observed it, it must be fact, right?) vs. those from someone else.
Keep on Nachoin’!
Comment by Keith on March 18, 2012 at 8:49 am
Belize is all smiles, er’ting is irie mon
Good job on the fish (though i say fishing from a boat is cheating! i think im just jealous)
Comment by James on March 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm
ya vez siempre es el tema de los pesimistas……………..
somos apenas 3 tipos de gente
los realistas…..buen viaje y suerte!!!!!
Comment by MARIO on March 18, 2012 at 2:15 pm
How refreshing! A country that stands up to McDonald’s and their cadre of lawyers!
Comment by Gary on March 19, 2012 at 9:21 am
why the harsh words against the Mennonites? Does one Landis or Contador make a whole group of people bad? I think you need to be a little more open minded and forgiving towards people you don’t know.
Comment by greg on March 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm
Greg, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean to convey any negativity towards Mennonites (read the last 2 sentences of the post). I just used them as a way of taking a poke at Floyd Landis. We actually hung out with a Mennonite at the Guatemalan border for a couple of hours while we waited for the computer system to get back up and running so we could cross. He was a really cool guy. We asked a lot of Belizeans about the Mennonites as well, and everyone had the same thing to say: they’re extremely hard workers. We’re good with that :)
Comment by Brad on March 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm
“Boo ya” was SO 5th grade, and I hate to break it to you but we weren’t that hip… Except for those couple weeks when we formed our own street gang, and came up with sweet rapper names.
Comment by Nick on March 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm
Ah yes, Nick. I believe that our street gang was called The Bloody Devils. We staked out our claim in the southwest corner of the playground, and as a part of the gang we created our own wrestling league. I don’t remember my rapper name though. See? I should have had it tatted across my upper back.
Comment by Brad on March 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm
@Keith: we certainly did eat our fish. We barbecued it along with someone else’s red snapper. We gave the barracudas to our boat driver (captain?) as a tip, as I’m a bit weary of ciguatera toxin. More on that in the next blog post though.
Comment by Brad on March 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm
Hey, if you can nurse Nacho to Colombia, Gerson could be a resource for you. I recall Pat and Ali hooked up with him for a few things as well as several others I have followed. He may also know some others along the way. He is on the Samba, http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=17027
and his website is http://www.klassicfab.com/
Funky green metal
Comment by Jeffrey Carter on March 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm
In the boat, you are either looking very dirty, or u are getting tan, given your history with your pale skin, I’m going to advise you take a bath one of these days…perhaps you could bathe in the Caribbean?
Comment by aubrey on March 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm
Aubrey, that’s Patrick. He’s our boat captain and he’s black. For Pete’s sake man, I don’t tan that fast.
Comment by Brad on March 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm
We got married three years ago today in Belize. After 2 feet of snow in Flag yesterday, I’d give pretty much anything to be back there right now. Glad you’re enjoying it.
Comment by Jacki on March 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm
“Ahh, a red snapper. Mmmmm, very tasty. Okay, Weaver, listen carefully. You can hold onto your red snapper……or you can go for what’s in the box that Hiro-San is bringing down the aisle right now! What’s it gonna be?” – UHF, 1989
Comment by Garrett on March 20, 2012 at 11:07 am
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