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Welcome to Belize – Orange Walk

November 30th, 2011

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Belize was calling! I had mixed feelings about this country due to different opinions of people I met. Most were positive however and described an african type experience, which is so different from the rest of central and south america. But maybe my own lack of knowing the african culture made me a bit nervous. Sooner or later I would pay a visit to some country in Africa and Belize would be a little preparation.

From Bacarar I took a bus to Chetumal for 22 pesos. After the short ride I had to take a taxi to get to the “New Market” bus station, from where buses to Belize would leave. Several old style american school buses were parked there waiting for their departure. After I found out which one of them would bring me to my destination I entered the bus and got seated. I heard people on the bus mostly speaking in English, which was quite hard to understand. Images from movies appeared in my head that had similar scenes.

At 1:30pm (also every hour) I left for the border and had to pay 260 pesos at the Mexican control point for leaving the country. At the check point for Belize they did a small security check. They asked what was in my backpack and let me through without having me opened it. The bus was waiting for us on the other side. Then we went on.

In Orange Walk I went to the hotel I picked before. It was the cheapest and this is what it looked like. Lucia’s hotel was close to the bus terminal and music was being played from some speakers in front of it. Inside the small store of this house I asked for a room. The shy (Asian looking) woman showed me one with a TV. After I told her that I don’t need a TV, she showed me another room. That one was so small that the bed used up almost all the space. The walls were thin, the light dim but at least a fan was blowing silently. I asked for another room with a window. Confused she turned around to fetch another key. The room she showed me then didn’t have a window, too. It looked even worse (and was right next to the bathroom and so I decided to stay at least one night in the previous one. When I would have known about the external bathroom I might have left but for 25 BZD you probably cannot expect more.

Before I could give the money to the lady I had to get some first. Here’s also a little difference. Where in Mexico I wasn’t asked for paying my room on the first day, it seemed to be here quite more natural.

I walked around Orange Walk and found myself in a ghost town almost, but why? All the shops were closed, that gave the weird feeling. When I asked a guy what was the reason for that, I was told that there is the Garifuna Settlement Day Holiday. On the question where I could find some food, I was pointed to some chinese restaurants. Indeed I passed several chinese restaurants and most supermarkets owned by Chinese/Asian. They seemed to work most of the time, counting money but living less.

But I moved on and came across a tour organisation. I asked for the trip to Lamanai (a famous Maya site) and booked one for 80 BZD shortly afterwards for the next day. A Belizian Dollar is by the way half a US Dollar and the currencies can be even mixed, which needs you to me good at math! 😉

When I was looking for food I was guided by some kids on bikes, who brought me to a place where the holiday is celebrated. A small band was playing African style music that began to move the people after a while and again … I felt like being in a movie or set back some 80 years ago in an American village. There was no food either, only drinks. I went for a coconut for 2 BZD. My smallest bill from the ATM was 20 BZD however and there was the old problem again … no change! A guy who stood close by me was trying to help me out but couldn’t convert my bill either. Instead he paid for my coconut and I was astonished!

The people here were really friendly and talkative. Often they just said “Hey man!” or “How are you, man?” and “Everything up?” and if I continued the conversation I often was not asked where I came from, which was the typical question in Mexico. People like small talk here and if you can have a little laugh then the better.

Lamanai

At 8:30am I went to the market place where I could have breakfast. A typical breakfast consisted of rice and beans and something fried. I really liked the ice cold melon juice, which was like as if you bit into a fresh water melon … mhmmm!

At 9am the tour to Lamanai started and I went with 15 other people to the New River. There we got into a kind of speed boat I guess and headed south. We didn’t progress so fast because our guide was stopping very often to show us some wild life. So we saw several kinds of birds, crocodiles, turtles, iguanas and spider monkeys. He tried to get as close as possible so that we actually arrived at the entrance to Lamanai two hours later (for 34 miles). But it was great and the more interesting part of the tour.

Our guide did a good job in explaining everything and to answer our questions about the Mayan site.

Orange Walk didn’t leave such a great impression on me, but this might also be because I was alone. With no hostels around it’s difficult to meet up with people and talking to the locals is fine for having some small talk but not more.


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