Belize: Backpacker Paradise Part 2, Inland Activities
Belize: Backpacker Paradise Part 2, Inland Activities
Like I said in part 1, Belize City is not a tourist destination. The only time I was there was coming back from the Cayes by boat then walking a few blocks to the bus station to go to the Baboon Sanctuary. North and west of Belize City is a small village that is a protected area for Howler Monkeys. When my buddy Amie and I got to town, we were greeted warmly and lead straight to the Baboon sanctuary registration center. After paying our $20 US each we were offered cabins for rent or a patch of ground to throw up our tents. We were led out to where the Howler monkeys were lounging in a tree and for the most part left to our own devices. We paid for the guide as was expected but it quickly became apparent that this had been unnecessary. I got the sense that we were being bilked a little but what the heck; everyone has to make a living. Once we were with the monkeys it became irrelevant.
For me, this destination was a pinnacle of my trip as it had been years since I had seen my first wild primates and this was my second time getting to photograph them in their natural habitat. I suspect my friend Amie would say that yes it fun and yes it was worth going to but it was just one stop of many on our very cool trip to Belize. Here is one of my best pics from the adventure.
The monkeys are howlers not baboons, when I asked about this I was told that when the English were running what is now Belize, these primates were dubbed baboons and the name stuck.
We were in Belize to do a dig on an early Mayan historical site, and the weekends were packed with lots of fun things to do. Outside of the capital city of Belmopan we crawled through a fantastic cave that had classic period Mayan remains that were covered in silicate. At one point in the cave our guide had us sit with the lights out and just listen to the cave, we could hear water dripping nearby and running in the distance. There was an overwhelming sense of calm but it was freaking out some in our group.
We went to a roadside zoo that was odd but it was nice to see the animals that we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise including the Black Panther. One of the best places we stayed was the dig head quarters located in the Cayo district. It was a small town called San Jose Succotz. We stayed at a backpacker’s haven called The Trek Stop. It is owned and operated by a kindly American couple who retired to Belize and set up shop. It was a pleasurable place with permanent sleeping huts and a common area and it was situated in an abandoned mango orchard. One of the highlights is a butterfly pavilion with hundreds of specimens of indigenous species. From there it was a short walk to an impressive Mayan ruin called Xunantunich. We traveled to many different Mayan ruins and I intend to write articles about them all.
The Trek Stop had another adventure in store for us. There was a small overgrown mayan Pyramid right on the property. We walked out to it one afternoon to check it out and as we were returning we almost stepped on a fer-de-lance, a very poisonous snake found in Central America. So watch out for those. Later we walked the short trail to the Mayan site at night and were surrounded by thousands of fireflies. The fireflies were different than the ones in America as they didn’t seem to blink as much as they just stayed lit. It was a surreal walk in the forest, like swimming in space. These are the kinds of experiences that you get when you stay put in a foreign country for awhile as opposed to just hitting the highlights in a whirlwind scripted tour.
The city of Cayo was a gathering point for backpackers. No sooner had we stepped off the bus then we were approached by a local who assisted us, for a tip, in finding our way to the hotel we would be staying in and the restaurants we would be eating in. We met many fascinating people and went to a charming open air fruit market where we met many locals. Our accommodation was a small room but at least the roaches minded their own business. The pub in the hostel was filled with energy and likeminded people exchanging stories of where they had been and where they were going. Like most of the backpackers, we got around Belize by hitchhiking. This was fun and easy to do. No sooner would you stick your thumb out and someone would stop and pick you up. A couple of bucks for gas money and you were off and running. One ride we got took us right through the middle of a prison, which was a little unnerving, but the prisoners just waved and smiled and we went about our business.
At one point we crossed a river and found ourselves in what looked like Iowa. Turns out Mennonites had migrated down to Belize early in the 20th century and struck a deal with the government who was experiencing a food shortage at the time. The deal was, if they were left alone to farm and handle their own affairs as they saw fit, they would in turn produce food for a fair price and help to feed the starving peoples of Belize. The government made the deal and the Mennonites held up their end of the bargain as well. So, other than capital crimes, the Mennonites do their own thing and they have turned the land they were given into a farming Mecca.
Belize is a very fun and very easy place to get your feet wet in the game of backpacking the world. I highly recommend it to anyone who will listen. For more information about the islands of Belize see Part 1 of this article ( knoji.com/belize-a-backpackers-paradise-part-1-the-cayes/).
For more about my travels check out my blog: onthemove819.blogspot.com/