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sunny 29 °C

Mexico into Belize
Tuesday 29th March - Caye Caulker Island
Left the hotel in Tulum, for a 3hr drive to the Mexican border at Chetumal and
Crossed into Belize then quickly consumed the fruit that we were Not supposed to import into the country !
Adjusted our clocks and gained another hour, now -7hrs behind BST.
We had managed to use all our Mexican pesos in Mexico and in Belize the US dollar is directly interchangeable with the Belizean dollar @ 1:2
which made it easy, plus all the notes have the queen on !
We then continued on to Belize City and headed for the docks to board a water taxi to take us across to the group of Caye Islands,
which was about an hours boat trip. We arrived on Caye Caulker Island, one of the larger Cayes to spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach, doing some snorkelling hopefully some Manatee and Shark spotting.
Cars are not allowed on the island, so the only major mode of transport is by golf buggy ! or by bike rental,
So we got a golf buggy taxi to the "China Palace Hotel" and then went for a short walk and arranged a
Snorkelling trip out towards the reef for tomorrow before heading out for dinner. Fresh locally caught fish is the main deal on the menus,
So we went for the daily special at the Happy Lobster - Blackened Barracuda !

Wednesday 30th March - Caye Caulker Island
Went for an early morning walk and then had breakfast down by the beach in one of the local cafes.
Afterwards we meet up with a local, "Ninja" an old chap that had being doing these trips for around 30yrs,
(and you could certainly tell).
We took his small boat out towards the Barrier Reef and stopped for our first trip at Hol Channel Marine Reserve.
I got some good shots of the Reef and underwater wildlife, we then went onto Shark-Ray Alley and
I found out why - jumping in I was approached by 3 Nurse Sharks and school of Rays !
Slightly worrying at first, but thankfully they didn't seem to have an appetite for me !
We then went onto our last dive on the Reef itself at Coral Gardens, again great shots of the Reef and
lots of different species, plus Irene found a lobster under a large block of coral.
We returned to land in the afternoon and chilled out in a local cafe before having a walk around the island,
(which takes less then 2 hours) and then back to the hotel.
We ventured out early evening to sample more local cuisine and the Belizean Beer - Belikin Beer.
Which is the main brand throughout Belize, although there is also a Lighthouse Lager,
(Not desperate to try it, but I guess I will have too for quality control purposes).
There is also Guinness, I guess a throw back to their colonial past, poplar served extra cold.
The Belikin Beers are either a 4.8% Lager or a 6.5% Stout, both were ok,
But no guessing as to which one either of us choose 😀 (and surprisingly the stout was nice).
This was followed by the local catch of the day - grilled Red Snapper, with Belizean Rice n Beans.

Thursday 31st March - Caye Caulker Island
After yesterday's great water adventure, how could we top it ? By flying over the famous Blue Hole ?
Yesterday, I had managed to negotiate a deal with a small tour company to take a flight over the Barrier Reef and
on to the famous Great Blue Hole in a 5 seater Cessna aircraft.
The Blue Hole is basically it's a large underwater sinkhole, near the centre of Lighthouse Reef -
A small atoll 60 miles off the coast of Belize, It's around 300m wide and nearly 125m deep.
Divers dive to around 40m to enter the cave then swim through the cave exiting up via this natural hole
(where the cave ceiling had collapsed several hundreds of years ago).
We arrived at the "airport" a rough track in the middle of a field, had a quick chat with Brian our Pilot and
Then we were off and the bonus was, I had managed to blag the co-pilots seat, so with go-pro in hand we took off.
However, halfway down the runway my door flew open !
Luckily both Irene, who was sitting behind me and I were both strapped in and
the two of us managed to pull the door closed just before taking off !!!
Once airborne we headed out to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll and circled the Blue Hole a few times in both directions,
we got some great views of the hole and hopefully some good photos & video too.
We then headed towards a stranded Cargo ship that got stuck during a Hurricane a few years ago,
Its still stuck there rusting away.
Then came the fun - Brian then handed me the controls ! and
I had a go a flying the Cessna on the way back for about 15 mins, pretty scary at first as it really responded to my moves,
but suffice to say we all got back and landed safely - cos I'm writing this blog !
After all the mornings excitement we decided to have an easy afternoon walking around the island,
having a swim in the sea and then sitting in some hammocks drinking a coconut !

Friday 1st April - San Ignacio
Today we packed and left the island of Caye Caulker, taking the 1hr water-taxi back to the mainland,
where we caught a local bus to take us on to San Ignacio.
San Ignacio lies close to the border of Guatemala about 70miles west of the capital Belize.
After enduring a local bus ride of about 3hrs, we eventually arrived in San Ignacio,
A small town, although the second largest urban area outside of Belize City, with only one main street; Burns Avenue where we were staying.
We checked into the Venus Hotel only to find that there was no water, there was a lot of construction work going on outside, (hence the no water, as one of the workmen had burst through the mains supply to our hotel) and finally if we wanted A/C we had had to pay for it !
Anyhow, we got briefing of possible activities to do in the area, then 4 of us went up the local Maya ruins of Cahal Pech,
these date back to around 900BC and weren't discovered until 1950.
We arrived there with only an hour left before they closed, but the bonus was, the site was empty, so we had it all to ourselves.
We got back to the hotel as it was just getting dark, to find the water had been restored, great news as the temperature reached 32c today,
so after a welcome cold shower, we decided to keep cool for longer with the aid of some ice cold beers !

Saturday 2nd April - San Ignacio
An early start as we had decided to visit the ancient ruins of Carocol, the largest Mayan site in Belize. We left the hotel at 7am for a 2hr bumpy ride to the site, this was due to the fact the the site had only been discovered in 1937 and this track was the only way to reach it.
We stopped on the way to visit Rio Frio Cave and do a spot of Caving,
Although it was an easy walk-through cave system with massive entry & exit holes of around 50m in diameter !
We then got back in our people carrier to endure the final section of track before arriving at Carocol.
Carocol (which means Snail in Mayan) was the largest city and Mayan site in Belize with a population of around 150,000.
The main structure know as Sky Place rises above the settlement to a height of 500m above sea level.
we climbed the very steep and large steps to get some impressive views of the site and across the border into Guatemala.
We also had the complete site, virtually to ourselves with only about 10 other tourists,
We thought this might be due to the rough track to get there, but having counted around 20 armed soldiers dotted around the site (?)
we found out why - someone was shot about 2 weeks ago by Guatemalan Poachers crossing the border, hunting in Belize.
Tensions between both sides are running high and they didn't want any more casualties (we totally agreed !).
After 3 hrs climbing around the site with the temperature hitting 36c !
We set off back and stopped at the some waterfalls and plunge pools for refreshing dip and swim.

Posted by Andy-Irene 16:18 Archived in Belize

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