Belize in JanuaryAuthor: Paul (More Trip Reviews by Paul)
Date of Trip: January 2008
Breakfast is early with another couple from Texas. Afterwards we group with the others that are on the same cave tour, there are only six of us with one guide. A short bus ride down the highway then half an hour bouncing through acres of orange orchard brings us to the river. We will be tubing upstream for a few kilometres but find it hard making headway because of the high water. At the cave entrance we don our headlamps and get set to go underground. The water is cool and running fast is some places; it is hard going so we get out of our tubes often and walk. Inside, the cave is pitch black and swarming with bats. Our guide explains the difference between stalagmites and stalactites; I can't remember which is which now. At one point we stop and let some red eyed catfish nibble our fingers.
The tubes are left on a sandbar as we clamber our way up and over slippery and steep ledges to an inner chamber of Mayan ceremony. Shards of pottery are strewn about, claimed to be ancient Mayan, but looking very conveniently placed for tourists to see.
Lunch is prepared on a sheet at a damp sandbar. The next chamber has a Mayan relief carving and our guide tries to build drama, highlighting the face in his headlamp beam. It is quite awesome to know that this carving is more than two thousand years old. Tubing out of the cave is much faster than getting in; water is moving fast and we are getting cold. At some point all headlamps are turned off and we glide along in the dark. It is kind of scary not knowing exactly where we are going, relying on the current to keep us away from the sharp rock walls. A few times we bump into gravel bars or rocks, our bums taking the brunt of the hits. Eventually we see light ahead and emerge unscathed. Dallas and I keep going after the planned take out and run a few bigger rapids in our tubes. Some of the others follow but do not make it past a narrows in the rocks and flip their tubes. We gather as a group on shore and walk back to the bus for another surprise -- it won't start! The guide just keeps turning the key, electronics clicking away, and the others stand around seemingly waiting for a rescue so I think I better take some kind of action. After tapping the Bendix drive, solenoid and some other unknown electronic gizmos, the starter finally kicks in when I grasp the gear shift and put the darn thing in neutral. The guide / driver calls me "mechanico" but I have not done anything worthy of the name. The rest of the drive back to Ian's is uneventful. A quick change from our wet clothing and once more we are on the road, heading back to Corozal.
About thirty kilometres from town we overtake a political rally for the UDP and the upcoming election. Vehicles of every description are slowly heading north, people sitting or hanging out of windows, waving red flags and chanting slogans. The pace is no more than a crawl so I do a decidedly Belizean manoeuvre; pull out and drive on the wrong side of the road. This works for a short while until the rally spreads out and covers both lanes and shoulders. We do not have any choice but to slow down and move with the crowd. This last thirty kilometres is stressful, cars and trucks pass us and pull in without warning. Crowds are calling to us, asking which party we support. All we do is give a thumbs up but it is greeted with cheers. Would we dare do less in the midst of all this? Soon, the rally turns off the highway and we pull in to Corozal and another night at the Maya Hotel. A poor supper is partially eaten at Tony's, and then we watch some TV and are asleep by 2230.
Monday January 28
Both of us are awake and up at 0600, on the road at 0700. The border crossing is a mere formality; it seems nobody cares when we leave. Highway 307 is almost deserted this early and we make good time.
The pyramid at Limones beckons so we stop and explore a bit. It seems out of place so close to a major road without any visitors at all.
Tulum Pueblo is reached at 1100. Lunch, internet and purchasing of supplies wastes an hour then before we know it we are back at our familiar stretch of the Mayan Riviera. We have been coming to this area since 2001 and know it quite well although it has changed in the last few years. Gone are the quaint stick shacks on the beach and all the backpackers milling about. Now there are hotels and large private houses where there used to be mangrove trees. We head south, looking at the hotels / cabanas, checking out those that seem suitable to us. Our residence for the next three nights is only about three lots past where we spent a memorable couple of weeks in 2002 but a world of difference in accommodations. This cabana has a concrete floor, nice tiled washroom with its own toilet and shower and plenty of concrete shelves.
The going rate is $150USD per night but we bargain hoping the lack of guests will have some kind of impact, we are the only ones here. We get it for $120 USD. We are both very pleased with our find.
The beach seems almost deserted, no crowds at all. We take sun and relax, enjoying a few cold Corona's before they warm up, and the white talcum powder beach.
Walking the beach, swimming in the warm water and sitting about in the comfortable lounge chairs reading a book while sipping a beer or rum passes the time. What a life!
Posada Margherita, just down the beach is where we end up for supper. We have been guests here since before it was officially open so have a good idea of what to expect. We are just squeezed in to the last empty table. Reservations are now almost mandatory. Although the faces are not familiar, the routine of the menu is. The head chef visits our table, sits with us and tells us what is available. No prices are quoted. We concur with what he thinks we would like and order his suggestion of wine to wait for the meal. It is excellent, as usual. The complete meal with wine, appetizers and main course is $560MP, a bargain.
It is a good day and evening.
Tuesday January 29
I beat my usual time and am out walking the beach at 0530. I set up the stove and make coffee for when Dallas wakes at 0700. We swim in the early hot sun. A bit of a memory lapse here, we had forgotten that the nightly rate includes breakfast and are surprised when it is served on the table outside our cabana door. Pancakes, fruit, toast and coffee, all served elegantly on distinctive dishes.
More sunning and swimming. Near mid day we walk to the centro, what we like to call "the bump in the road" for lunch. It is very hot away from the cooling breeze so we cab back only to find we don't know the name of our hotel! We just tell the cabbie to keep driving past Posada Margherita.
The afternoon is spent the same as the morning.
After dark we shower and dress for supper. Again we walk the beach all the way down to Hemingway's. Again, reservations are encouraged. We wait thirty minutes, sitting on the wood walkway and sipping a beer, before a table is ready. Tonight it is a seafood menu; clams, mussels, squid, crab with pasta, wine and beer. Another bargain for $670MP.
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