So here I am in Belize to start my 60th birthday celebrations. The overnight flight from rainy Seattle to Dallas-Fort Worth was fine, but now I am absolutely exhausted. I love overnight flights as they always give me an extra day where ever I am going. However, those domestic overnights in the upright seats are a killer. So it sounded like a great idea at the time I booked my flights, but then reality and about 1 hours of sleep hits you like a ton of bricks. Fortunately, the four hour layover at DFW allowed me to get in a couple hours of sleep in the American Airlines lounge before my connector to Belize City.
It was interesting walking through the airports with so many people wearing face masks because of concerns about the Coronavirus. We were even screened landing in Belize City.
Anyways, once screened, I passed through immigration and only waited a couple minutes for my bag to be unloaded (always happy to see my checked bag). I passed through another health checkpoint and then met my guide/driver for the next nine days, Odilia. She and her husband run BZM Tours in Belize and I was thrilled to find that Odilia was going to be my tour guide.
Once we loaded the luggage into the vehicle, we started the two hour drive north and west from Belize City towards San Ignacio Town. The drive was really interesting and Odilia’s commentary made it even more enjoyable.
Now one thing I did not realize is that Belize is not entirely Spanish. It is an interesting mix of Creole, British, Mayan (3 different dialects) and Spanish. There is a surprising amount of African influence in the culture and language here, which I never knew.
The topography started out really flat and it was readily apparent we were near the ocean with typical plants you find in tropical climates. However, as we drove north and west, the vegetation became more dense and the flat land gave way to rolling hills.
Throughout the drive we passed by tiny villages (Belize has a total population of less than 400,000 people) and lots and lots of roadside stands with locals selling fresh fruit, juices and coconuts. At one point we pulled over and.a woman carved the top off a coconut for Odilia and me and we stood on the side of the road drinking fresh coconut water followed by the coconut flesh. YUMMY.
Another interesting factoid about Belize is that it is very swampy. As a result, there are no underground burials. Instead, crypts are built above ground in order to bury the dead. We passed many of these above ground cemeteries on the drive, but aside from the above ground aspect, what was really unique is that the crypts had been painted in various shades of colour. Odilia told me that every November, people honour their departed loved ones by painting the crypts in their favourite colours and by placing their favourite food, drink and other items on top of the crypt. At the end of the celebration, people are free to come by and take the food, drink and gifts, which I thought was way better than allowing the food to rot and the gifts to go to waste.
Anyway, after almost two hours on the road (which was surprisingly good with only a few rough patches here and there that are under construction) we reached the turnoff to the Table Rock Jungle Lodge where I would spend my first two nights before heading out to other parts of the country to see the various Mayan ruins before returning again for another four nights.
The lodge is set in the mountains above San Ignaciao Town with the various cabins built above the river that runs to the town. There is no AC, but two fans cool the cabin, which comes complete with a massive four poster bed and veranda with hammock. YAY. There is a dining room, pool and lots and lots of trails to explore the area. And oh yea … there are howler monkeys that wake you up in the morning. Can’t wait for that!
So that was day 1. After some dinner, I plan an early night. I am exhausted.