Cancun bus station
My plan was spend one entire day getting to Cancun by air, spend the night, take a $24 bus to Chetumal and spend the night there, then take a bus just over the border to Corozal from there. More on why I chose Corozal later. I stayed in the Holiday Inn there in Cancun, but don't remember too much about it. I stayed at some little motel in Chetumal, the furthest southern city in Mexico on the east coast, and I'd go there again. It's a nice little town.
|I had some delicious fruit juice at this stand while|
I waited for my bus to leave.
However, I don't think I would go this route again. It was a bit of a tough call really, so while I did save some money, it wasn't worth it in hindsight. The 10 days I had were too precious to be spent on traveling. If money is tight for you, then by all means do it.
Riding the bus down to Chetumal was sometimes frightening
if I watched the driver. Here he is passing a truck on a road
barely wide enough for both vehicles. I had to stop looking.
The trip took about 7 hours.
I remember the bus driver. He was impeccably dressed, and was the proud captain of his ship. The bus was modern and appeared well maintained, and it was amusing to watch his exaggerated, dramatic movements as he pushed the buttons and threw the knobs and levers with flourish and pride.
|Maybe he knew I was watching.|
I really didn't see a lot of Chetumal. The bus got in there before dark and I had a funny taxi driver take me to a motel for the night. He spoke pretty good English and I took his name and number down somewhere. I wouldn't mind going back to spend a little time in Chetumal, but in reality there's not much reason to unless I'm going this route again. So just walked up and down the road the motel was on until I found a restaurant and had dinner. Walked back to the motel and watched TV until I fell asleep. Woke up in the middle of the night and tripped on the raised threshold in the bathroom in the dark, fell on my kneecap and hurt like hell. Note to self: turn on light in strange hotel rooms.
The next morning I was to catch the bus to the border and make the crossing so I could get to Corozal. It wasn't too bad, some waiting around, but it all went pretty smoothly. There was a bus switch once I cleared customs and off we went to Corozal. I had booked a place called the Sea Breeze Hotel. Several websites said it was about the best place in Corozal, and it certainly was cheap. I think my room was about $10/night. It's quite a place, run by a Welshman named Gwyn. I can't remember exactly, but I may have booked as many as 5 nights there.
I liked Gwyn at first, but as the days wore on our relations became strained. I'm not sure why. It did seem that he got on well with the other customers while I was there. I suppose it depends entirely on chemistry. He isn't the kind of guy who takes any crap from anybody. Now having said that, I'd certainly recommend the place to anyone because he can be a wildly entertaining guy and the place itself is really something. It's interesting it read about the history on their website, now shuttered. Here's some info about it. Another reason I chose this place was to see Gwyn's diesel setup. I'd first heard about him when I was doing some research on Listeroids.
|Here's a pic looking out the front door of Gwyn's little place, the Sea Breeze Hotel|
The hotel was pretty disorganized, in a relaxed and
enjoyable way. Here's a pic of the bar. I may have left my sunglasses on that bar.
Just a pic of the town. It was a nice little town. There's not a lot of stuff to do
in Corozal. I just wanted to relax, and that was easy to do. I spent some time
walking around the town being a tourist.
Now...I'm just not sure where these next pictures of a town square was. It could be in the middle of Corozal, or it could be in Orange Walk. Because I'm writing this post almost 5 years after this trip, I'm a little fuzzy on the order of things, such as how I got where, when. This trip down the river was chartered from a tour business near what I thought was the town square of Corozal. However, maybe this square is in Orange Walk. If you know I got this wonky, please feel free to straighten me out. Getting to the boat is particularly fuzzy. I'm not sure where it took off from. The more I think about it, the more I feel I must have made my way there from the hotel first, so I'm gonna say that I went over this bridge before we got to the river. I found it on Google Maps here, because somebody else posted a pic entitled "Hand Crank Cable Ferry". Can't be too many of those around (could there?).
|I'm waiting for the ferry, wondering how it's powered.|
|Have no idea what that tarp is.|
|Hits the bank and offloads a car and passengers|
|But this guy is leery of getting on board|
|After a close examination, he inches his way on|
|Managed to avoid bottoming out, but just barely.|
|Here's what the tarped over area hid from the sun: hand-cranked power.|
|There was a lot of joking around going on.|
They were making the best of it.
Arriving wherever I arrived at (can't remember) I bought a ticket at the tour company and hung out around the square for a while.
|One of the largest buildings in the square.|
|This little park was very pleasant|
|This picture does not do justice to the beauty of the flowering trees around the park.|
I had a cheap digital camera back then, my first one.
|Everybody was relaxed and it wasn't very crowded|
|In the center of the park was a statue of a woman breast feeding an infant|
|Standing around waiting for the tour to start. Lots of the usual kinds of things for sale.|
|The tour place was back in the corner|
We arrived at the river boat launch, and I was promptly asked by some school girls to give a videoed interview.
It seemed to be their first time making a video.
I think they had to change batteries.
I answered their giggly questions until it was time to go. They spoke English quite well. Belize is supposed to speak English due to its British colonial history (the name of the country was British Honduras until 1973). However, I routinely heard people speaking to one another and I rarely knew what they were saying. At some point during this trip I was in a bar (maybe I left my sunglasses in that bar) and I heard two men talking for some time with zero comprehension on my part, except for the curse words. I finally asked them what language they were speaking. They looked at me in surprise and said "English", and laughed. It appears they have developed their own heavily-accented dialect and I understood very little of it.
It was time to go and we zoomed up the river. There was all kinds of wildlife soon visible, including a huge crocodile, monkeys birds and bats.
|And we're off|
|It was a fast boat that made short time of what |
seemed to be about 30 kilometers up the river.
|That hat tie down came in handy. That's the custom|
made clip-on sunglasses I had made for about $100.
I lost them the next day somewhere, on a bar maybe.
|We slowed to have a look at this huge crocodile.|
|I frankly cannot remember what this was. It was either the |
croc's food processing plant, a factory or a settlement of some kind.
|He was a whopper. They told me he got so big by gorging on|
the offal from a meat processing plant.
|We slowed whenever the pilot saw some wildlife. Once we were under these trees, some|
of them would reach down and take the bananas from tourists who offered them.
My banana was not attractive enough and was refused.
|Gorgeous tree flowers of some sort. These were huge, maybe 8 or 10 inches in dia.|
|Coming up on our destination, the Maya Site of Lamanai (I think)|
|It seemed to be a well-maintained park with paths for the tour|
|One of the restorations|
|They were actually rebuilding some of the faces using concrete|
|I did climb one or two of these|
|Site of sacrificed children|
|I think they said this was a playing field|
|Lots of places to climb up and down and all around|
I won't post more pics of the mounds and pyramids. There's plenty better pics online than what I took with my little camera. I did climb up one, and got pretty tired just walking around a lot. The mosquitoes were hellacious. I had enough deet for my guide and myself, but it was time to go when it got hot in the afternoon.
Somehow I made it back to the hotel and probably relaxed some more and drank a lot of beer. Part of my time was spent just walking around the neighborhoods. Plenty of friendly people had me wishing my Spanish skills were better.
|I saw this guy working on his house, in the background.|
The lady was his neighbor. They talked with me
for some time and invited me back anytime.
|This saucy lass was manning a soft drink stand somewhere.|
|I made my way from Corozal to somewhere where I caught a water taxi to....|
Caye Ambergris? I think it was another Caye I went to first,
then caught some other water taxi to Cay Caulker? Beats me.
Next stop was Caye Caulker. I had booked 3 nights at a little place that was considerably nicer than Sea Breeze, this meaning air conditioning, lots of room and more than twice the price. The owner was a talkative and interesting woman who gave me a huge conch shell to take home. All the trees on the property were ringed with them.
My place was a separate little bungalo, possibly with a second story. There was a raised lounge hut near the trees too.
|This was a raised platform with thatched roof, cool and pleasant in the evenings.|
There sure was some good sea food there. I made the most of it and ate a lot of lobster. I was walking by one old house with a menu outside and an old guy hanging around on the porch. I began talking with him and asking him about the menu. He said they were just starting up, three guys and one was a chef from Mexico. So I went inside and gave it a shot. They were really just starting up, didn't have enough dishes or even a good set of glasses, poured my rum (bought at the convenience store down the street) in a coffee mug. But the lobster was out of this world. I do hope they made a go of it and are doing well. They treated me pretty good so I went back there two or three times.
The high point of the visit was going on a snorkeling tour. During my trip to the DR I learned that I can't clear my ears when I scuba dive, so that was out. Fortunately, out in the reefs it's only about 15 feet deep maximum. There's plenty to see on a snorkeling trip. I bought some sunblock there on the island, and it offered no protection. Again, I can't remember the name of the place I took the tour with, but it was recommended to me by someone, and was really well run with good equipment. The clincher for me was that they had a face mask with lenses that fit my screwy eyes. I was astounded. Of course it didn't have the prism I use, but I could actually see out of these things! To find that way out here, well it's like a sign from God that I should use these guys, so off we went.
|We took a speed boat out to Shark and Ray Alley|
|Taking a break between snorkeling periods|
|The captain chopping up chum to throw in the water to attract the various sharks, rays, turtles, etc.|
I didn't take any pics of the beautiful underwater world I got to see, but you can sure see plenty of them online. Try these. Plenty of those show hundreds of nurse sharks swarming, didn't see that. Didn't see any whale sharks. Saw a barracuda I think, and the most memorable thing for me was a large sea turtle with a head the size of an American football. We circled each other once and I got a really close look at him. Oh my, what a sunburn I got. Don't trust the local stuff, bring your own trusty sunblock from home. And folks, please get the biodegradable kind. It's hard to find and expensive, but we really need to stop polluting the oceans with hundreds of tons per year of stuff like Octocrylene, Butylparaben, Octylmethoxycinnamate, and Benzophenone-3, compounds that don't break down easily and are harmful to marine life. Do some research, think ahead and get some on Amazon if you can't find any in your local stores.
The rest of the time there was just spent sitting around. I did take a long walk out in the southern part of the island, near the airport, I remember that being in the area. Here's some pics of some houses, people I talked with, and stuff I saw on the hike.
|After an hour I really wished I had a bike too|
|There was a decent amount of construction going on|
|Kids going to and from school|
|Little groupings of houses here and there|
|Some colors I don't think I'd choose|
|All houses were raised. I wonder how often it floods.|
|I took a number of side streets, which all led to the ocean. It's not a big island.|
|Makes me want a sailboat|
|This lady yelled out to me from up in her house as I was walking by.|
She offered me some much-appreciated water, and we had
a nice chat in front of her large garbage pile.
|We snapped each other's pics.|
|Some pretty nice places.|
|Makes me wonder if I'd like to live on an a small island.|
I enjoyed my time on Caye (pronounced key) Caulker. It's a nice, easy-going place. Not too expensive and a good place to go to relax or do some diving.
|Wow, sure added a lot of weight during this trip.|
Hot and tired and waiting for the bus. Or was it the airport?