I nearly omitted Belize from my itinerary. Paul, “Would it be worth riding two months towards the east coast to visit an expensive country instead of continuing south?” Definitely! We spent our entire month allowance in Belize. For how small the country is, it’s surprisingly diverse of life and culture. In the jungle, we tuned-in to the music of frogs, birds, insects and monkeys. In the towns, we could sense an immediate change from Latin America. No longer the signs are written in Spanish, but Garifuna and Creole- “Dis da fi wi chicken”- WHAT?! Belizens- a result of the British colonization, shipwrecked slaves, and the ready-to-serve-American influence- Caribbean style. From the hidden wonders in the rain forest to the pristine blue Caribbean waters, we loved all of Belize!
There were a couple scary nights camping in heavy storms and lightning. Fortunately, we had many nights with a roof overhead, thanks to our fantastic Belize hosts!
Thanks to my friend, Maila Bischoff, we were referred to stay with her longtime friends, Libby and James. They gave us a RV to live in for an exchange of helping in the kitchen and garden. Libby operates a kitchen company bottling homemade sauces and spices. Many of the ingredients come fresh from the garden. Down the road, James runs “The Junction” the ONLY one stop bar and shop in the jungle for the local Beliziens, redneck ex-pats, archaeologist students, and the (unorthodox) dirt-biker Mennonites.
Other places we explored in Pine Ridge were caves and waterfalls. Derick, a neighbor of The Junction, guided us through an unknown cave, filled with tarantulas and pieces of Mayan pottery.
Libby, James and their baby boy, Rio are sweet folks, and we enjoyed their travel stories and sharing laughs. We wished Maila could have been there. Thanks James and Libby!
From Pine Ridge we continued going east, on the scenic Hummingbird Highway. We spent a day visiting the Blue Hole National Park. For $8 BZ a person, we hiked 2 miles of jungle park, explored 200 meters of the cave, and ended the day bathing in the Blue Hole pool. We saved ourselves $70 Belize by sneaking further past the line that required a guide for the cave.
Paul and I high-fived success when we got to Dangriga on the Carribien coast. It had been two months since we started from the Pacific coast of Mexico- coast to coast! We rewarded ourselves to a vacation to the Cayes. It took an agonizing 3 hours to negotiate a fair price for a boat ferry to Tobacco Cayes.
It was a bit crowded on Tabacco Cayes, but we managed to find space under the coconut tree shades with views of the Caribbean blue waters. Our economical option was to camp in front of a run-down resort, care-taken by a Caribbean couple, AC and Julie. Julie shared family dinners with us of fresh caught fish and coconut rice. For my first time, I went snorkeling around the Tobacco Cayes reefs. In peaceful silence, Paul took me by the hand through a colorful sea world coral and fish. It was incredible!
We took boat back to the mainland to Hopkins. For the week, we had a free stay on the beach (thanks to Paula and her boyfriend Zu-dogg( and socialized with the backpackers next door at the Funky DoDo hostel. We met Richard, a Canadian cyclist heading north. Sunday we attended the Hopkins Mango festival and ate mango dishes and dessert. There, we met Sharon, who runs the high end Southwater Cayes Resort. She kindly offered us a free stay at a lodge in southern Belize and gave us her raffle prize of the “best Mango plate” from the Diversity Cafe. The owner of Diversity Cafe, Janette, invited us to camp in her backyard for our last couple nights in Hopkins so that Paul could go out for a dive in the Caribbean.
Our friends from the Funky Dodo mentioned there was an Earthship project using recyclable materials to build a self-sufficient home. The family who are building the home of recycled dreams are Richard, Alisa and their 3 kids. They gave us a room and bed. Everyone participated in the daily projects activities and duties like building the earthship and attending family meals. Paul planted cacao with the Mayan workers just in time for the full moon. In Belize the Kekchi and Mopan Maya plant green and tree crops on the full moon. On the night of the full moon, Paul and I hiked up to the top of Lubauntun, a ruin next door to the Earthship for a mystical view over the jungle.
Richard and Alisa kindly offered us to leave our bikes to them while we visited the permacuture institute, Maya Mountain Research Farm. Christopher Nesbitt, the director and farmer, picked us up and dropped us off at a trail with specific instructions to get to the farm. They were clear instructions, but he was not aware of the fresh cut path that would divert us into the wrong direction. So, Paul and I were lost in the jungle for a few hours in the night. We made the coded “bird call” for help until Chris found us. Smiling interns welcomed us to our saved dinner and hot cacao drink (cacao processed on-site!). The next morning, Chris led us on a tour through the farm. A farm abundant of food and systems that support the natural habitats. He diligently described every feature with scientific species names, history, and humor. We got to know more of Chris, shared stories over a pineapple lunch, and took us us to the top of the hill for an incredible view of the Maya Mountains. Visiting another permaculture farm was a great opportunity and learning experience. Thanks to Chris- it was excellent!
Our last stop was at Cotton Tree Lodge. It was an invitation from Chris Crowell, who we met through Ricard and Alisa. When we arrived to the lodge, our jaws dropped. The lodge was very nice.
Never-mind that we never made it to the resort Sharon offered… The Cotton Tree Lodge is a stunning first class eco-lodge that I never imagined I would be invited to couch-surf! It’s named after the enormous trees the Mayans believed connected the earth to the underworld. Dreamy jungle cabanas are connected by boardwalks that cross over a manicured garden of cacao trees and exotic flowers. On site is an organic chocolate factory that produces some of the best chocolates I’ve ever eaten. That weekend, we jokingly asked another (In posh talk) “What shall we do today darling? Launch off the dock to kayak down the Moho river through the jungle? Tour and sample the raw cacao at the Cotton Tree Cacao Farm? Last days in Belize of indulging and relaxation. Chris is a very kind and funny guy and the Cotton Tree Lodge is a gorgeous place to stay in Belize! We thank him for hosting us.
On our last Belizien day- Chris took us on his boat to Punta Gorda and then we took a boat to Livingston, Guatemala. The Moho river was rising as we were loading our bikes onto Chris’s boat. The ride was 2 miles through the remote jungle and 400 years old mangroves. When the river met with the Caribbean Sea, the ride turned into a slamming boat ride. The ferry ride from Punta Gorda was was even more terrifying because our driver charged into big waves far out at sea. We could see that our bikes were taking a beating from the bumpy ride …“OH-NO!”… we discovered Paul’s wheel was bent. The wheel couldn’t be “trued” back to it’s original form, but our bike shop kid did offer us to sleep in the bike shop. He handed us a lock if we wanted to leave the bikes inside for dinner. It’s a life of good fortunes and challenges. The search continues to find a shop where we could fix the wheel.
Thanks again to everyone who made our Belize trip memorable! Vamos a Guatemala!
Photo Credit and lots of love to: m.piem.org