We spent our first 2 days on the cruise at sea in the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed us to have the necessary 6 hours to adjust to being on a boat and the rocking waves, another 24 hours of drinking and eating, 16 hours of sleeping and napping and 2 hours of boredom. Finally we pulled into our first port in Belize.
Getting off the boat we found ourselves in a fenced in 3rd world strip mall. No beaches, no tropical foliage, just t-shirt shops and bars over a 200 foot pier. As we walked down the strip attempting to find escape from our new concrete tourist prison we realized that the exits were all fenced with razor wire. My question was if the fences were to keep us in or the locals out. The only way to leave the shopping area was to have some sort of excursion booked. Needless to say, we found the first tour available and booked it. We paid a local man named Wallace to show us around. He walked us to the parking lot and told us that he was going to go get the van. After waiting 20 minutes in the lot I had pretty much decided that Wallace had run off with our money. Apparently he just had to construct the van first as my lack of faith proved incorrect when he showed up 5 minutes later to pick us up.
He first drove us around the city which consisted of one giant decadent building surrounded by shacks in disrepair. He described it as “the government stays rich, the people stay poor” but he said it with his heavy accent so it may have been something along the lines of “I show you this so you give me big tip”. After about 20 minutes driving through the city we turned off from our paved two-lane roads to a intermittently paved bike path sized road through the rainforest. On this tiny road traveled vehicles from both directions which was frightening to think about but Wallace told us that “the bigger vehicle gets the road because they are bigger”. Apparently only he abided by this rule as we played Chicken with every vehicle on the 45 minute drive and lost every time.
Random thought: Down there iguanas are like stray cats. They are EVERYWHERE which is very cool but also unnerving to know that there are little dinosaurs hiding in every concrete block wall.
After our bumpy ride we found ourselves at a group of Mayan ruins. Wallace walked us around the ruin site letting us in on its rich history. All the while he would pick up random plants and hand us their leaves and tell us to eat it. The first was minty, second was spicy, the third had no taste at all but he claimed it to be “good for my flagpole”. Who am I to turn down the native hospitality?
We walked to the top of each of the Mayan ruin buildings and did what we Americans do best – make fools of ourselves by being sweaty messes and doing something silly. I decided to plank off the side of one because…why not?
Once we got down we saw the rest of our group huddling around a couple local children that had brought in baby crocodiles for us to hold. Of course I jumped on this but soon realized that this experience was not free as each child then asked me for money even though I only held one crocodile.
This would be the theme of our entire trip – “Is what I’m doing going to cost me money?”. After we had our fill of the amazing ancient ruins we headed back to psuedo-civilization.
Thus ended our first stop of our trip. Next day was Isla Roatan in Honduras. Sounds like part 4 is coming soon.