Category Archives: Belize

By Boat And By Bus to Belize and Back

Boats on the waterfront at Livingston

Boats on the waterfront at Livingston

Who knew they liked Americans so much in Central America? They even set up a special travel status just for us: the CA-4. Now that’s a bit of southern hospitality.

Dock at La Casa Rosada

La Casa Rosada Hostel, Livingston

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua participate in an agreement called the CA-4 (Central America – 4) that allows U.S. citizens to travel freely between the four countries for ninety days.  We entered Guatemala at the end of February, extended our visas in mid-May for an additional ninety days by going to Guatemala City, filling out a short application form and paying a fee, and finally, had to leave the country for seventy-two hours in August to renew our visas and continue our travels into Honduras and Nicaragua.  We decided to exit Guatemala via Livingston, a funky little town on the Caribbean coast accessible only by boat.

Great Food - A bit messy but GOOD

Great Food – A bit messy but GOOD

Livingston is a small port city, with a population of roughly 17,000 souls, inhabited by
the Garifuna (descendants of 17th century shipwrecked African slaves and indigenous Carib),  Q’cqchi’ Mayan and Guatemaltecans. Spanish is still the predominant language but Garifuna, English and Mayan are heard regularly.  The cuisine is distinctly different from the rest of Guatemala with a tasty selection of seafood and coconut based dishes.  We walked up the short main street, Calle Principal, which included a very steep hill from the little marina, wandered about a few side streets where we encountered a sow and piglet, chickens and goats and …that was it.  We’d seen the town.

Entering and exiting Punta Gorda, Belize

Entering and exiting Punta Gorda, Belize

We took our passports to the immigration office, received our exit stamps and, early Tuesday morning we boarded a launch for a ride across deep blue water sparkling in the sunlight to the port city of Punta Gorda, Belize.  After receiving our visa entry stamps, we caught a local bus for a two-hour ride to Independence, also called Mango Creek by the locals, and finally boarded a water taxi for the fifteen minute ride to Placencia.  It was a long day waiting and riding upon various forms of transport, hauling our backpacks and suitcases around and about, but it went surprisingly smooth and people were smiling, friendly and very helpful.

Main Street - Getting around in Placencia

Main Street – Getting around in Placencia

Placencia peninsula is sixteen miles long and very narrow with the Placencia lagoon on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other; as we walked about  Placencia Village we could catch glimpses of both the lagoon and the sea.   The village was founded by pirates and is a mixture of expats, creoles, Garifuna and Mayan Belizeans all speaking several variations of English, the official language of Belize, a former British colony.  The spoken English varied from a very proper British accent to a thick, melodic Caribbean patois that we had to strain hard to understand.  Added into this mix was the background talk from the tourists we met (German, Israeli, French, Canadian, etc.).

Main pedestrian walkway in Placencia

Main pedestrian walkway in Placencia

Because it was low season, we found a charming room with a kitchenette and porch complete with a hammock on the beach and a view of the Caribbean for a discounted price.  There we spent our three-day exile gazing out at the Caribbean, occasionally swimming, laying in the sun, swinging in the hammock and reading (and did I mention sweating buckets in the thick humidity?).  This was a pleasant and leisurely respite before we had to reverse our trip back to Livingston and then begin the next leg of our journey to the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Quiet  time at dawn-

Quiet time at dawn-

By Richard and Anita, August, 2013

To Tikal And Into The Peten

We set off from Chetumal, Mexico, for Guatemala via Belize on a bus that was a typical turistico affair: cramped seating for twenty-two (thin) passengers with the luggage roped on top and valuables in your lap. Belize river by roadsideWe started with twenty-one, lost four at the Mexican border due to an exit fee dispute, and thirteen departed in Belize City. The last leg of the journey was completed with a Dutch couple. The bus had flow through ventilation, sagging, tired seats and a top speed of about 50 mph. Drifting through the countryside we saw small towns and isolated homes, countless chickens, goats, pigs, a few cattle and fewer horses. It was enjoyable simply watching the world go by. After about four hours of watching the foothills draw closer and then climbing into them we came to El Remate – a small village at the east end of Lago Petén Itza’. It is a quiet place with a few hotels/hostels and some excellent artisans working with the native woods creating items for the tourist and export markets. This niche market provides a viable alternative to the destructive and uneconomical slash and burn agriculture.

Temples in the midst above the forest canopy

Temples in the midst above the forest canopy

The following morning we were waiting in the dark at 5:30 AM for the collectivo; we would be in Tikal for sunrise. But the dawn did not break that morning; the clouds were low and there was mist in the air; the light simply slipped in upon us.The Grand Plaza

After a lengthy walk from the entrance we approached the Gran Plaza from the back side and glimpsed the King’s Pyramid though the trees.Pyramid The mists gave the ruins a surreal quality which fitted well with the thick, damp, verdant surroundings. By mid-morning the sun had burned through and the day turned hot and humid.Residences at the Gran PlazaTikal is one of the largest Mayan sites; it was the military, religious and artistic center of a vast region of the Mayan world with extensive alliances and commercial interests.

Complex Q

Complex Q

It is located in the foothills of northern Guatemala in what is now a national park replete with native wildlife. There are an estimated 3,000 structures in the Tikal complex, although only a fraction of them have been excavated. Not surprisingly, Tikal is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Queen's pyramid

The Queen’s pyramid

While in the Petén we visited the island city of Flores, a flourishing town given over to the delight of the tourist. It’s as quaint as quaint gets; a small colonial town connected by a short causeway to the surrounding mainland around Lagos Petén–Itza’.Flores It was well worth an afternoon’s outing to wander about the narrow streets and the embarcadero checking the shops and restaurants.Flores By Anita and Richard, June, 2013