Thursday, July 28, 2011

Belize 2 - 10 July 2011

Arriving back to Cancun at midnight due to our 11 hours flight delayed, we bid our final farewell after spending almost a month together. Elena has to go back to France to start her summer work. She has been a great travel buddy. It’s a pity great time always has to end somewhere.

I checked in to the same hostel in Cancun for a night before leaving to Playa Del Carmen. Fernando hosted me again, this time for 3 nights as I have to get my power adaptor fixed. I was happy to see him again as he is a really nice guy to chat with and spend time with. Weather wasn’t fantastic, cloudy and windy everyday so I decided not to dive Cozumel. L
I left on Thursday to Chetumal, the border city of Mexico with Belize. Here I couchsurf with Jad and Guy. They are both from Lebanon. I stayed in their big house with their great hospitality. This will be my last stop in Mexico. From here I took a boat to Caye Caulker, an island off Belize.

Caye Caulker is a famous island for diving and snorkeling. I was looking forward for some good diving here since I missed Cozumel. The famous Blue Hole! The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 kilometres from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 300 metres across and 124 metres deep. Blue holes formed during past ice ages, when sea level is 100–120 metres lower than at present. At those times, these formations were subjected to the same erosion from rain and chemical weathering common in all limestone-rich terrains; this ended once they were submerged at the end of the ice age.

I checked in to Bella’s hostel on this small island. US$7.5 per night and this was the cheapest in town. I have a bed on the ground floor sharing the same space with the owner. The backyard is a mangrove area and mosquitoes farm so is not really suitable to swim. It was raining a lot when I was there so the mosquitoes were having a fiesta. Worst time to go out in dawn and dust. Millions of mosquitoes will eat you alive. It was impossible to stay here without a mosquito repellent. The hostel was comfortable but not fantastic. The first 2 night at the hostel was a nightmare as there was a group of party animals upstairs which blasted loud music till early morning.

Belize is known to be an expensive country to travel in Central America. It is damn true! 2 dives with equipments at the nearby Hol Chan marine park cost US$100 and 1 dive in Blue Hole plus 2 dives around Half Moon island cost US$125. I got a 10% off as a DM J. As I was desperate to go diving, I paid for it! I did 2 dives in HoL Chan marine park, a 30mins boat ride away from the DC. It has beautiful reef and gradual slope down to the outer reef. I was excited to be diving in the water again after 8 months. I had my new camera and I was under weight for the first dive and that kept me occupied. J Filling up my BCD with rocks didn’t really help. :-p There were lots of groupers and sweet lips. 2 eagle rays swim side by side with me on the second dives. I think this was my first time getting so close to an eagle ray.

Back in the hostel, I met a group of guys, Dimitri from Canada, James from England, Andrew from Ireland and Nimrod from Israel. Dimitri wanted to dive the Blue Hole too, so we buddy up. It was nice to have a buddy who is into diving too. We dove the Blue Hole! We were at 43m and we felt the NARC! The huge stalactites hanging off the cave seems much bigger J I took a few shots and slowly did my ascent. Oh ya the DC here took OPEN WATER students to this side too with 6 dives in their belt!! I am glad to buddy up with a more experience diver. J Thank you Dimi!! The next 2 dives at Half Moon Island reef were awesome, beautiful soft coral reef and lots of fishes. If not for the cloudy weather, this place will look remarkable.

Oh right we arrived during the lobster season! I had lobster for 2 nights, it cost around US$20 for a huge lobster plus 2 side dishes and a dessert. I left after 5 days, moving on to San Ignacio, border town of Belize and Guatemala.

San Ignacio is 2.5 hours by bus from Belize City, a small town with the biggest weekend market in Belize. This town is famous for its adventure ATM tour. What is ATM I will explain later. So I took a local bus from Belize City but instead of getting off at San Ignacio, I overshot the town. There was a big group tourist on the bus which I understood they were going to San Ignacio but they end up going straight to their hostel 10km off the town. I got off the bus together with them to check out the hostel, it was nice with huts setup in the jungle but they were fully booked by this group. I have no choice to head back to San Ignacio. I hoop into a taxi back to town. I finally found a nice hostel to checked in, Tropicool Hotel US$15 a night for a private room. Just 20 mins after I checked in, a fire broke out next door. It was burning down a wooden shop house. The fire engine came in minutes to start putting down the fire. I repacked all my stuff again to standby in case the fire spread over but lucky it was put down by the firemen and neighbors after an hour. No one was hurt in the fire, the 4 kids who was in the house run out after their TV exploded.

Dimitri joined me the next day from Caye Caulker. We had planned to visit the weekend market early in the morning and leave for the ATM tour at 9am the next morning. The weekend market which is the biggest in Belize was a big disappointment. There were no handicrafts or any handmade rugs. Only vegetables, food and clothing. We left for the ATM tour at 9am. ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal. The name of a cave. It is the Belize most spectacular cave. The cave is a Maya archaeological site that contains skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. The most famous of the human remains is known as "The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of a teenage girl, probably a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been completely calcified by the natural processes of the cave, giving it a sparkling, crystallized appearance. We were given a helmet with touch, those who can't swim will be given a life jacket. We started off by trekking 45 mins to the cave entrance, crossing the river three times and arrive at a big hour glass shape entrance. We have to start off by jumping into the chilling water. Yaiks! It's cold!! During the 3.5 hours climbing thru limestone rocks and bolder and swimming thru water stream, our guide explain us the Maya history and their believes. We saw 4 human skeletons, plenty of pots, rock formation that was carved by the Mayan to resemble jaguar, face of the rain god, and weapon used for sacrificing. We had a great adventure, it was worth every single penny.

Leaving Belize the next day to Flores, we stop by the Xunantunich ruin. It wasn’t spectacular as compared to those in Mexico. We took a taxi to the border, as usual at the border town, people will try to rip you off. A guy wanted to take commission from us by being helpful but we just walk across the border and walk about 50m away from the custom office to find our shuttle to Flores. To leave Belize we have to pay BZD37.50 = USD20. Belize is definitely expensive!

Mexico, Cancun – Mayan Hostel - P110 pp/pn in a 8 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available and breakfast included
Belize, Caye Caulker – Bella Hostel – US$7.5 pp/pn in a 7 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available
Belize, San Ignacio - Tropicool Hotel – US$15 for a private room with shared bathroom, WIFI available

Cancun to Playa Del Carmen – P45 by bus
Playa Del Carmen to Chetumal – P162 by bus
Chetumal to Caye Caulker – P515 by boat via San Pedro
Caye Caulker to Belize City – BZ20 by speedboat
Belize City to San Ignacio – BZ10 by chicken bus
San Ignacio to Border – BZ20 by taxi

2 dives at Hol Chan marine park( – US$90
3 dives at Blue Hole and Half moon island( – US$180
ATM Cave tour( – US$90
Xunantunich Ruin – US$5

1 comment:

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