Feb 122012

I was forced to use that as a title, but I won’t say by whom.

We said our goodbyes to Mexico and moved on to our first new country in over three months.  Crossing over the invisible line that separates Belize from Mexico was unlike any other border I’ve ever experienced.  It was like stepping into a completely different world.  Not only is the national language English but the people and food have more in common with the Caribbean islands than with the surrounding Central American countries.  It was a bit of a culture shock, but after spending 3 months in a foreign culture we welcomed the respite and enjoyed our days in the comforts of our native language.

Our first destination in Belize were the Cayes (pronounced “keys”, which took me longer to get down than I would like to admit).  In order to get to the islands we had to ride a ferry from downtown Belize City.  After parking the car outside of town we tried to hitch our way to the docks to avoid the $20 taxi fair.  Within a few minutes we were able to coax someone into slowing down to pick us up.  The driver was a younger man, and looked to be on his way to work as he was wearing a crisp floral polo shirt unbefitting the cigar and sunglasses.   The first thing he said to us, noticing our white faces and accurately pinning us as non-natives, was “welcome to Belize.”  He worked by the docks where the cruise ships would drop off their passengers and worked in the tourism industry for years.  He asked that we stay safe and to make sure we tell people back home that Belize is a safe place to travel.  This is a message we’ve been asked frequently to relay.

We chose to spend our time on the islands on Caye Caulker which is smaller than many of the other islands.  It felt like a traditional vacation from the moment we stepped off the boat.  Too small to warrant any vehicle, all the roads are sand and the only mode of transportation are supped up golf carts.  Shorts and sandals were standard wear and shirts optional, as opposed to the long sleeves and pants seen in Mexico on even the hottest days.  Walking up and down the road (there were actually two on the island) we noticed everyone was moving at vacation pace, even the locals.  Every adventure you can imagine was available for a price, scuba diving, snorkeling, cave tubing, deep sea fishing, sailing, kite surfing, etc…  Although the temptation was strong to try out kite surfing, we opted to stay on budget and stick with a day out to the reef to do some snorkeling.  Our trip included stops at shark ray alley, Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  We swam with the fishes and laid in the sun before riding the wind back to the island while being fed as much rum drink as we could imbibe.

The one thing we loved about being back in the land of English was the flexibility it provides.  For example, when we ask for directions we can clearly tell whether the person has any idea what they’re talking about.  Something that we’ve perpetually found difficult in Mexico as no one will hesitate to offer up directions whether they know what they’re talking about or not.  We could negotiate for prices without feeling ripped off or accidently insulting the vendor.  But most importantly we could hang out and talk with everyone, whether they were fellow travelers or locals, something that is beyond our capability in Spanish.  After we got our fill of fry jacks (think of a beignet stuffed with eggs, cheese and beans) we headed back to the van to turn inland and continue our way south.