Km 21 234
Belize is the only country in all of Central and South America where English is the official language. We are looking forward to testing our English skills and seeing how different the culture is from other Latin American countries.
We are welcomed by very nice people who are even more relaxed than in the other countries we have crossed. When we look for an ATM in Benque Viejo del Carmen, the locals are intrigued by our bikes and start chatting with us. We can immediately hear the Creole accent in the language and we feel transported to the Caribbean islands. Our first destination is the ruins of Xunantunich. We cross the Mopan River on a manual ferry, and then climb a steep hill. We discover the pyramids in the middle of a forest with beautiful frescos on the facades. From the top, we have a beautiful view over the jungle-covered plain and across the border to Guatemala.
The next day, we take a quick tour of the capital Belmopan, but it’s so small that it feels like a small village. We pass the concrete government buildings in the middle of a huge, somewhat neglected park. It looks like a field that is simply not cultivated. We continue on the Georges Price Highway towards the coast. There are only a few little villages, we see mainly palm trees, bushes and some grass on the side of the road. What surprises us is that the areas are not cultivated or otherwise used. Along the way we decide that it’s not worth going all the way to Belize City as we won’t have time to dive or snorkel on the islands. Instead, we take the Philip Goldson Highway north.
We camp one night directly on the New River before realizing a dream of this trip: a boat ride through the jungle. We are lucky, we are the only tourists in this agency that day and we get a private tour on a small boat. A few hundred meters after the start, we are surprised to see the nose of a crocodile emerging from the water. A little further on, our guide Eric shows us a second crocodile lying in the sun on a branch. We are only about 5 m away, but the crocodile doesn’t let us disturb it. Further on, we also see a flaming orange iguana. According to Eric, male iguanas change their colour to attract females. We also admire the different birds that live near the water. We pass by a community of Mennonites, descendants of Germans (they still speak German among themselves) who live in Belize as they did 200 years ago. They have no electricity, they don’t use plastic and they live mainly from agriculture and other manual jobs. We can see some of them, the men wear checked shirts and dungarees. The women wear long flowery dresses. Then Eric hits the gas to our destination, the ruins of Lamanai on the New River Lagoon. Eric guides us through the different temples and explains the Mayan way of life. He also explains the rules of the traditional ball game where the winners were sacrificed, a glory and a direct way to heaven according to the Mayans. We would not have liked to win this game. For lunch, we get a traditional plate of “Rice and Beans” to eat, then we take the boat back to the main road and our bikes.
On our last day in Belize, we pass through the Sugar County. We roll past many sugar cane fields sharing the road with large trucks loaded with sugar cane. In the air there is also a smell of sugar that the wind brings from the refineries. At Corozal we briefly reach the Caribbean Sea and enjoy the reggae sounds and Creole conversations one last time, then head for the Mexican border.
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Some Caribbean flair