It doesn't take long to discover that Belize is a land of contrasts. From the poverty and disarray of the cities to the quiet countryside, many differences are soon found.
With poverty and crime running rampant in cities such as Belize City and Belmopan, the traveler has to be constantly aware of his surroundings and protect whatever is being carried. Remember, that camera hanging around your neck is worth more than the average Belizean earns in a year. All that aside, the Mayan people are wonderfully warm people, many of whom go out of their way to please visitors.
Traveling into the countryside one discovers thatch roof homes with no doors or windows. Because of the warm climate, they can live comfortably all year with a gentle breeze flowing through the open windows and doors. I was struck with the concept that although no utility lines were visible, a lot of homes had a satellite dish in the front yard. Asking my guide about this he stated that the TV's and VCR's were powered by a car battery.
My photo website, featuring photos from around the world.
Small boat in Belize
The Mayan medical system intermingles the physical and supernatural worlds to create what is called a medico-religious system.
Using natural plants, the ancient Mayan medicine men used methods of natural healing that are just now being discovered by the modern world.
Much effort is being made to learn the ancient ways before the medicine men pass on .
There are many things to see while visiting this tiny Central American country, including Mayan temples, many exotic animals, and birds, including Jaguars, and a variety of snakes and parakeets.
The Cays, located just a short distance off shore are beautiful with white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters. Some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world can be found along this, the second longest barrier reef in the world.
The food was surprisingly good. The first evening, dining in a bread and breakfast at The Fort Street Guest House frequented by Earnest Hemingway, I enjoyed Red Snapper wrapped in a banana leaf, whilst sipping on a quart sized $5 margarita. Although the sandwiches we consumed for lunch were not very appetizing. I finally settled for my old favorite, a peanut butter, mayonnaise, lettuce, and cheese sandwich. As a child, it took me years to perfect this masterpiece. Fillet Mignon was to be enjoyed several nights, and to celebrate the completion of our expedition, the grand finale! Sweet and Sour lobster kabobs were enjoyed while overlooking the Caribbean Ocean from the top floor of a waterfront hotel.
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My journey into the ancient Maya land began, it all seemed very exciting and not knowing quite what to expect I began to make plans for the January expedition.
Looking out the window of the plane as it began it’ final approach into the Belize City airport I noticed a rather large cow grazing near the runway, this did nothing to dispel my anxiety about the approaching adventure. Luckily for us, and the cow, she was more interested in eating the grass growing alongside the runway than becoming roadkill for an MD-80.
As I entered this jungle paradise, it felt as though I was entering another world, I definitely wasn’t in Indiana any longer. Stepping out of the plane, no jetway greeted us. It was down the steps and across the tarmac to the tiny airport.
The airport, a small cement block building, had none of the creature comforts that are associated with airports in the United States. The only creatures were several cats that had made their temporary homes in the airport.
Customs and immigration consisted of two plywood tables on saw horses, we opened our luggage and displayed our underwear to the world. Smiling, well armed, friendly guards were manning both positions, and we were checked through with great efficiency. As we exited the airport by way of the back door, a 15 year old taxi, a Ford Crown Victoria whisked us away to our hotel, our great adventure in the jungles of Central America began.
A native Belizian, almost 7 feet tall, greeted us as we arrived in front of our humble abode, The Fort Street Hotel, a two story house with a picket fence in front. Immediately he asked where we were from. I had responded I was from Indiana, I was surprised when he asked me if I knew Bobby Knight. I had seen a flurry of basketball goals on the way from the airport, it seems as if the modern day Mayas are still obsessed with basketball. Their ancestors practiced a rudimentary form of the sport many centuries ago.
His second question set us back a little, "Do you want to buy any drugs?" Not being one that engages in that sort of activity, "No thanks." was the reply.
One can only imagine the quality of the jails in this tiny country. We had been warned that the same people who would try to sell us drugs, would also turn the buyer into the local authorities, earning a reward, getting the drugs back and re-selling them again to the next victim.
The accommodations at our bed and breakfast, were adequate, complete with a community bathroom. One soon learned to knock and holler before entering. Hemingway is reputed to have stayed here, just as George Washington is said to have stayed at every house in New England.
In both cases, much of it is true. Settling in for the evening, dinner was the first thing on the agenda. Red Snapper wrapped in a banana leaf, with all the trimmings and a quart sized Margarita seemed to be a decent way to start our little adventure.
May as well enjoy the evening, tomorrow we venture out into the hinterland, hard to envision what adventure might await us in the land of the Maya.
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Fine Art Prints of Belize and Guatamala.