A day before my flight to Belize, I feel a little nervous. This is my first visit to Central America and the travel advice is not the most welcoming for the countries in this area. I want to stay long enough to get a good feel of Belize, so I decide to stay for 4 weeks! In the upcoming posts I will share all my experiences with you. How safe is it here? And what are the absolute must do’s in this country? My first stop: West-Belize / Cayo District!
At the airport, me and my jetlag are picked up by William of William Shuttle. This Dutch man has moved to Belize many years ago and runs a trustworthy shuttle service in the country. Most of his vehicles have WIFI! It is nice to be able to send a message to my family, to tell them I arrived safe & sound. We drive through colorful villages, watch kids in uniforms walk home from school and slowly the road becomes hillier. William drops me off, close to San Ignacio, at my first stay: Lower Dover Field Station, in the small town of Unitedville.
Photo above: my cabin at Lower Dover Field Station
Lower Dover Field Station is a basic accommodation, run by an American family and it is extremely welcoming. I have my own little cabin, there are a lot of different animals on the property to keep me company and they make their own Hibiscus wine here! Delicious! Every night there is a home cooked meal prepared for the guests, with lots of veggies. I quickly become addicted to Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce, that you will find on every table in Belize.
The holy tree of the Maya: the Tree of Life/ the Saba.
I picked Lower Dover because of the great location for all the interesting sights in Cayo District. There is an archeological Maya site on the Lower Dover property! It is huge! Close to the entrance to the lodge and the cabins is a river, where a friendly, butt naked man with mysophobia (obsessive cleanliness disorder) cleans himself 4 times a day. He was quite the attraction when a group of nuns came to visit… I settle in a bit and get used to my ever-present sweat moustache & the whole insects/ spiders/ snake situation. Time to go explore!
The first photo: the temples of Cahal Pech. On the photos below: a red rump tarantula and a charming howler monkey.
I love to travel with the local bus here. This is a unique experience you have to try. You can hop on & off the bus basically everywhere you like, a ticket is extremely cheap and reggae music from the speakers is the soundtrack for your trip. Ropes are used as speed bumps, the stunning, huge trucks look like they are made for movies and billboards for rum have lines like: “Because no good story ever started with juice”. Couldn’t agree more. I quickly start to feel safe here. Most of the time I am the only white girl on the bus, but everyone is so friendly. The daily coconut rice with beans, tender chicken and Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce is delicious and I am not missing the Dutch cheese yet. Communication is easy here, because the most common language in Belize is English!
The ATM cave (photo credits Pacz Tours) & Tikal, Guatemala
There are a lot of stunning places to visit in the San Ignacio area! Must do’s in Cayo District are the ATM cave, post coming soon, a horseback riding trip with Hanna Stables to the temples of Xunantunich (also know as “Tuna Sandwich” by the locals), a visit to Cahal Pech, an authentic, Mayan, chocolate making workshop at AJAW Chocolate & Crafts and trying some papusas at the farmer’s market in San Ignacio on saturday. It is possible to visit the famous temples of Tikal in Guatemala from here. I booked a daytour with Pacz Tours, but I would recommend booking the 2 day tour with them. Tikal is very impressive so you need to be able to take your time there!
Photos above: Goldie, my horse at Hanna Stables, the temples of Xunantunich (Tuna Sandwich) & the authentic Mayan chocolate workshop at AJAW Chocolate & Crafts.
In this area you will find a lot of Mennonites, the amish of Belize. There are a couple of communities in the country and they run most of the farming. You will see them on the road with their horse & carriage and on many markets. They speak a special language that is very similar to German. It is suprising to see that a community that is this conservative gets along with the laid-back Belizeans who love their marihuana… That says a lot about the tolerance here. Everyone is so relaxed and open… maybe the joints help…
After these first days of adventures in Cayo District, it is time to move on to 2 very special accomodations in the area: I am going to stay at Francis Ford Coppola’s place and spend the night in a unique treehouse…