Belize – Land of Contrast

Belize: Land of the Mayan Indians

It does not 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 Belizian 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 country side one discovers thatch roof homes with no doors or windows.With the warm climate, they can live comfortably all year with a gently 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. No wonder the video stores were the largest stores in town.

He stated that when the battery ran down, it would be taken into town and recharged at the local gas station. Jokingly, I asked why he just did not switch batteries with the tour van we were traveling in to re-charge it? His reply, "I could not do that, it would be stealing from my employer."

Too bad more people do not have that attitude! 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 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 frequented by Earnest Hemingway I enjoyed a 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. Not sure why, but the waitress turned green when I ordered it. And she was an African American, never saw that before!

Fillet Mignon was to be enjoyed several nights, and to celebrate the complete of our expedition, the grand finale! Sweet and sour lobster kabobs were enjoyed while over looking the Caribbean Ocean from the top floor of a waterfront hotel. With the Belize annual rainfall ranging from 80 inches to 180 inches a year, it was rather difficult to imagine a day without rainfall, due to the large amount of rainfall most of the roads are nearly impassable even in good weather. Be sure to take along a chain, after getting stuck five times, the closest thing to a chain we saw was a Texan cowboy driving a Ford Bronco 2 equipped with a winch on the front. The normal procedure is to wait along side the road until enough people come along to push the vehicle out of the ditch, with the ditches being quite deep, some times this can take a while.

Looking at a Belize map it can be realized how small the country really is, only approximately 180 miles from the southern end to the northern border with Mexico, it is hard to imagine the rainfall could vary that much in such a short distance. If planning a Belize vacation, be sure to bring along a rain parka and boots. And a chain.