Thursday, June 12, 2014

Blue Hole and Market Day in Belize

Today was our "rest day", meaning that we didn't have an excursion lined up with the lodge. By this point we were feeling pretty beat so it was a welcome change of pace. We weren't just going to lay around though. We had a little adventure of our own cooking.

We talked to the staff the night before about the market in nearby Belmopan. Word on the street was that the bi-weekly farmers market was where the Mennonites sold their produce. We had more than enough food at the resort but we did want to talk to some Mennonites. It wasn't in our guide book either which made it extra fun.

Abel the rather intense excursion organizer let us in on a little tip: a bus comes by the road that the lodge is on once every hour on the hour that would take us to Belmopan. He said we should take it if we want an "authentic experience". It was pretty darn authentic.

We sat by the road and sweated profusely, even in the shade. We had a bit of hike from our room to the road, which wouldn't have been a big deal but the heat and humidity made it much worse. It was was probably quarter after when the bus appeared; We were about ready to give up and call a cab. We didn't see any actual bus "stops" so we just waved from the side of the road. By the time the driver saw us he had to screech to a stop and then back up in the middle of the road to meet us. It was an interesting start to an interesting ride.

The bus was nearly full and we just barely got to sit together. There was no indication anywhere what the bus route was, so we just kept our eyes open and hoped. There aren't a whole lot of roads to choose from in Belize so that certainly simplified things. Upbeat music was playing which I enjoyed. It was quite the homemade sound system: on the luggage rack above a home stereo speaker was laying on its side and tied down with wire. The ride cost $1.

We ran out of seats but the bus just kept on picking up more passengers, who stood in the aisle. That seemed to work until the money collector guy on board hurriedly motioned that everyone take a seat. I joked that there must be police around. Sure enough, we pulled up to a police check point. A straight laced looking officer climbed on board, gave us all a look-over, and then walked off.

We de-bused at a pretty central seeming bus station and got our bearings. There were lots of market stalls, but they seemed awfully permanent and not very interesting. I asked a random normal looking woman for the scoop, and sure enough the farmers market was in a slightly different part of town. It was hot as heck so we grabbed a cab. The cab driver was nice and seemed eager to share information about the city and country. He handed me a print out of the World Cup match schedules. Being without internet in the middle of the jungle I had completely forgotten that it was even happening!

Ultimately the market was fun to poke around but there wasn't a Mennonite to be seen. Apparently they only come on particular days. Those crafty Mennonites had outsmarted us again. Ultimately the journey was much more interesting than the destination, but definitely worth the trip.

I notice advertisements for a free outdoor film series sponsored by the US Embassy. I also noticed a few police cars had "donated by the US government" written on the side. Belize definitely seemed to have a better relationship with the US than say, Nicaragua.

Back in the car with our faithful cab driver Robert Popper, I asked about the US/Belize relationship. He seemed to agree that the US is generous, but that we can be pushy as a result. For example, he said that the US government could come and arrest someone pretty much at will if they wanted to and take them back to the US. What I expected to be a warm fuzzy conversation ended up being a really serious subject for him. I felt embarrassed for bringing it up. We arrived back at the lodge without further event. We liked him enough that we booked him to drive us to Placencia the following day.

The towel animals were cool but by the time I got back to the room every night I was too tired to deal with them crowding my bed space. Vamoose!

We headed to the restaurant area to have our only lunch of our stay. The food was delicious and it was nice and peaceful compared to the high production dinners. We could also play around in the pool without vying for space. After lunch we decided we'd like to have a tasty drink out of a coconut.

The bartender was super nice about our weird request. He did say he's worked there a year and no one has ever brought him coconuts before, which made me proud to be one of the awesomest tourists he's ever met. My words, not his.

I don't remember if it had a name but there was coconut cream and coconut rum involved and it was fantastic.

Even the sodas have to be de-rusted via napkin before drinking. Very strange indeed.

The second mission of our lazy free day was to walk across the street to Blue Hole National Park. God help you if you confuse that with Blue Hole National Monument, as I complained about before arriving.

This place had a fee to enter as well. So many entrance fees, so little time.

It was a very beautiful place, to be fair. The water was unnaturally blue. I believe the story is that an underground cave's ceiling collapsed and was filled with water, creating a really deep but small body of water. The water was pretty darn cold so we didn't stay too long. We both agreed we'd rather be in the pool back at the lodge: warmer water, no bugs, and prepaid food and drink.

The fish didn't seem to mind the water temperature.

Ya'll come back now.

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