Charlotte Hyland

charlottehyland@gmail.com

You Better Belize It

I’m so corny, but so is every item in the touristy stores of Belize…


“UnBelizable!”

“Don’t Stop Belizing!”

“What We Belize In”

“Belize Me…”



Should I stop?



July is vacation time. Stuart and I decided to go to Belize this year. We knew we wanted to go somewhere in or around Central America, where the flight would not be more than 6 hours, because Stuart could only get away for 4 days. We also knew, as vegans, that we had to be aware that certain countries or areas would not cater to us! After an unsuccessful search for a travel agent, and a couple of hours on the internet, we found just the place for us. Orchid Garden Eco-Village has vegetarian and vegan food options! We found our place!




We got to Belize at 10:00am on a Sunday. We were then driven to the Eco-Village. I was surprised at how much poverty we saw on the way to our lodging, it reminded me of my days in Cape Town. Honestly I had no knowledge of the history or current affairs of Belize as a nation, I could have researched this before I left. The Eco-Village was beautiful, so lush and green. All throughout the area there were all sorts of plants and trees, and they even took the time to mark them, so we knew what each plant was. There were all sorts of lizards running around, they were so cute! We explored for a bit, took a nap, then were given a tour of the whole area by one of the tour guides. We learned all about Mayan culture, some history of Belize, and he showed us all of the vegetation and other things around the Eco-Village. They even have a chameleon sanctuary, although we didn’t see any, but I believe they existed.



DSCN7600Our first full day was spent at the Lamanai Mayan temples. This was very cool, I’ve always wanted to climb one of those ancient temples in the jungle! Getting there was quite a trip, an hour drive to the docks, an hour and a half boat ride, and a short walk through the jungle to get to the temples. The boat ride was very cool, the driver stopped and showed us different animals and vegetation. The Lamanai temples were spectacular! I feel like I didn’t get the full effect until after we had gotten back, that’s when I realized how amazing an experience it was. It was raining, so we got pretty soaked, but it was so worth it, and was a brief relief from the mosquitoes, which I did not yet realize were eating me alive, even with bug spray on. At the very top of the temple, you could see over the canopy and across the river, I saw a couple of lightning strikes from the storm, what a view! A little treacherous climbing up and down the steps, but nobody died, on our trip there anyway. There were a couple of other temples we saw, it was interesting to hear the Mayan history, why and how the temples were built. They didn’t use wheels at all, all limestone was carried by hand! Also, after a death of royalty, the heir would have to either destroy the temple, or build a whole other level on top of it, that’s how some of them got so tall. Some Mayans also traded their children for chocolate. I probably would too.



The next day we went cave tubing and zip lining. That was another long drive through roads in very poor condition, and then a long walk through the jungle. Picture me, in a bikini, wearing a hardhat and water shoes, with a lifejacket, and carrying an inflatable tube, through the jungle, for 40 minutes. Again, I was covered in bug spray, but still being eaten alive, even worse since I was mostly naked. Honestly, that was a little miserable, but once we got far enough up river to go tubing through the cave, I forgot how miserable I was. I had never been in a cave, never mind swimming and tubing through one! Stuart and I were very lucky to be some of the first people there for the day, it was just the two of us and our tour guide, none of the people from the cruise ships had shown up yet, so it was very peaceful! Our guide let us go swimming in the river for a bit before we started tubing, the water was gorgeous, and there were big rocks you could jump off of! Once we started tubing, it was a cool and relaxing ride. There was a small waterfall in the middle of the cave, where it opened up and you could see the sky, and some pools within the cave. The waterfall sounded so loud I thought it was going to be huge! It was actually pretty tiny, just the acoustics of the cave I guess. When we got through the cave, I was having some issues navigating, but I didn’t pop the tube, so that’s all that matters. When we got to the end, I could see the hundreds of people and families coming in from the cruise lines to do cave tubing, I thought thank god we got here when we did! I wish I had a waterproof camera for this trip, I love taking pictures, I was sad I couldn’t share those moments, but sometimes those are the most special!



After cave tubing we went zip-lining. Honestly, that was pretty boring in comparison to everything else we did. I am a very adventurous person, I love jumping off bridges and out of planes, and this just wasn’t as exhilarating as I thought it would be. Thank goodness it wasn’t, because Stuart was already hesitant about going! I thought I would wear pants for some relief from the mosquitoes, my mistake. Apparently these mosquitoes are attracted to black, because they think they cannot be seen. I looked down at one moment and I had a sheet of mosquitoes covering my legs, eating me through my pants. It was horrifying.



After these activities we were driven to Belize city. Lots of poverty there too, it was kind of sad. We were waiting for our water taxi to San Pedro, and decided to walk around the city for a bit. It was not a very nice place, but lots of great people watching!



DSCN7689After the hour and a half water taxi ride to San Pedro, I was in heaven. San Pedro is a small city on the very small island of Ambergris Caye. Our hotel was gorgeous, we even had a kitchen in the room. At this moment I wished we could have stayed for more than two nights. It was so romantic, right on the beach, beautiful water, amazing! Stuart and I were wondering how long the island was on one side. We walked about 4 blocks before we got to the other end of the island! I have never been to a place like that, everyone drives around in golf carts, very few actual cars. It was a lot more touristy than the other places we had been to in Belize, but I was just in love with the beach and the beauty, and the water was a great place to soak my aching itching legs. At this point in the trip, we counted over 175 bug bites on my body, 65+ on one leg alone. I was trying really hard not to be miserable! It was harder to find vegetarian, never mind vegan food in San Pedro, but what we had was just fine. The food at the Eco-Village was much better! The next morning we went snorkeling, another first for me. We were taken to the Hol Chan reef and what they call “shark ray alley.” Sharks are my favorite animals, and we saw plenty of those, and stingray, and sea turtles. That was really incredible, that was Stuart’s favorite part of the trip, besides being with me of course. My back was sun burned, I did not re-apply as I should have. Stuart was pretty burnt too. My body was just taking a beating during this trip! That night we had dinner and took a nice long walk on the beach.



The next morning when we departed very early, it was down pouring. By the time we got to the water taxi, I was soaked to the bone, cold, shivering, and my back was burning. Not a great way to end a vacation, but by the time we got to the airport, I was so ready for a nap. Stuart was going back to work, and the other half of my vacation was just beginning! I spent the rest of the weekend in Miami with a friend. I rented a red cherry Mustang convertible, I figured for Miami, you have to go all out. That was a great time too, my body was able to recover and relax. Thank you Belize for an amazing experience, not sure if I’ll be back, I kind of have this weird policy of don’t visit the same place twice. If you’re going to spend the time and money planning a vacation, try something new! I’m glad I did. I just want to say I’m very grateful and thankful that I am able to take trips like this, I love seeing the world, and I have so much more to see!



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