Okay, Moby didn’t drive to Belize and Guatemala last winter. Moby stayed home in the snow while we flew south. And yes, faithful readers, Janene and I have fallen way behind on our blogging. Good blogging takes time, and we retired folks are VERY busy having fun. Who wants to work on a blog when we could be out having more adventures? So in an attempt to catch up on the backlog this is my first blog in a long time.
A geography refresher for those of you who are not a “very stable genius” like POTUS 45. Belize and Guatemala are the two countries on the southern border of Mexico. Honduras, next door to Guatemala, is the origin of the migrant caravan that Trump was so wound up about in the run-up to the 2018 elections.
The vast majority of Americans going to Belize fly into Belize City, and then immediately take air or water taxis out to the homogenized, upscale, and sanitized tourist pits of Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, or Turneffe Atoll. That was not our itinerary.
For most Americans who’ve been to Belize, the Ambergris Caye look is their memory of what Belize looked like. American tourists mainly travel only to places where other Americans flock. It fits their comfort level I guess, but it is their loss. The above photo is from the website “My Vacation Places” in an article titled “Is Ambergris Key Safe?” Seriously? Is it safe? Give me a break. People live 24/7 in an America full of guns and mass shootings, yet they worry about going on vacation in a foreign country where people don’t look like them. Touristified Ambergris Caye is exactly the kind of place Janene and I avoid.
Upon landing in Belize most of our fellow jet travelers headed straight for safe tourist havens. We instead caught a taxi to this fine local hotel in Belize City. Nothing says high brow like looking out over your hotel’s concertina razor wire to see plenty of graffiti and piles of garbage. Here is what the folks at “My Vacation Places” had to say about our criminal infested Belize City location versus their preferred island:
“Ambergris Caye is an island located off Belize’s shore, and should not be grouped in the same context as Belize City, where most criminal activity occur. The country of Belize actually has one of the highest murder rates per capita, but 95% of all murders in Belize City are gang-related. Most of the violent crimes also occur on the south side of Belize City.
We hiked to the south side of the canal that divides this city to catch our bus.
When school buses in America are no longer fit for service many of them are driven across Mexico and become the workhorses of the Central American mass transit system. Some still sport the names of the American school systems, others are minimally painted over.
But many bus companies like this one in Belize repaint in their own colors. Tickets to criss-cross the whole country are dirt cheap on various bus lines, and run quite often. If you want the real flavor of Belize forget the taxis and chartered, air-conditioned mini-buses full of fellow American tourists. Throw your bags on the old school buses and hit the road with real Belizans. Who knows, maybe you rode the exact same bus back in grade school.
For details on Belize bus travel check out this website. She really nails it and is entertaining as well. Way better than I could do.
If you want to say you have been to Belize, get on the local buses and hit the road.
A couple transfers and one hitchhike ride in the back of pickup during a rainstorm and we arrived at our fancy digs in Hopkins Village.
Run by a couple expat Americans who couldn’t stand teaching anymore, the Funky Dodo clientele is mostly young European backpackers, plus the occasional Brit, Aussie, or Kiwi.
It was our home base for five days while we waited to catch our boat out to Glovers Atoll.
There were no closets or clothes dressers, but when you travel by backpack you don’t have much to put away.
This upscale eatery is one of many we enjoyed in town. Every restaurant had stewed chicken, beans, and rice on the menu, and every one of them did it well. I had a hard time trying anything else. It must be a bit dusty there in the dry season, but the frequent rains during our stay kept down the dust and filled the potholes of main street.
Local dogs were kept out of the restaurants, but they hovered outside giving me the eye during most meals. Who could resist taking out some leftovers to reward them for their efforts? Certainly not me.
Hopkins Village has a reputation for being a sleepy backwater, low key and laid back. Off the main tourist trail. After all, most Americans who go to a third world country don’t actually want to feel like they are in the third world. Most of the housing here is somewhere between well weathered and decrepit, and most have suffered the wrath of hurricanes.
Any place with white sandy beaches and warm tropical weather is doomed to being “discovered”. Outside money comes in, the low income locals get displaced, and the wealthy tourist infrastructure takes over. We have seen this sad story all over the world.
Big tourism is coming. Luckily for Hopkins, there are no nearby ports big enough to accomodate cruise ships. Cruise ships are the Death Stars of local small scale tourism. Locals in the more touristy town of Palencia, south of Hopkins, are fighting to keep port development, cruise ships, and industrial tourism out of their town.
As more and more houses like this are built here there will soon be fancy restaurants and boutique shopping in town. There are already pricey all-inclusive resorts on the outskirts. If you want to see the old look you better get to Hopkins Village fast.
Departing Hopkins Village, we spent a week on the lovely but lowbrow Glover’s Atoll. See our trip there in Part 1 of Moby Goes to Central America at
Coming soon in Part 3 – Moby goes to Xunantunich