We arrived in Belize City at 10:30 in the morning. I have no idea what time my body was thinking it was at that point. I knew it was Tuesday. I knew I'd been up beyond one bedtime, with only about three hours of sleep (if you can call it that) on the plane. When we stepped out of the plane and onto the stairs down to the tarmac, the first thing I noticed was the heat. Which hit with a force that felt like it had real substance.
We made our way into the airport and through customs. It's always sort of intimidating going from one country to the other, no matter how in order things seem to be. The bored officer asked a couple of desultory questions and stamped us through. A second slightly more animated officer took our declaration form, and I think welcomed us to Belize.
We walked across the road to our car rental place, Jabiru Rentals. A father and son operation tucked in a tiny office with room for five people if they liked each other a lot. They were warm, extremely helpful, and before long we were out of the airport in our sporty yellow Dihatsu four wheel drive SUV. It wasn't until we'd traveled a few miles that I realized we were the only sporty yellow car on the road, and so might as well have been wearing a sign that shouted TOURIST.
The trip out of Ladyville toward Crooked Tree where our first stay was booked, was depressing. I kept telling myself I was tired and hungry and in culture shock. But the garbage and poverty and scrubby land didn't change for the whole drive until we turned off toward the resort.
The guide books weren't kidding about the roads. There are speed bumps on the highway, in what appear to be random places. In a great show of entrepreneurship, the locals have set up food stands at every bump.
Once off the highway, like the very long road to our resort, the condition of the roads made it clear why the rental companies only seem to have four wheel drive vehicles available. We bumped and swerved and plowed through deep standing water. We drove so long with no sign of civilization, we wondered a couple of times if we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere.
In the meantime I was searching for birds, the toucan in particular. I was seeing lots of new ones for me, but nothing that took my breath away. The best sighting was of basilisk lizards running across the road on their hind legs, like they were playing some reptilian version of chicken.
Crooked Tree Lodge was a relief in more ways than one. Located on the lagoon of the Crooked Tree Refuge, it's beautiful, rustic and exceeded their advertising. Mick and Angie and their two adorable boys are amazing hosts. It's very much like a bed and breakfast here. We eat our meals family style, meals that are abundant, delicious, and prepared with love. We are surrounded by beautiful country, flat calm water, and sounds that I'm pretty sure were heard in Eden.
We are at the end of day three. It's Thursday afternoon, almost 4:00. We leave tomorrow for San Ignacio and a week inland. In the last days we've experienced horrific humidity, sweltering sun, and this morning for about an hour, the most torrential rainstorm I've ever seen.
We've done a sunrise birding boat ride where I got my fill of new birds, saw crocs and iguanas, and learned some local lore.
We went to the Belize Zoo, where there are only Belizean animals which have been rescued in one way or another.
We visited our first Mayan ruins at Lamanai after an amazing boat trip, and climbed to the top of a pyramid. We wandered in Orange Walk Town, visited a grocery store (one of my favorite things to do when I'm traveling), and saw Mennonites walking the streets among beautiful brown skinned people. We were the only tourists around, which felt a little weird, a little wonderful, and ultimately didn't seem to matter at all - even with our snazzy yellow car.
I have so much to share, but the internet connection is slow here, and I don't trust it, so I'll close for today. It's an amazing country. It's amazing to be here. We're having so much fun, even without toucan sightings. I can hardly wait to see what's around the next corner.
|The view our first morning at Crooked Tree|