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Friday 16th April - Belize City
By Claire
Sunday, 18th April 2004 00:13

Cancun to Chetumal was a bog-standard (what sort of standard is that?) journey that taught me that I was wrong to have wanted to see Cube2: Hypercube, and it wasn't worth staying awake until the end just in case it all gets explained, cos it doesn't. We also got to see the ADO Bus Company's 20-minute long animated safety video (this is what will happen to you in a bus crash is you don't wear your seatbelt) for the last times (three times on this bus) and a Spanish documentary about plane crashes. Which was nice.

Chetumal was just a town on the border, and for us, just a bus station. A lady took a box out of the luggage hold on the bus and it opened by itself. Two tiny puppy heads poked out and blinked sleepily, they must have been in there for about eight hours. I ran over to them and said hello and they looked happy enough Mikey pulled me away cos we had to find the next bus. He didn't understand that a puppy would be a very good travelling companion for the next few months and besides, we're going to get some when we get back. He seemed to think the lady might want to keep them. We were lucky that the next bus going to Belize was due to leave an hour after we got to the town, so we bought a sandwich and Mikey had an icecream, and then we got on the Belizean bus to Belize City.

We had to get off the bus after five minutes to go through the Mexican border, and again three minutes later to go through Belizean Immigragtion. Suddenly everyone was talking in English and the signs were legible and it was quite a relief to know that you could actually ask someone something and have an idea of what the reply might mean. The journey was a total of 3 hours, but Belize time is an hour behind Mexico (it's 4.15pm as I write this, 11.15pm in the UK) so we got to Belize City at 8.30. It was completely dark for most of the trip so there was no scenery, although the sunset was quite spectacular.

Belize was strikingly different from Mexico. The houses looked a little more familiar, all their signs were written in English, and the couple behind were having a conversation in an English dialect of which I could only understand every fifth word. We passed through about three towns, none of which had more than about thirty houses, and finally we reached Belize City, in the dark and with no money.

I had read somewhere that Belizean cash machines don't accept foreign cards, and we had no dollars and no Belizean money at all, only travellers cheques that would not be changeable until the morning. From the bus depot we followed a couple of South Africans and an American to the main street to find a bank, and it seemed that I was right, we couldn't get cash. They wandered off to find more banks to try, while we went to find North Front Street which was supposed to have a large number of hotels on it.

The town was not nice, and it felt a little threatening, which might only have been because it was dark and unfamiliar, so I decided to wait until the morning and give it the benefit of the doubt. I asked a local family for directions, and we weren't far, so we took our heavy bags and walked a couple of blocks past gangs of men calling to us, most of them offering taxis. We crossed Haulover Creek, the river that runs through the city, and a toothless woman (why do they always manage to find me?!) showed us to the nearest guest house for a small tip. We only had pesos though, which seemed fine to her.

We fell into the last room the guesthouse had, which had four beds and no windows (they were actually slatted blinds, so I opened them and the room coooled down a lot!) and a cellar with horrible-looking showers and loos which was very damp. At least we'd found somewhere to stay though!

It sounded like a dog was chained up outside the window and all the other dogs in the neighbourhood took it in turns to come up and taunt him. All night. One of the best things we brought with us, and I recommend them wholeheartedly, is earplugs. After you get used to the weird feeling they're great and you can sleep through anything except alarm clocks, which is sort of useful. Anyway, because it was dark at about 5.30, it was light at about 5am, and it seemed that the whole place had woken up by 5.30. At 9 we went into a bank and changed some money (it's got the queen on it!) and then paid for the hotel and bought a water-taxi ticket to Caye Caulker, the little sandy island off shore.

That's where we are right now, it's beautiful, white sand beaches and jetties leading out into blue and green water, a cool (cold to me) breeze blowing from the sea. We have a cabana, a room on stilts, to ourselves and we've had lunch. We're sitting on the verandah writing diaries and thinking about booking a diving trip for Monday before it gets dark. Then we'll find an internet cafe and post these! More tomorrow, hopefully!

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