You Better Belize It!

As our shuttle approaches Belize City nothing can be heard but the soft breathing of a dozen sleeping gringos. A 4:30am start can take its toll on even the hardest of travellers. But as the bus comes to a halt all eyes are open as the confronting urban sprawl of Belize City presents itself: the smell of fresh burritos and tacos being prepared in time for the morning rush, the sound of car horns honking and bicycles rattling along cracked stone walkways and an all new demographic of six foot tall black men with baseball caps on. Coming from a homogenous country such as Australia, it amazes me that after only a two hour drive we are met with an entirely new culture. It seems that the familiar short and stocky Guatemalan is but a memory,

Suddenly the large sliding doors of the bus open, allowing a steady stream of sunlight to replace the darkness and blind the comatose passengers inside. As the shock of the sudden sunlight fades a large man with slicked corn rolls appears at the entrance, clip board in one hand and banana in the other.

“Wake up, wake up. I want to see smiles ‘cause you in Belize man.”

A short pause follows as we attempt to comprehend the situation. Why was this rather large man so cheerful at such a ridiculous hour of the morning? And more importantly, why did he have a mouth full of banana as he greeted us?

And then the man leaves us with a phrase that we will hear countless times in the coming weeks.

“And you better Belize it!”

And shortly after this initial greeting, we did Belize it. From the smiling faces, corn rolls and dreadlocks, outrageous Caribbean English (complete with the obligator y ‘Yah mahhn’ after every sentence’), the pristine blue waters and the vast coral reefs ready to be explored Belize is a country where smiles are merely a part of the culture.

The first stop in our Belizian adventure was the tourist magnet, Caye Caulker, a small island built around snorkeling and diving some of the best reefs in the world. However, despite the onslaught of tourists on this once purely traditional island, the culture has remained very much intact. Food lovers revel in an abundance of freshly caught seafood, stewed meat (take your pick), a variety of traditional rice dishes and some very strong cocktails which usually revolve around rum-what else do you drink on the Caribbean?

However, what makes this island such a gem is not just the food and the abundance of natural beauty but the people that inhabit it. From ‘The Budget Man’, who can be found by his beach side barbeque cooking up fresh lobster and stewed chicken (Note: The Budget Man’s food has often disappeared by sunset), Chef Andrew who strolls the island all day with his chef hat and cart selling spectacular baked goods, and the fine people at Wish Willy’s restaurant-who believe that a menu only restricts the creativity of cooking.

We are soon leaving Caye Caulker and setting sail for three days to the coastal town of Placencia. On the way we will be camping on islands, eating what we catch during the day and visiting some of the best reefs in Belize-a true Robinson Crusoe experience, but with tents.

Note: Unfortunately  it is proving too difficult to upload photos onto these posts due to lack of internet access. So these will be included with the text ASAP!

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