The rains continued into our first night in Belize. We awoke to news confirming all the caves in the area were flooded and our activity for the day, Cave River Tubing was cancelled as was our backup activity for the day, Barton Creek Cave. We scrambled up a Plan C. We drove to Mountain Pine Ridge to check out Blancecheaux and attempt to do some hiking there. We were told the rains had also flooded the main attractions but we decided to give it a try anyways. What else were we doing to do?
The road to Mountain Pine Ridge was bumpy. We checked in with a guard at the gate and drove straight to Blanchecheaux. From there we received directions for the hike to Big Rock Falls. They warned us the way was muddy, I decided I didn’t want to hike in the rain/mud but my friend didn’t think the same so she hiked and I drove. We spent some time navigating the slippery rocks and taking photos. On a sunny day the water would have been crystal clear and you have found people swimming in the water beneath the waterfall and tanning on the rocks. Instead the water was brown and murky as it continued to rain intermittently and the sun was nowhere in sight.
We stopped for lunch at Blancheaux. Afterwards we headed back to San Ignacio to visit Cahal Pech, the ruins of another Mayan city. These are popular for their proximity to San Ignacio, they are walkable from the city. Cahal Pech is smaller than Xunantunich. At the entrance to Cahal Pech were again offered the services of a tour guide but declined again. We explored the area on our own and again we were left to wonder what everything was.
We got back to our hotel around 4:30 pm since there wasn’t much we could before the sunset at 5:30 pm. Most all the guests at the hotel also ate their meals at the hotel. It’s a small hotel and you quickly start to recognize everyone staying there.
We flew out on a red-eye and arrived into Belize City just after 9 am on Saturday. We stepped off the plane and the heat hit us immediately. We waited in line for immigration, changed into more appropriate clothes for the weather and walked across the airport parking lot to pick up our rental car. The international airport in Belize just outside Belize City is quite small.
In less than 15 minutes we had our rental 4-wheel drive and we were off. We drove west towards the Guatemalan border to San Ignacio. It took us about 2 hours to drive about 80 miles. The roads are not in the best condition and at times the main road went through small towns with multiple speed bumps, sometimes unmarked. If that wasn’t enough adventure, the torrential downpour paired with wipers that left streak marks made it more difficult to drive.
We got our first exposure to Belize while road tripping across the country from east to west. We stopped in San Ignacio for a quick lunch. In the 45 minutes we were there it went from clear skies to a downpour. We didn’t think to bring our rain gear so waited it out under an outdoor shelter. Once the rain let up we dashed to the car.
Our first tourist stop of our trip was Xunantunich. Don’t ask us how to pronounce it because we will butcher it every time. Xunantunich contains the ruins of what was once a Mayan city.
You need to take a free ferry from the Western Highway to the road that leads to Xunantunich. The ferry is hand cranked along a fixed wire and carries both cars and people. Only the driver is allowed to remain in the car and all passengers must off load. The ferry is free but you are free to tip them. At the entrance an official guide offered his services. We chose to decline and wandered the area on our own. They have two small museums on the property but we didn’t check those out. Xunantunich is fairly small and I think we only spent about 90 minutes there. We arrived close to closing, the only was out required a river crossing and we didn’t want to miss the last ferry. The rain also returned which sent us quickly back to our car.
A guide would have been helpful since we didn’t know what we were looking at. We did see some people walking around with guides and they seemed to know a lot abou the area. One of the nice things for Americans visiting Belize is, English is the national language. Most everyone we encountered is friendly and helpful.
Fighting jet lag and lack of sleep we called it a day and headed to our hotel. Our hotel was located about a 20-minute drive from San Ignancio. We checked in, showered and got ready for dinner. It was only about 5:30 pm, the sun had set and we could barely keep ourselves awake. Dinner wouldn’t be ready until 6 pm and it was a struggle to stay awake. We walked over to the restaurant and waited for dinner to be ready. The hotel we stayed at was family run and although close to the town of San Ignacio the road there was unpaved and unlit. We decided it was easier to eat dinner and breakfast at the hotel. The meals were surprisingly good, everything we had read prior warned us to keep our expectations for food in Belize low. After we filled our bellies we tried to stay awake a few more hours so we wouldn’t wake up too early but by 9 pm it was lights out until 7am the next day. Exhaustion was the cure for our jet lag.
I didn’t know I wanted to travel to Belize until I decided I want to spend Christmas in Japan.
When it comes to deciding where to travel to next I usually start by telling friends places I want to visit and wait for someone to respond back in agreement.
This time around I expressed interest in traveling to Japan over New Year’s. Even though I briefly visited Tokyo on a 3-day layover to Korea last year I still wanted to travel more extensively through Japan. I really just wanted to visit Japan and indulge my appetite to my heart’s content. I was surprised when my friend expressed interest in traveling to Japan over Christmas. It turned out that was doable for me so I transferred my miles to Singapore Airlines to waitlist an economy seat round trip to Tokyo. Plans changed as they sometimes do and we decided to reroute to warmer climates, that warmer climate being Belize.