Some Good and Sketchy Times in Belize

Though I’m currently in Antigua, Guatemala, this is the Belize email. After about 10 days I can say that Belize is a fun but overpriced country that doesn’t really feel like a part of Central America. However, we did get a visit from Brad and his girlfriend Lisa, who flew down to meet up with us for a few days and have a great (and at times sketchy) time. Oh, and we also happened to be in the country in the middle of a heat wave. I don’t know the last time I sweat this much! As always, photos and video links are at the bottom. Enjoy!

Visiting a Mayan Village

After a quite Easter Monday arrival to Belize (during which nothing was open), Carrie and I headed off to Blue Creek: a Mayan village where we were going to experience “typical Mayan culture, meals and more.” First, getting there was a chore as we had to take a bus then wait on the side of the road for around two hours hitching. Once there we quickly found that we would be staying in a wooden guesthouse in the village, but not actually with the locals. However, the day started picking up when we headed off to find this local cave that you could swim through to get to a waterfall. Using only a headlamp to guide us in the pitch-dark, Carrie and I swam for around 3 miles in each direction, navigating over rocks and up mini-waterfalls before finally reaching our destination. While scary at first, the entire experience was way cool and by far one of the highlights of Belize.

Upon returning, we saw a bunch of people crowded outside someone’s house where three men were playing the Marimba, a local instrument that looks almost like a giant xylophone. (Check out the pics and the YouTube video). We watched them play for a while then we were invited to return that night for a party and more music. Dinner was an odd experience as the food they served (a chicken and veggie soup with tortillas) seemed a bit more like what they thought we wanted to experience rather than what they usually eat. Also, dinner was advertised as the time when we would get to know the family we were eating with and talk about Mayan culture and they would share traditional stories with us. Well, all that happened is that we ate at a table with a few other white people and no one talked.

Well, never ones to pass up a local party, Carrie and I later headed back up to the house where we were invited back in. However, shortly after sitting down one of the guys pulled me aside and basically told me that this was a private party for his family and that they had paid to have these famous Marimba players from Guatemala flown in to perform at a competition the next day. They were also not happy that I had taken photos during the earlier practice session…despite the fact that we had asked permission. Needless to say, they asked for money…even after I explained that Carrie was a Peace Corps volunteer and that despite the fact that we were white, we did not have much money. While our invitation to stay at the house was not rescinded, we did not feel especially welcome and left shortly after. Oh well, at least we saw the cool practice session!

The Dangria-San Ignacio Saga

The next morning we left Blue Creek on the last bus of the day…aka, the 5:30am bus…and headed up north. On the way we wandered around Dangria (a costal city) looking for a hotel, got on a bus then quickly off it when we found out we could stay at a beautiful lodge by the Blue Hole park, ran back to the hotel to get our bags and make up an excuse and headed to the Blue Hole on a later bus. Of course, about 30 minutes into the ride our bus broke down on the side of the road for a few hours, during which the Mormans who lived on the other side of the road came out with water for all of us who were baking in the heat. Not wanting to wait anymore, Carrie and I hitched our way up to the Blue Hole then decided that it was too late to even enjoy it and just finished our commute to San Ignacio, where we were going the next morning anyway.

Once we got to San Ignacio we headed right for the guest house we had planned to stay at and checked in, treating ourselves to a room with a private bathroom and TV. However, we didn’t anticipate the sweltering head and even two fans on us all night could not keep us cool, so the next day we really treated ourselves and moved hotels to one with AC. Brad and Lisa were also supposed to arrive that day so we hung out and didn’t do any tours (we were saving them to do together) until checking our email an hour before they were supposed to meet us and finding that their flight had been cancelled. Not wanting to waste any more time, we booked it over to Belize City the next day to meet them and head to Hopkins, a little costal fishing village where we heard we could snorkel, scuba dive and take drum lessons from locals.


Moments after we got off the bus in Hopkins, Brad, Lisa, Carrie and I were greeted by Brian, a super-friendly local who was talking to us about how cool and fun his town was. He continued to escort us to the Kismet Inn, where we heard we could rent a mini-condo with common area, two bedrooms and a kitchen. On the way we encountered Dorothy, who ran the drumming circle place we wanted to visit. She warned us not to go to the Kismet Inn, telling us, “I can’t tell you how many people have gone there and walked back the next morning with their backpacks basically fleeing Hopkins.” To this Carrie replied, “don’t worry…we promise that won’t be us. One of the main things I want to do in Belize is take drumming lessons from you.” And with that we headed to the Kismet Inn where we found exactly what we were looking for and checked in.

Shortly after, we learned that there were many little problems with the house including no hot water, mosquito nets that didn’t cover the bed, overpriced and not tasty dinners that we agreed to in a moment of severe hunger, and a sketchy Rasta named Elvis who was Trish (the owner)’s lover/cook/employee. Later, while wandering around Hopkins we ran into Brian again who told us he was not happy because Trish had “dissed him” by not paying him his $5 finders fee. She claimed that because we had heard of the place before that he did not “find us” and got no money. Therefore, he decided to corner us on the street and ask for money. Rather than give it to him, Carrie made him realize that his problem was with Trish, not with us. We all returned to the Kismet Inn where he basically fought with her and tried to get Elvis on his side until she gave in and paid him.

Dinner was another interesting experience, as the supposedly “freshly caught seafood dinner” was obviously frozen for days, my shrimp had fallen on the floor during preparation, Brad got the wrong dish with no apology or explanation, and Elvis, who was eating with us, drank half of Lisa’s beer. Despite all this, we still agreed to go with Elvis, who was a member of the drumming circle, to check out their nightly performance. We were shocked when we came in the back enterance and he told us that it was $25 per person. There was no way that was true, but I guess after the Brian incident and due to the fact we were white and therefore must be rich, he basically made it so we could not go in without paying. We later learned that there was actually no entry fee.

Other drama that night included Brian basically following us around and deciding that I was now his best friend. He continued to complain how “Trish dissed me” and that he still wanted more money from us. Finally, after feeling uncomfortable and unsafe enough for one night we returned to the Kismet Inn to pass out. Our sleep was short lived, as in the middle of the night we heard Elvis return with some other locals, all loud and quite drunk. As our door had no lock on it, all four of us basically laid in bed half-expecting them to come bust in and rob us or worse. Needless to say that didn’t happen, but sure enough we were the people walking down the road the next morning with our backpacks vowing to never return to Hopkins.


After our Hopkins fiasco, the four of us headed to the beach town of Placencia, where we finally found the beautiful house we were looking for: private, with kitchen, a beautiful deck and mere feet from the ocean. We spent the next four days relaxing, scuba diving, hiking and taking it easy…far from the madness of Hopkins.

This and That

  • Carrie and I went kayaking through some mangroves…very cool!
  • Belize is very overpriced by Central America standards.
  • The exchange rate is always based on the US dollar…2 Belize dollars always equal 1 US dollar.
  • Though I feel like I spend my life covered in bug bites, Belize took that to a whole new level.
  • Belize is a teeny country: there are only 250,000 total residents and the second largest city has 16,000 people.
  • While we had a great time, it seemed like everyone was out to make a buck and much of the kind and generous feelings Carrie and I have traveling throughout the rest of Central America were lacking.
  • Most of the indigenous people have far darker skin than in any other Central American country.
  • English is the native language and many people don’t even speak Spanish…though many speak Creole.
  • The only beer you can get is Beliken, which is the national beer and comes in Beer or Stout flavors…neither are too good, but the beer is better…the stout is like an inferior Guinness.