Belize – English, in a very North American way.

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We have mainly been in Spanish speaking countries since last December, so it was strange to suddenly find ourselves speaking English again.

Belize is the youngest Caribbean nation, getting independence in 1981.

Formally British Honduras, Belize has been the home to the English since a shipwreck in 1638.

It was formally made a Crown Colony in 1862.

In Pre-Columbian times it was part of the Mayan Empire.

We took a flight from Flores, Guatemala to Belize City in a Cessna Caravan. This is the smallest international aircraft that I have ever flown in. We have since discovered that the Caravan is also one of the safest.

Our taxi driver from the airport was curious as to why were were staying, even one night, in Belize City and not going straight to San Pedro.

Once we reached the city we understood why.

Then we met Prince Charles Perez, a raconteur, orator and mango salesman.

He kept us, and a couple from Jamaica, amused for half an hour with the origin of the name Belize.

In short it means ‘Beautiful Country’.

Prince Charles was amusing.

We spent a few hours wandering around the streets of Belize. This is about as much time as you need to see the main sights.

It was a Sunday and the place was deserted. It reminded me very much of a Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga – Belize City is slightly larger.

The only real activity was centered around St. John the Baptist Cathedral, where a group of teenagers, dressed in immaculate uniforms, were attending a service.

The cathedral, first constructed in 1812, is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Our hotel was originally an old colonial timber mansion, right on the waterfront and like most of Belize City, it had seen better days. However the staff were very friendly and the room was comfortable.

As we have discovered in other coastal areas of the Caribbean, the breeze is constantly blowing. This keeps the humidity down, the bugs away and makes the evenings very pleasant.

The hub of activity in Belize City is the water taxi terminal, which indicates that most people are just passing through.

Maybe the taxi driver was right.

Prince Charles Perez turned out to be the highlight of Belize City.

The water taxi ride from Belize City to San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, was an hour and a half of bumps and bounces.

We selected San Pedro as a spot to plan our assault on the US. It was also to have a break. It had been 97 days on the road since we left Barcelona and our clothes needed a good wash and our packs needed airing.

Isla Bonita Yacht Club was our home for the next ten days. The only yachts we saw were those that sailed past.

We did find out later that it had actually been a marina but that had long since vanished.

The hotel was named after the 1987 hit by Madonna ‘La Isla Bonita’ or Beautiful Island, which was originally written as a lament of San Pedro.

Like most things in the tropics, if they aren’t maintained, they very quickly return to ‘nature’.

The Isla Bonita Yacht Club was perfect for our needs, it had a pool, self catering and a BBQ, right outside our bungalow.

There was also a fruit shop, supermarket and bottle shop, just out side.

Always in search of a good coffee, we discovered the Island Buzz Cafe. They served Guatemalan, free trade coffee, that was roasted locally.

As with a lot of tourist related businesses in Belize, the Island Buzz Cafe is run by expat Americans.

It’s easy to see why escaping the cold of a North American winter is a very attractive option.

The next day we had yet another coffee at the Island Buzz Cafe and this time we got chatting to a Canadian, another escapee from the north.

He was an interesting guy who had a liking for photography. He had recently bought a GoPro and was espousing it’s features.

This small, high resolution, waterproof and extremely tough action camera can be placed on a ‘selfie stick’ and thrust into all sorts of weird situations.

Seeing the world with another perspective, or point of view, is the art of good photography.

Golf carts are the preferred mode of transport in San Pedro.

There’s barely a car in sight.

Whenever you see a cart parked, they always have a steering lock.

I questioned the Canadian about the obvious crime rate on Ambergris Caye.

He explained that, because most carts look similar and one cart key fits all, locking them prevents drunk tourists and residents driving away from a bar in the wrong cart.

We hired a cart for a day – it was too long.

From where we were, on Coconut Drive, we could only travel 8km north and 4.4km south.

The guy I rented the cart from had a different story about the tight security on the carts.

He said there is a black market in cart parts and the carts are regularly stolen, wrecked and their parts sold.

Apart from the gated communities, designed for the tourists and North American expats, the local housing is a real mixture.

There are some timber homes that look like a stiff sea breeze would knock them over. While right next door you might find a brightly painted concrete bungalow, with an impeccably manicured garden.

Having driven around Ambergris Caye, admittedly for only a few hours, we couldn’t help but wonder what effect climate change will have.

These Islands have a very low elevation, being developed over coral reefs. (The highest obstacle our golf cart had to negotiate were the speed humps) They are predominantly sand and at high tide the water laps to within metres of the houses – even those on stilts.

Our drive was cut short, due to a storm front that was threatening. We had spent as much time as was needed touring Ambergris Caye but didn’t take many snaps.

It just wasn’t that photogenic.

There is apparently a Mayan ruin south of where were staying but we couldn’t find it.

We were up very early on our last morning for our flight to Los Angeles.

It had been raining, on and off, for a couple of days and light in the early morning sky was very dramatic.

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