A Travellerspoint blog

Border Patrol

Who knew they could be so exciting

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So here we are, on a relatively short bus ride - by Central America standards - from Belize City to Flores in Guatemala, we have our rag tag group of travellers we collected along the way and a communal bottle of Baileys. An English, an Irish, a Polish, an Australian, one Kiwi and two Americans taking up the back section of the bus certainly sounded like the start of bad joke, but our little fruit salad of travellers were amigos meant to be together and meant to cause each other trouble.

Our first adventure was getting over the boarder. Before even departing Belize City the driver had advised, 'make sure you get the Guatemala entry stamp, if you don't you will be charged USD$200 on exit", lucky he filled us in or we might be $200 lighter. At the Belize/Guatemala boarder, first you pay your exit tax from Belize, take your receipt to the counter, they give you the exit stamp and stamp some other bit of paper for you and send you out the door to what looks like a parking lot.

By this point, we had all been split up due to slow moving lines and money exchanges. Through the parking lot go myself, Cat and Timmy (USA), guided by many a small children and bored looking truck drivers we make our way up the road to our bus. There is no sign of Guatemala customs so we assume that was the second desk we went to. Only then do I pull out my passport and can't for the life of me find my Guatemalan stamp. "Um, I think we are missing something." I say to Cat. At this point Lisa and Mary (Ireland and USA) jump on the bus looking panicked. "You guys need to get your stamp!!!" We are then pushed back off the bus and running barefoot (yes, its always me sans shoes) back to customs. Turns out, the office is behind a convenient permanently placed fuel tanker, it seems the Guatemalan government has been creative about making money recently and I imagine there are countless travellers getting charged at the boarders.

Having narrowly avoided a big fat fine, we make our flustered way to Flores, a beautiful little island inside of a beautiful big lake.

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Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 14:12 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Caye Caulker

As the locals say - GO SLOW

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Arriving to Caye Caulker, Belize, you are instantly greeted by friendly, smiling faces and the feeling you are on a small slice of paradise. I was happy to find almost nothing had changed since being here three years ago.

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The first thing we did once getting off the boat was take off our flip-flops and vowel to not put them on again until arriving back on the mainland, with only sandy streets and sandier bars there really is no need for shoes of any kind.

We had booked into Dirty McNasty's Hostel, and with a name like that we were prepared for almost anything. We were pleasantly surprised by only a little dirty and no nasty, but be warned, this place is NOT for the faint of heart.

Happening to be on the island at the same time as the hostels Texan owner, nicknamed Mr McNasty was both a blessing and a curse. A curse mostly to my liver. It was the first time he had been back in two years and he was certainly ready to make sure all of his guests had the time of their lives. Enforcing that the nightly free rum punch should never run out, Benedict the BQQ man would be making BLZ$10 Lobster dinners and pouring rum straight from the bottle down his guests throats, he was on the right track to complete his mission.

Myself and Cat ended up making good friends with McNasty; there's nothing like a slightly tipsy conversation about Bloody Mary's to cement a lifelong friendship. On his final morning, McNasty made his way to the store for supplies and ten minutes later, there we were, four of us sitting around the bar, making a mess and mixing up the hangover cure that would in turn create a new one while the bar tender shot us dirty looks. McNasty made sure to leave us there at the bar an hour later and sneak his way back to Texas.

Needless to say, Caye Caulker almost broke us, but we still just couldn't bring ourselves to leave, booking an extra two nights to continue doing much of the same.

Just to be clear, we did more than party on this stunning little island gem.

Years ago the island was separated into two by a hurricane, creating what is now called "The Split", a little passage through the centre of the island with a strong current, crystal clear waters and a very popular reggae bar. Most days were spent here, soaking up the Caribbean sun, making a new pose of mate and a few diving competitions complete with Cat showcasing her famous flying squirrel.

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The main draw for Caye Caulker and many of the neighbouring islands, is life under the water.
Caye Caulker is set just west of the mainland of Belize and is home to the worlds second largest barrier reef. Three years ago I had the pleasure of staying on Caye Caulker and heading out on the water with Black Hawk Sailing and Snorkelling. As we strolled past his shop on our way to dinner, I recognised Steve straight away, how could you forget that smiling face and Rasta hat!? We stopped by and showing him a picture of us on Black Hawk last time around, strangely enough, after three years with hundreds of guests, Steve remembered taking me out on the water and booked us in for the following day.

Adding in fishing, spear fishing, skipper Harry cooking up the best fish curry I've ever tasted and his 4 month old German Shepherd joining us on board, Steve had improved his tour 10 fold and we all had an absolute blast! The highlight being Shark and Ray ally, nothing beats being surrounded by Nurse Sharks, huge rays and following a 70 year old turtle around the reef. Nothing!

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Leaving paradise is always a hard, but this time around we had picked up three other travellers, making our next adventures that little bit more exciting. Further on from that, waiting at the ferry terminal on the mainland for our bus to arrive - "it will be ten minutes" we were told, "but you told us that half an hour ago!" - we managed to snowball to a group of 7 and made our merry way to Guatemala.

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Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 15:24 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Mexico

A week on the Quintana Roo Peninsula

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Landing back in Cancun at the same time as five other flights was not ideal for customs and immigration, especially when you had planned to be on the last bus of the night to Playa del Carmen, which was leaving shortly. However, with our excellent teamwork-tag teaming skills we pushed through and enjoyed Adam Sandler in Spanish.

Hostel Che in Playa del Carmen is a relatively new place, with the hostels namesake being Ernesto "Che" Guevare - the Argentinian revolutionary most famous for the Cuba revolution - the place was full of Argentinian Backpackers. Don't get me wrong, Argentinians are great people, but when you have to share with four Argentine girls in a small dorm room, you get a little tired of the amount of crap they hang from every possible hook, edge and bunk-bed, lets just say I saw a wide range of underwear styles in the few days we were there.

One great thing about Mexico and their tourist hotspots is their love of 'ladies night'. Whatever day of the week and almost whatever time of day, if your female, you get basically everything for free. So no Dad, I did not spend all my money on partying when in Playa del Carmen, because it was all given to me! :)

Our first day back in Mexico was taken up solely by Walmart and WIFI (you definitely realise just how much you rely on the net when backpacking and you have zero), so, the following day we headed out to 'It Kil Cenote' and 'Chichen Itza' - or as Cat calls it, Chicken Pizza - a Mayan ruin sight that was finished 1215 years ago and declared the 7th Wonder of the Modern World. After a long bus ride out there, we were greeted by a our tour-guide, tonnes of tourists, even more venders selling their Mayan trinkets and the occasional rain shower. We also got to enjoy a buffet lunch with a show, to be honest, no one really understood what was happening or why they seemed to be spinning in circles with what looked to be serving trays on their heads, but we weren't asking questions and clapped anyway.

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The following day, we took a long stroll along the beach for sunset and managed to get lost in the rich residential areal of Playa, on multiple occasions only narrowly missing being run over by Escalades and Suburbans. We definitely we not in Cuba anymore.

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Having had enough of this miniature Gold Coast, we jumped on the next bus south and made our way to Tulum; hippy central. We first hired a bicycle each - complete with basket on the front - and took a ride down to the beach, with Cats UE Boom speaker playing we were the life of the mobile party. The town has catered to the apparent love of these two wheels as they have built a huge cycling trail out to the ruins, the beach, and all the way through town. We definitely made the most of this by snorkelling in Gran Cenote, snooping around the ruins and getting funky tan lines because we fell asleep on the beach. We passed many a cyclist, however, even though I gave it multiple attempts, none of them would hi-five me. I have come to the conclusion, other tourists are jerks. Also drunk driving a bicycle is legal here and when a 'roided up waiter is sneaking extra shots into your margarita you are very thankful for this lack of law.

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Our final day in Mexico was on a bus to Chetumal where we cleared customs, and, with 30 Australians, boarded a boat that in no way would pass regulation and made our bumpy way to Caye Caulker, Belize.

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 09:09 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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