Submitted by Lincoln Yates (Catch22) March/April 2002
This was our first taste of Latin America its people music and wildlife, and I must say it was an amazing experience, we only had two months for this trip, but as usual time ran short and we had barely scratched the surface, so future trips are definitely on the cards.
Our trip started from Cancun through southern Mexico into Guatemala then onto Belize finishing back in Cancun a circular route that was to take approximately two months, we had originally planned to include Honduras but this was not to be, due to the lack of time.
This region is so diverse, with such a variety of interesting things to see and do - you won't be able to see it all unless you time is limitless, or you rush from place to place
So I suggest take it easy, enjoy today and see what tomorrow brings!!!
Before I begin I would like to mention that it is a good idea to have a little Spanish under your belt, as once you leave the confines of the cities not many speak English.
The journey from Flores in Guatemala was quite pleasant but a little crushed, for speed we had taken a tourist mini bus which was full of western gringo's all seemingly over 6ft tall.
The border crossings went with out a hitch and by early afternoon we had arrived in Belize City, it was then a quick march down to the Marine Terminal to try and board one of the fast motor launches to the Island of Caye Caulker.
We did not have long to wait, the terminal was a hive of boats coming and going at regular intervals
We boarded what I would only describe as a speed boat out of Miami Vice, what a unexpected thrill, this machine could fly, we were told not to put any part of the body in the water when in motion, this was to do with the awesome speed these beasts travel, and it would proberbly tear it off.
It was an exhilarating experience travelling over water at these incredible speeds, I would love to know the top speed of these boats.
It was not long before we stepped onto the jetty, we had travelled 33km in next to no time, the Caye is about 7km long and about 600m wide, so finding accommodation was easy.
The place we stayed was right on the beach, at 8$ each a night it was more expensive than Guatemala but well worth the money.
You can actually walk across the island in 10 minutes and if I remember right there are only two main Streets Front St and Back Street.
Actually the Island was split in two after a Hurricane, and now at the end where the island split is a great bar a good beach, Swimming and snorkeling area's, many a day was spent here
One of the best days we had in the whole trip was here, there are many boat trips out to the reef, but one in particular caught our attention.
It was with a Rastafarian guy who had a small wooden boat with a roof made out of banana leaves, the trip involved a trip out to the reef, snorkel gear and a guaranteed swim with Gummy sharks, sting rays, and as we found out much much more!!!!.
We left the jetty at about 8am, there were around 10 people on board, from all walks of life, we soon headed towards the reef, the reef is only around 1km away so we soon arrived at our first stop, as the boat slowed down, large dark ominous shapes that made your heart race appeared out of nowhere.
By the time the boat had dropped anchor, we were surrounded by these large black shadows, our captain did not hesitate and was first over board.
As soon as he hit the water he disappeared and then emerged a few metres away holding a wriggling 4ft shark by the dorsal fin and tail, he then flipped it over on its back and started stroking its belly, immediately it seemed to fall a sleep and became very tranquil, so much so that it could be passed to yours faithfully, it was a tremendous feeling holding this huge beautiful shark,the only instruction given was to keep hands away from the mouth for obvious reasons, all though reluctant Karen held this wonderful creature.
Even though we were a kilometre away from shore, it was still possible to stand up, the water was about 4ft deep and crystal clear, but before you could put your feet on the sand you had to make sure you did not stand on the many sting rays, which where all around and intent on swimming past whilst rubbing themselves against your legs just like a cat.
I must say I was a little more worried when the ca pt surfaced holding a Sting Ray, and told me to hold out my arms.
He then passed me this large ray with its head facing my chest, by now my mind was working overtime flashing up all kind visions from my past.
Having witnessed a few people who had innocently stood on rays and been taken to hospital wreathing in pain and oozing blood from the gash inflicted by the barb on the tail.
The tail of this one was large and looked menacing, and if it wished to sting me it would hit me right between the eyes, who knows what would happen then, but the ray did not seemed stressed, so I did relax more in the end.
One girl out of the group actually got bitten, but it was not serious and it was because she put her hand over the mouth of a ray, we spent almost a hour or so snorkeling with these beautiful creatures, sadly it was time to move on.
Our captain decided it was time for lunch and after 20 minutes fishing he had caught enough fish for our curry, I can taste it now !! it was one of the best curries I have ever had.
The rest of the day was spent slowly putt putting around the island watching bird and animal life, what a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The next few days just sun, sea, eating and drinking, just fun,fun,fun,, again time was getting the best of us, and it was time to head back into Mexico, and Cancun
Playa del Carmen
From Belize city we travelled all the way to Playa del Carmen, where we planned to stay for a few days, and go straight to Cancun airport from here.
It was no problem to do this, as there are regular mini buses that did this trip daily, booking a couple of days in advance is advisable.
The town as grown considerably over the past few years but has kept its Mexican charm unlike Cancun, you can wander the busy streets well into the night, salsa, reggae all types of music, bellow out from the different bars and restaurants.
The beach though quite busy stretches on and on and on and the whiteness of the sand hurts your eyes, the sea is gloriously clear,.
We were lucky enough to find a place to stay right on the beach sleeping in hammocks, you may not think hammocks are comfortable but if they are large in size they are great, you don't actually sleep from end to end you sleep across them.
There were about sixteen places to hang hammocks under one roof, each had a lockable brick cupboard to store all your belongings.This was a fantastic end to a absolutely superb trip and I would recommend it to anyone..........