As Todd and I were sitting in the canoe with our guide Jose, heading into a dark, narrow cave, I began to question the wisdom of what we were doing. By pure coincidence, our trip to Belize happened to coincide with the Mayan calendar date of December 21st, a day some believed the Mayan calendar predicted the world was to end. I won’t lie, I found it a bit spooky going into a cave that had been used primarily for sacrifice by the Mayan on such an imposing calendar day. No one else was around and no one else knew where we were, not that anything really would have helped us if indeed the world had ended that day. Fortunately for us, the world continued to go around and Todd and I made it safely out of the cave. We would get to continue on with our fabulous two week Life Bus trip to Belize where we explored the jungle as well as the barrier reef cayes.
The fact that Todd and I were able to be in Belize during such a millennial event is pure chance and luck. This trip had its challenges from the get go. Todd had the misfortune of having a mountain biking accident at the beginning of November which caused a herniated L5 disc. Unfortunately, the injury was so severe Todd had to undergo surgery only 4 short weeks before we were supposed to leave on this jungle and sea kayaking adventure. Facing the real potential of losing lots of money in non-refundable deposits, I told him he would have to go – even if he were in a body cast. In all honesty, we were both excited and yet very anxious about how this trip would turn out for us. Fortunately, all the worry was for naught and we had an amazing time.
Given that our lodgings during the first week were going to be about three hours away from Belize City and located off of seriously bumpy, dirt roads, we opted to stay the first night in Belize City rather than try to navigate these roads in the dark. We did have a great Life Bus moment in Belize City where we found a wonderful little Belizean diner purely as a result of a chance meeting with a Belizean lady at our hotel. (More on that in another post.)
Our ultimate goal for the first few days of our trip was the Blancaneaux Lodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve by San Ignacio. We were supposed to have had about a three hour drive on the Western Belizean highway to get there. Of course, we had a few detours along the way and it really wound up taking us about five hours.
Let me just mention briefly, driving on the Belizean highways isn’t really terrible as far as international driving goes. I think Pam and I encountered far worse driving in places such as Naples. The one caveat I do have for anyone driving in Belize is that there are speed bumps everywhere. Most of the time these bumps are NOT marked. So, you really want to be observant … especially when going through roadside towns. The speed bumps are not little rolling bumps. Most of them would do some serious damage to your car if you hit them at anything faster than 10 mph. Just a heads up!
One of the detours was to look for a Mennonite bakery. I must confess, I was unaware that there was such a large Mennonite community in Belize. It was really quite a fascinating juxtaposition between several cultures – African, Mayan, Latino, and Mennonite to name just a few. The Mennonite in Belize look and live for the most part the way they do in the US. The interesting note about the Mennonite in Belize is just how successful they have become there. Apparently, they are responsible for almost all of the country’s watermelon, beef, eggs, dairy, other produce, and timber. Unfortunately, we never did find that bakery.
As a result of all of our detours, we made it to the road to Blancaneaux just as the sun was setting. Despite the great signage Blancaneaux has put up along the way, you really don’t want to be trying to find this place in the dark. The road you turn on to from the highway is truly a bouncy, rutted, dirt road with no lights, 1 road side convenience hut, and 1 very basic ranger hut prior to arriving at Blancaneaux itself. Once you pull in to the hotel, however, you realize you have arrived at your own private Belizean jungle paradise and that it has been worth every pothole along the way.
We couldn’t wait for the next day where we would actually get a feel for where the Life Bus had taken us and begin our jungle adventures.