Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mexico and Belize

The start of our roundtrip to and from the Caribbean all through Central America has begun. And boy, you should have seen us, after the isolation and deprivation of Cuba. Every brand name sprung out, and Americans were suddenly everywhere.
On our transit to Cancun via Panama airport, we just sat on the ground in front of a Subway because it had free Wifi. Pathetically funny.
The first thing that happened in Cancun, Mexico, was that we got ripped off, like all beginner backpackers. The sole reason for it, though, was the fact that the ATMs at the airport weren't working, so we couldn't pin Mexicon pesos. All we had were some US Dollars pinned on the way, in Panama, and apparently, Mexican taxi drivers love US Dollars. Who knew? /sarcasm
Our first stop was Isla Mujeres. We had anticipated being absolutely knackered after our study trip on Cuba, and had planned a (very wise) day and a half of absolute nothingness on the pretty island. And pretty it was. Absolutely tacky touristy, but pretty none the less. We lazed about, we slept and napped and sum and showered, ate tacos with shrimps and fish.
Next stop on the list: Cancun. It isn't a very interesting city, if you ask me. It didn't leave any impression on me. The hostel we stayed in, however, totally did. It was awesome.
It had a kitchen free to use (and you get advised on where to get your food cheap), breakfast included (pancakes, waffles or french toast), airco in the dorm., a tv, computer and wifi for public use. And I guess that describes plenty a hostel, and that's fine.
This hostel was messy, though. In a good way. Hammocks were scattered around the 'yard', there was a table and benches for a big group to sit. The people both visiting and working there are completely loco. The variety of nationalities was also striking to me: a Scot, a Francaise, a German, Swedish cousins, a few Americans, a Mexican-Canadian brought up in Miami, etc. They give free advise, joke around a lot, are completely loveable, open minded, interested in who you are and interesting. It was sort of like a big dysfunctional family. Though I have to admit it's not for everybody: Anouk had much less fun than I did there. She was ready to leave after two nights, I would have been willing to stay longer.
Whilst sleeping in Cancun we went on a day trip tour to Chichén Itzá. Because it was a scheduled tour, there was a lot of unnecessary fuss and waiting everywhere. We visited a Cenote, or Sink-(water-) well, and I swam in the cave. Totally cool. There was a holein the ceiling, through which a ray of sunlight lit up this spot in the water as well as colour the cave's walls. 
The downsides of the tour? I have never seen a more arrogant tour leader. If I had said on my tour "If you guys fall asleep during this long (and boring) busride, it's a sign that you're not interested. Don't come asking me questions later on. I'm not repeating anything I said." I would have failed. For sure. My lecturers would've simply stopped listening.
On that note: I passed my tour with an 8! Pretty happy about that! Thankyou Hemingway :)
In the cenote 'fake' (ie. Dressed up) mayans stood so you could take their picture (A. and I refused on principal), and then we left for this handcrafted Mayan market which was supposedly cheap. Then we had lunch, which was all-inclusive: except for the fact that drinks weren't, and one bottle cost more than what I averagely spend on my entire lunch.
When we finally arrived at the entrance of Chichen Itza, though, the thrill totally hit me again. Here I was at the entrance to see the leftovers of yet another grand ancient civilization. And impressive it was. Not so much in size, because the Egyptian pyramids are bigger, but because of the systematical and logical way it's been built. Surfaces exactly facing North, East, South, West. Grids with the exact amount of days of the year, or 9 months, which represents fertility (pregnancy). Places where the sound you make will echo exactly six times, always, so that the leader and his six team members were all represented. Specific hours of the day where light falls so that you see shapes and shades otherwise not apparent.
I'm already looking forward to Guatemala, where Tikal has a trip quite similar, and yet completely different.
After Cancun we headed to Tulum, a place to the south, along the coast of the carribbean: the only place with Mayan ruins along the sea shore. (All other ruins are way more inland).
We met a couple of Americans, Canadians and Australians in Tulum's hostel, whom we had tacos with (I have had nothing but tacos and waffles in Mexico, honestly), and ended up watching a basketball game with. (Watching the Superbowl with some Americans is now officially on my bucket list). A Canadian couple was leaving to Cuba, so they were interested in our stories.
We also ran in to (or got run into by) a few of our classmates: Tessa, Jan, Tom, Stacey, Inge and Tim were all staying in Tulum together.
Belize was next: merely a stop over to get to Guatemala. The bus drive was uneventful except for the funny fact that Stacey, Inge, Tim and Jan were also riding the same vehicle. But they sat in the back, we in the middle, and most of us dozed off for the longer part of the ride, so nothing fancy there. But maybe the fact that they showed Nanny McPhee and Salt.. in spanish..
Then we took a taxi to the dock, and a jet to the island: Caye Caulker, Belize. The water ride took frigging two and a half hours, half of which I was kinda queasy. It was a bumpy ride, on the most uncomfortable chairs we'd had to sit on for that long.
All in all we spent the entire day travelling. When we finally made it to Belize, a funny guy called James confessed to receiving a commission if we walked along with him.
He talked in Creole to whoever he met on the street, has been doing this job for 18 years, and at some point halfway through walking to our hotel, he just yelled "I'm so sorry, young ladies, I have to take a leek! The Belizean way!"
He parked the cart with our backpacks, turned to the first wall he met and zipped his pants open. I laughed so hard I nearly got hiccups.
I also laughed at things like the Zippy Zappy Tours. Or Rasta Pasta place. I laughed so hard Anouk had to throw me a "what the hell is wrong with you?" - look. I think Belize has a sense of humor though. (See warning in picture). They also have slogans around of "Unbelizable" or "You better Belize it!"
First plan was to go to Belize City the next day, because the bus left for Guatemala the day after. James assured us that we did not want to stay in Belize City at all though, and dragged us to the ticket center of the jets to confirm for us that we could delay our ticket for a day (Turns out you can delay your ticket for three months.) Which would be cool. If it weren't for the fact that we've seen almost the entire island in one day. And our flight leaving in a rough month.
So two nights on Caye Caulker, which seemed both more safe and nice. It looks more Caribbean than Cuba, even. People here call each other "mon" or "rastafari", which is brilliant. It's just like on Jamaica, is my guess, if it is anything like I imagine it to be.
It rained almost the entire day, and we were more than content hanging, sitting or laying on our beds, watching the wetness outside. I actually spent some quality time talking to my parents, Elz and other friends, and got confirmation that the letter I sent without name and with incomplete address arrived well, which was a relief. We went for short walks around the island, and got a bracelet, some cards and orange juice. And for dinner, to make up for the night before (only some nacho chips with dip): Lobster, for the first time in my life. I was a bit wary, having heard it is even sweeter than crab, and slightly dry. I was completely pleasantly surprised, and am now officially sad it costs about 8 times more in any restaurant in the Netherlands. And we rested. Because we knew what was up: an early morning twice in a row, with one trip to Guatemala of a rough 8 hours, and a sunrise trip to Tikal for which we have to be picked up at 4. We noticed little funfacts about Belize in the short period that we were there. The fact that they have their cemeteries "alongside" the road, which you can smell when you get nearer. We even had a small cemetery in the backyard of our hotel, though you could't smell it. The areas of land were fully covered with tombstones and crosses. A morbid but beautiful sight. Crosses brings me to the next point: religion. I don't think I have yet seen so many forms and quotes of Jesus hanging around, graffitied, bannered. " Of Latter-Day-Saints', protestants, catholics, mormons, you name it. Some I couldn't even place. All the schools I recognized as such had a sort of (9gag) priest on it. We got up 06.30 the next morning, because our boat was leaving at 07.30 to catch the 10.00 bus to Guatemala. Problem was, that bus never crossed the border, basically because someone had been silly enough to travel without applying for a visa. Without any fuss, the kindest woman, a Belizean with Mexican and Spanish ancestors and very interesting stories about Cubans who'd "fled" to Belize, changed our ticket so we could hop on the next bus of 13.00. That meant more waiting, about 4 hours in total, which Anouk and I filled with playing games, reading up about Guatemala and whining about being hungry. The bus got there, though. And there were no further problems. And Belize is a pretty site, with enough nature to fill 250 National parks. Which was what they did, being aware of the worth of it. Now, another adventure awaits us in Guatemala! Xx The Gypsy

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