… And the least we can say is that we definitely had some unexpected events the past three days! As planned, we left Caye Caulker at stupid o’clock in the morning. One speed boat, 30ish souls and an open ocean. I mean what could go wrong… Well what about everything? With every wave we encountered (read: every 5 seconds), it seemed that our boat was being smashed on a concrete floor. I spent an hour dreading the moment our boat would give up (it seemed pretty damn close to me). An hour going over any possible scenario: will I be able to save one of my two backpacks? will I drown? Be eaten by a shark? Or be murdered by a narco-trafficker cruising by? What can I say… My imagination has (unfortunately) no border. An hour squeezing M’s knee to make the bumps more bearable (as you do). An hour staring at the boat’s floor to make sure there was no water coming through (ready to shout at the captain: “captain, we have a problem”). One hour analyzing every sound (wait… Was it normal or the sound of a problem?!). One hour wondering if the life jackets were just for show or if they would indeed save our lives if needed. This was indeed a busy hour and I was relieved to reach Belize City, the 6th most dangerous city in the world, go figure!
Luckily our bus ride to San Ignacio made things better. As if our driver felt I needed some comforting, he played wonderful love songs from the eighties, nineties… Thanks Bryan Adams, Scorpion, Bonnie Tyler, Kool and the gang, Celine Dion (Celine Dion!!!!), Boy George for an amazing ride! Maybe I had died on this boat after all because I was in heaven, well my heaven at least! M somehow wished he had gone deaf, pfff this man doesn’t know what’s good for him! We arrived in San Ignacio early enough to check the Cahal Pech ruins and enjoy some delicious street food. To be completely honest, Cahal Pech were not massively impressive but from the town center, it was an easy stroll and the park was pleasantly shady. We would therefore recommend it as a nice and cheap activity while in the area. We enjoyed the town itself, small and laid back, where we found delicious chicken burritos and pupusa for a dollar or so. When you are on a US$ 30 budget, this is good news, right?!
With a heavy heart, it was however time for us to say goodbye to this beautiful country. With Caracol and Actun Tunichil Muknal unfortunately out of range (distance and budget wise) it seemed best for us to move on even though we didn’t really want to leave. We fell in love with Belize and its friendly people. We felt safe and welcomed at all times, food was lovely and affordable, what more does a happy backpacker need?! Before crossing into Guatemala, there was one last place we were keen to discover: the Xunantunich ruins. Located a short bus ride from San Ignacio, the ruins could be reached by foot after crossing a river on a barge. This was not an easy walk on the two-kilometer steep road with 15 kg on my back but definitely a rewarding one. The view from the main temple, El Castillo, was breathtaking. From up there, we realized that the ruins were much bigger than they seemed and we spent 2 hours or so, wandering around. We even had an encounter with a few howler monkeys.
After such a great exploration, it was time to make our way to Guatemala. We walked back the steep two-kilometer road and before I knew it, I was projected on the floor and I realized that my ankle had let me down again. I reacted like a 5-year old would: I cried. Cried with pain, cried with frustration, cried from embarrassment, cried because I knew the meaning of the pain I had felt. I hurt my ankle a few years ago while playing netball and it was bad. Really bad. With a twisted ankle, a bleeding knee and a bruised ego, tears were rolling down, I stood up, refusing to stop. I kept walking to the barge, every taken step being a painful one. M and I barely talked: I couldn’t speak as I couldn’t handle the feeling of being powerless in a country, 9’230 kilometers away from home. We took a shared cab that drove us to the border where we easily exited Belize and entered Guatemala. Goodbye Belize, hola Guatemala.
Thanks to my twisted ankle and bleeding knee (you gotta love those two unwanted fuckers), we got (nicely) ripped off to go to El Remate. On the very bright side, we found a wonderfully cheap and welcoming pension: Posada Filin (5 US$ a night, yes please!). Nora, the owner made my pain and sadness go away as she sat me down and ordered M to get some ice. She spoke softly and I immediately felt like I was back at home nursed by my beloved grandma. Fear and frustration left me and I was already looking forward to walking again the next day. This was of course unrealistic and Nora knew better. I needed time. So we took a day off. Tikal could definitely wait, my recovery could not. Yes, it was frustrating but it was a well needed rest day. I also believe that what’s meant to be is meant to be: today was cloudy and some heavy showers hit the area. Now it seems that the sky is clearing up, so who knows? We might be lucky enough to explore a sunny Tikal!
Tikal, here we come (finally)!