"Happy Birthday" is ringing out of Mathias' phone. He has received a call from our good friends Fabienne and Marco, who congratulate him on his birthday on this way from Australia. But we don't have much time to celebrate, because today we have to cross the border again after a long time. Although I did a lot of research and read about the border formalities, I could hardly sleep a wink in the night because of nervousness - in a completely unjustified way, as it turns out later.
Our last deeds in Mexico consist of shopping for basic food (there are some restrictions on fresh products that are not allowed to cross the border) and refueling, since both are said to be much more expensive in Belize. A stone's throw later we find ourselves in front of the white entry building at the Belizean border. They greet us very friendly and help us at all corners so that we can handle the entry procedure correctly. Since English is spoken in Belize, we understand everything without problems. First of all we get the entry of the persons under reggae sound. One desk further on is Baloo, whose papers are issued in a chilled manner by a Bob Marley guy. Much earlier than expected we find ourselves on Belizean soil and have to take out the obligatory liability insurance one building further on before we cover the first kilometres in the new country.
Once again we are totally surprised how fast the scenery can change after passing an international border. The number of topes is drastically decreasing and the remaining ones are now called "speedbumps", colored concrete buildings have given way to colored houses on stilts made of wood, from now on there are side strips again and in general the country is much less densely populated. What we see reminds us a bit of South Africa - lots of green, children with braided hair and school uniforms walking along the roadside and dark-skinned people. One of the peculiarities of Belize is that people from many different cultures, such as Mayans, Garifunas, Chinese, Mestizos, Creoles and Mennonites can be found in a very small area.
We drive along sugar cane fields to Orange Walk Town, where we find our first overnight stay at the Lamanai Riverside Retreat. After parking the car directly at the river, there is still time to toast Mathias' birthday. With one "Belikin" in each hand we also drink to the successful entry and book a river cruise for tomorrow as a birthday present, which will lead us to the Lamanai ruins. When we ask the campsite owner if there is any wildlife to see on the tour, he says: "Yaaaa man, thea are also crocodiles in tha riva hea". Well then we are curious...
River trip to the Lamanai ruins
For the tour we are picked up directly at the camping site and chauffeured to the boat landing stage a few kilometres further on, where we change into a speedboat, which then takes us to the ruins. For almost an hour we race on the wide New River through the jungle. From time to time we stop to watch water birds, iguanas or bats. At the ruins themselves we get a 2 hour tour from our guide and are quite surprised that we seem to be the only group here. Although we have already seen many of these Mayan cairns, each site is unique. Here in Lamanai we are fascinated by the remoteness, the size of the main temple (High Temple) and the location on the river. This is probably also one of the reasons why this Mayan city was settled for almost 3000 years (approx. from 1500 BC to 1500 AD). Included in the tour is also a lunch and so we already enjoy a national specialty (Coconut Rice and Beans with Chicken) on the second day in Belize. Unfortunately we do not see any unusual animals along or in the river(s) on the return trip. So we are all the more enthusiastic, when back at the campground we see a crocodile after all, albeit a small one.
Snorkeling on Caye Caulker
Go Slow - this is the motto of the Caribbean island Caye Caulker. Here you should be able to really relax and decelerate. Although we didn't need this directly, we booked 2 nights in a hotel on the small island not far from the mainland. During this time we can leave Baloo on the supervised parking lot of the Radisson Inn in Belize City. A water taxi will then take us to the island, which is only 8km long and less than 2km wide. In 1961 it was split in two by Hurricane Hattie. The lane left by the tropical storm can be seen today at "The Split". When we arrive, we feel the "Laid-Back Vibe" quite fast. We are comfortably on the sandy paths (either on foot or with a golf cart). After checking into our hotel we enjoy the rest of the day with sipping cocktails and watching pelicans and rays directly from the beach.
The next day, however, is the day for which we basically came. We have booked a snorkeling tour. What we see and experience under water on this day was previously beyond our imagination. Simply madness! But see even in the video below...
On iOverlander we find a possible site for an overnight stay at a Baboon Sanctuary (Baboon is the name for the black howler monkeys here). Sounds tempting, because when it comes to animals, we are always right there. Though we arrive only against evening at the mentioned place, however, meet a nice ranger who allows us to stand before the visitor centre over night and is even ready to accompany us still in this evening on a tour with which one should get to see the monkeys.
There one does not have to ask us twice!
Less than five minutes later we are already on our way to a nearby forest. At the entrance to a narrow forest path we can already hear the monkeys, but that doesn't mean anything yet. The "roaring", i.e. the sounds they make, which are mainly used for communication between different groups, can be heard for miles. We follow Dwayne, our guide, patiently while we quietly sneak deeper and deeper into the forest. Suddenly we hear a rustling sound. Dwayne plucks a few large leaves from one of the trees, begins to wag them back and forth and imitate the roar of the monkeys. In fact it doesn't take long before we notice more movement in the treetops above us. The lure tactics seem to work, the monkeys approach us more and more. All of a sudden I spot a brave little Howler unusually close. Faster than I could look, he sits on my shoulder and eats with relish piece by piece of Dwayne's leaf, which he holds out to him. Ok, that we would get to see the wild animals soooo close came as a surprise now and I am rather overwhelmed in the first moment than I can be happy. Aren't they dangerous too? I mean, the canines are already pretty massive...
But Dwayne calms me down and says this group here is used to contact with people. After a short period of getting used to them I too can hold out my hand to the cute little monkey and am fascinated how clean his fur is and how gentle the undersides of his hands are (is that what monkeys say?). It almost feels like our cat Eniac would sit on me and with this thought I almost get a little nostalgic.