Tag Archives: Culture

Southern Belize: Dangriga, Hopkins, Placencia and Punta Gorda

I last left you on a ferry dock headed from Corozal to the Cayes. While I undoubtedly enjoyed my time on these islands, the best part was the people I met there; an awesome veterinarian in San Pedro who took a chance and moved to Belize to practice in paradise, the fun bartenders at the hostel there, the super friendly locals in Caye Caulker who would make me ‘go slow’ (my natural pace gave them whiplash), and who would yell New York! every time I walked by, and the two adventurous souls who I spent a few days with before we all headed to separate countries. I won’t bore you any further with stories of full moon watching from the end of docks and some really great snorkeling adventures. Instead, ill tell you about my even more awesome adventures in Southern Belize.

Dangriga sunset

Dangriga: I hadn’t planned to come here at all, but am glad I ended up there somehow. After the craziness of the Cayes, this city is a welcomed breath of real. Dangriga is not a tourist destination, and so people aren’t busy trying to sell you trinkets or tripping over themselves to talk to you. They are just going about their business in a really refreshing way. This is one of the culture capitals of the country and gives off the most urban vibe you’ll find outside of Belize City. As a city dweller, I found the opportunity to be a bit more anonymous for a few days a chance to recharge. Not to mention, Ms. D, the woman who owns the town’s only hostel is great. A fresh Belgian waffle is included with a quiet, clean stay with a view of the ocean. When I wasn’t quietly contemplating, I was visiting the nearby hot sauce factory, doing a short hike to a waterfall, or watching the sun go down from a really cool sandbar with a few Belikin.

Dangriga

Dangriga

Dangriga

Hopkins: Hopkins is still, as I write this, an off the beaten path village. However the road from the highway into Hopkins is currently being paved, so I’m glad I got to visit before this totally laid back town changes too much. In Hopkins, you have no choice but to loosen up and lighten up. The untouched beach goes on for miles with homes, boat docks, hangout huts and a few vacation rentals dotting the shore. A successful day includes a breakfast of fry jacks, Belize’s version of fried dough/biscuits, a stroll up to the Driftwood for a lay on the beach or some volleyball or renting a canoe to spot some crocs if your feeling motivated. As night falls, the sounds of the local watering hole pick up and Garifuna drummers make an appearance. With a small but usually mostly occupied hostel in town, there are just enough people around and with really affordable food and beer, a chill time to be had.

Hopkins

Hopkins 2

Placencia: Placencia was probably the biggest surprise I got in Belize. I’m not sure what I was expecting but whatever it was, Placencia was actually better. Not only did I meet two great Londoners who I hung out with here, but the weather was perfect for all four days we stayed. The beaches were the best in Belize with calm clear water and very few tourists compared to what I was expecting. Definitely not as raw as Hopkins, Placencia was the perfect medium between no tourists and way too many. It had some comforts from home (a yummy fancy ice cream shop) but still had opportunities to eat local and hear local music. In a previous post, my “yesterday” was all about Placencia.

Placencia

Placencia Perfect Sand

Placencia Sunrise

Punta Gorda: Admittedly, a lot of my experience in Punta Gorda had to do with bad timing. I had been hanging out with friends who were moving straight on, and I chose to hang back on my own to try to do a few things I had read about before, including visiting a Maya Village or participating in a Ranger A Day Program. It also happened to be Punta Gorda Day the following day, which meant all the town’s hotels were full or were going to be full for the weekend.  Because of this, it was here in PG that I landed my first really yucky hotel and felt uncomfortable for the first time. Also, the people who were supposed to help you arrange a Maya village visit were beyond unhelpful and basically told me it wouldn’t be possible. So, I decided to high tail it out of PG and on to Guatemala early, and as soon as possible. It’s too bad becuase it seemed like a cool little town with lots of charm and an interesting history. But, I felt like it was time for me to move on after this visit, and so I did. Before I boarded my international boat to Livingston, Guatemala, I managed to get these two shots of the water as viewed from PG town.

Dangriga View 1

Dangriga View 2

Advertisements

Bussin it Round Belize

Belize Bus

Hands down, the cheapest way to get around Belize is by bus. For only a few Belizean dollars (cut any price in half to calculate American dollars) you can get yourself a ride in your very own Blue Bird to just about any place worth going. These old US school buses are repainted with the name and colors of one of several bus lines that serve the country, overhead luggage racks are installed, and voila, your chariot awaits!

With buses scheduled regularly, and drivers who seem to take this time table pretty seriously, you know a bus will show. The real question: will there be a seat? Here, when the bus arrives, everybody just kind of goes for it trying to get on. Luggage goes in the back or over head rack, people get on the front and climb in the back and no seats does not mean no go; if you can stand you can ride. At the scheduled departure time the bus backs out of the depot and hits the road, stopping at a few other known bus stops on the way out of town. Once on the highway, the conductor, who rides door open in the front step well, makes his way back through the bus to collect your fare. Tell him where you are going, or where along the way you want to be let off, and he’ll tell you how much. If your lucky, he’ll even tell you when you get there! Along the way the driver will slow for folks who flag him down from the side of the road, only sometimes coming to a complete stop so people can jump or step on. If you’re lucky, people selling bread or donuts or other treats will hop on so you can buy snacks in transit.

Windows always down, music blasting, flying down the mostly paved roads, around corners, through beautiful and changing landscapes, I feel a sense of calm and anticipation each time I board a bus toward my next destination. I can’t imagine seeing Belize any other way.