Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cruisin' - Belize

Another overnight at sea and the next morning (Thursday, Feb 26), as I logged a couple of miles around the promenade deck, I could watch as we dropped anchor off shore.  A stream of small water shuttles started to arrive and queue up alongside the ship and, as I ordered my macchiato at the International Cafe on deck 5, I could see the huge mass of passengers crowded into the stairwells, waiting to disembark.

Belize harbor is too shallow to accommodate the large cruise ships, so they anchor off shore and passengers are ferried to the dock by small water taxis.  The waiting line was huge, as passengers were given numbers and waited for their turn.

I had no plans for Belize, having cancelled my excursion on a river boat to some ruins (yes, I did get a refund; apparently there was a long waiting list for these excursions), so I lingered over my macchiato before returning to the cabin to shower and get dressed and then get some breakfast at the Horizon Court buffet.

After breakfast, as I started down the stairs toward deck 4, I heard the overhead announcement that there was no longer a line waiting to disembark, that shuttles were available for immediate departure.  Perfect timing!!
The water taxi that took us to shore in Belize

Climbing on-board the little water taxi, I struck up a conversation with a couple about my age.  None of us had any plans, just hoping to take our chances with the tour guides who would be hawking their tours on the dock.  We decided to stay together and get onto a tour that would take us through the city and perhaps out into the country or to some nearby attraction.

Goodbye, ship!  5 miles to shore

View of Belize as we approach land

Getting "press ganged" (ancient British form of impressment) at
the Belize landing docks.  All in good fun!

So when we got off the little water taxi we immediately hooked up with one of the tour hawkers and got ourselves signed up for a tour that would take us through the city, out into the country for a bit, then to a rum factory for a tour and tasting.  All this for $20!

The dock terminal, where we hooked up with a tour for the day

The city of Belize is congested, ramshackle and filled with on-going and unfinished construction.  The streets were narrow and pot-holed, and nearly everywhere there were repairs and reconstruction of the roads underway.

As we drove along, the tour guide told us about life in Belize, about the school system, work ethic, home life.  She told us how every child finishes school at least up to high school.  And how nearly every child attends college.  As it was a half-day of school this particular day, we saw lots of children in school uniforms walking home.  Each school had a different uniform style, and the tour guide pointed them out and named the school they attended.  All of them catholic or other denominational schools.

As we passed some road construction, someone observed how the entire process was manual, including mixing the cement.  Our tour guide pointed out that, in doing it this way, more men were employed.  Automation costs money, money that could be paying more workers.  Interesting concept.

We zigged and zagged our way through the town, running into street closures at nearly every turn, until we made our way to a little waterside park with a photo opportunity.

Photo op at a pretty little town beach

Near here was the mayor's residence, an unassuming home only made notable by the guard shacks at the driveway entrance.

Then we continued out of the city and along a river into the country.  We arrived at a little town called Lovelady and turned right onto a semi-paved road that took us past small little homes and shacks, many of them half-finished.  We learned that the residents Belize were able to buy land from the government at very low prices and then mortgage a newly constructed home for just a few dollars a month until it was paid off.

She said that nearly all construction on the island is government-contracted.  We drove by an unfinished and abandoned subdivision of homes that were started by a private contractor.  The results of their ineptitude was obvious.  Unfinished homes had sunk into the ground up to the windowsills.  The land is very marshy and soft and without the engineering know-how that seemingly only the government possesses, privately contracted construction will fail as the unfinished buildings slowly sink into the ground.

We headed back into the city of Belize and stopped at the outskirts at a rum factory and heritage center, Traveller's Liquors,  Here we were offered tastings of six different rums, wines or liqueurs for just $2 and we could take a self-tour of the heritage center museum.  It was a fun and laid-back little stop.  I bought a bottle of, all things, cashew wine, made from the flowers and flower hips of the cashew tree.  A vendor was standing outside the entrance, selling bags of freshly roasted cashews.  They were delicious and certainly nothing like the over-processed cashews we buy commercially in the U.S.
At the rum heritage center museum



It seemingly took us forever to fight the traffic back to the docks.  Road closures stymied the driver at every turn, causing us to back track several times until she could find a road open that would take us to the docks.

I got out of the van, walked through the terminal and stepped right onto a water taxi to get back to the ship.  And of course, getting back onboard, it was just one flight up to the International Cafe, where I got myself a large cappuccino to take up to my cabin and sip on the balcony in the late afternoon sun.

Dinner later at the Horizon Court buffet and perhaps an espresso.

Tomorrow: start of two days at sea to return to Houston.





2 comments:

  1. It sounds like a very interesting stop. The traffic and construction sound like quite the thing and doing everything manually.

    One might say "you have to see it to Belize it".

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  2. Funny pun! The town has definitely embraced the "take us as we are" attitude and not tried to pretty up the tourist areas like the other ports have. Very interesting stop.

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