You better Belize it!

We finally got our parcel last Thursday in Chetumal (thanks Mum and Dad!) and got straight on a bus to Belize City. We got fined at the border for not having our Mexican tourist cards (remember the official at Nogales had just asked us for $5 and waved the bus through? Well he was supposed to have given us a tourist card to get stamped in a Mexican bank and then hand in on exit), so that was annoying.

We arrived in Belize City and got a “taxi” (random man in his banger of a car) to take us to a hotel. The guide book recommended getting a taxi after dark as the area around the bus station is dodgy and a mugging hot-spot. The taxi driver drove down streets that were nicknamed “Beirut” and “Baghdad” because of their reputations for trouble. However, in the daytime, Belize City was anything but scary. The people are really friendly, the money has our queen Liz on it (looking rather glamorous – see pic below) and everyone speaks English, with a Caribbean lilt – it took us about 5 minutes of speaking to the taxi guy before we could understand everything he was saying, but then I got to hear all about his family while Ise checked out hotels (it was a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 bears – too expensive, too dirty, too weird, shut – we finally found one that had just been refurbished by 3 stoner brothers who only opened the gate after our cabbie had woken up the whole street beeping his horn). In the meantime, I’d learnt that Mr taxi-man had 6 children, 19 grandchildren and 1 new great grandchild. He was 59, but he looked about 20 years younger than that and he was still very much in love with his wife after 40 years of marriage, awwww!

In the morning we went to a café for breakfast, which did the most amazing banana milkshakes and iced coffees and had apparently been patronised by quite a few celebrities (mostly singers/rappers), whose pictures were on the wall. On the way, the local Belizeans wanted to help us find the way and were eager to offer directions. After our shakes we caught the water taxi to Caye Caulker and got chatting to a fun couple called Matt and Sophie, who’d been travelling from one adrenaline fix to another (hang-gliding in Rio, the “Road of Death” in Bolivia) and were eager for more. Diving-day pictures and video in this blog are credited to Matt – thanks for sharing!

Ise had wanted to come to Belize to dive the Blue Hole and although I was nervous, having never done a dive deeper than 23m (the blue hole is 40m), I agreed to do it with him, as long as he was a really good buddy and stayed within grabbing distance the whole time and we took a ½ hour refresher course the day before, to remind ourselves of the equipment and procedures. We got up at 5am to catch the boat and got to the blue hole after 2 hours. We saw a dolphin on the way – he was alongside the boat, playing in the wake!

When we got to the blue hole, the divemasters were eager for everyone to get going quickly. I made it down to the sandy ledge at the edge of the blue hole quite fast with no trouble, but Ise was having problems equalising (his ears hurt and he got a nosebleed), so he had to go back up a bit and try and sort it out. The divemaster told me to go ahead with the rest of the group and that he’d stay with Ise, but there was no way I was going anywhere without Ise (I didn’t want to be buddy-less at 40m!), so I swam back to him, by which time the rest of the group had gone down the blue hole and I couldn’t see them – it was very dark, they didn’t have torches and visibility wasn’t good down there – and I felt really uncomfortable and unsafe. I didn’t feel like the divemaster was looking out for us and everything was happening in too much of a rush. I didn’t like it at all so I signalled that I wanted to surface and went up with Ise and we swam back to the boat. I felt awful, because I knew Ise had really wanted to dive the blue hole.

I think we would have been able to do it if:
a) The divemasters had taken things more slowly and waited for Ise to get to the sandy ledge too before going down the hole.
b) We’d done our advanced PADIs (including a deep dive) or even just a 30m descent in good visibility prior to the blue hole.
c) We’d done a few recent dives since learning in Thailand
d) There had been a line into the blue hole that we could have followed and that I could have stopped at if I didn’t feel comfortable – I was mostly worried about getting disoriented down there and either going too far down, or coming up too fast.

In hindsight, we really shouldn’t have attempted it without a few more (recent) dives under our belts but if the dive company had been a bit more professional too, I think we would have been OK.

It wasn’t all bad though, there were 2 more dives that day, the second deeper than we’d ever been before and we got to see all sorts of cool fishies, coral and sponges. On the first dive, even though we didn’t make it down the blue hole, we still got to see reef sharks swimming above it and the dolphin was a real highlight for me. We also got chatting to the other divers on the boat and met a lady called Becky who reminded us so much of an older version of Emma (D) – we liked her a lot and on the second dive she really looked out for us and kept checking we were okay and helped Ise time his ascent properly (he was running out of air and the divemaster had disappeared off with the rest of the group). I felt a lot safer with her there. If only our divemaster had been like her on the first dive..!

Matt and Sophie played card games with us in the evenings, including nomination and contract whist and canasta, which they picked up insanely quickly! I won’t mention scores though, for fear of upset…

One night we were playing cards in the restaurant of our Chinatown hotel and this dude walked in with a hat made of some sort of palm leaf. I happened to mention that it looked cool and he disappeared off again immediately to make me one! Very kind of him and it earned him a Belikin (Belizian beer), which I’m actually not sure he really needed…

More pictures here

We only stayed in Belize for a few days, as it’s quite expensive compared to the rest of Central/South America and we’re now in Guatemala (got to Flores yesterday after another traumatic border-crossing involving a fruitless taxi ride to an empty ATM and a whip-round from our fellow passengers to cover the border exit fee, which turned out to be still more than we had so a very kind fellow Brit helped us out in the end. Thanks Josh!).

Next update soon!

Today I’m missing:
– bubble baths (well, baths in general really!)
– water that you can safely clean your teeth with
– wi-fi (working offline at the moment, as the internet is down)
– gin & tonics

Today I’m loving:
– something other than re-fried beans to eat
– a decent hotel for £8 a night
– Lago de Peten Itza (very pretty lake here)
– a glass of wine (finally – though not cheap, it was available and not extortionate and had to be done with the steak I had last night!)
– having a good book and plenty of time to read it

Love Gude x

Ise’s Update….

Just so you know, I am here too!

Gude is doing such a fine job of keeping the blog up to date that I tend to stay in the engine room and keep it all ticking over but I have finally got round to uploading the pics from my camera.

Don’t forget you can subscribe to blog updates using the box on the right to save you checking and coming soon – an interactive map of our trip so you can see where we’ve been and where we are. “Ooooooh” I hear you say. Yes, ooooh indeed.

El Geekos

Previous Post
Next Post

4 Comments so far

  1. catrin on August 5th, 2009

    Hi sounds like you are having an amazing time, fantastic updates, I am so jealous of all the diving that you are doing
    loads of love catrin x

  2. mum on August 5th, 2009

    Well done on the pictures Ise. Lovely to talk to you both last night. Glad you saw a dolphin. I loved it when the Shannon dolphins “played” with our boat. Damn those border fees. Keep having fun. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  3. Sam on August 5th, 2009

    ‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello, what’s all this diving to 40m then? You sound like you got scooped up by a bunch of pirates! Even the advanced lot and there are ain’t that much to being advanced don’t (shouldn’t) go beyond 30m. Your once in a life time experience could have been just that! Be cautious young Jedi’s.
    Anyway the diving sounds great, I’m quite jealous as I could do with another break from reality after this week.
    Mother is on form, while talking about this blog entry she said that she could see me and you Ise going on skiing holidays. She’s not quite there is she?! The dynamic duo looked after Murph today while I was at court, I think he has puffed dad out as he is snoozing on the sofa now, well he’s trying, mother is barking instructions at him.  
    Stay cool dudes.

  4. David on August 5th, 2009

    Hey guys! Well done to you both on staying safe with the Blue Hole dive… A most wise decision and despite missing out on that you both sound like you had an amazing experience. You are meeting some great people along the way which I am sure just adds to the whole trip. Gude… Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat? LOL. I am loving the pic of you and your hat buddy… Hilarious. Glad to hear all is well with El Geekos! Big hug and squeeze to you both. xxx