9 Days in Belize and Tikal, Guatemala

A Travelogue by John Niebler

Pictures by John Niebler and John Zastrow

Getting to Belize Diving Trip Explore Caye Caulker Tikal - day 1 Tikal - day 2 Down to Punta Gorda - Kayak Trip Explore the cave Snorkeling and Fishing Going home
I'm Off-->
Dive Trip
Caye Caulker
Tikal - Day 1
Tikal - Day 2
PG and Kayak
Cave Trip
Snorkeling and Fishing
Going Home

Thursday, April 3rd

We got a cab in the morning, stopped at the post office and mailed our souvenirs to ourselves, and went on to the airport. On arrival we discovered that our flight had been at 8am instead of 9:30 like we thought. No problem, this is Belize. They just switched the tickets to the 10am flight. We stopped at three airports before we got to Punta Gorda. The last ‘airport’ before Punta Gorda was a paved stretch in the jungle, with a Maya air truck waiting at the terminal. These little flights were how people get around in Belize. We got in at about 11:00am. Roberto was waiting for us and gave us a tour of the town. It’s not a large town, but we got a sense of the place. Dirt roads, quite a lot of litter, and a lot of buildings made of concrete block. It wasn’t without it’s charm though. It’s a town of 4800 people and the British army used to take R&R here up until 1991. When they stopped coming it really damaged the economy of the town. Since then they have been trying to build up an eco-tourism infrastructure. Some of it is in place, but it is very rustic. Roberto had setup kayaks for us to go up the river and then out to the sea. After a little panic attack about leaches in a stretch of mud we had to cross, I got into the kayak and we were off. We spent about 45 minutes heading up river. We could hear some wildlife in the mangroves, but didn’t see much, other than half-dollar sized fresh water crabs that were climbing on the mangrove trees. We turned around and headed out into the sea and got a bit of a work out in.
We got the kayaks back to TIDE. TIDE is a local environmental volunteer group. They were the main people responsible for the creation of the marine reserve we snorkeled and fished in later in the week.
We went in search of food and found Emory’s, which according to the Lonely Planet guidebook is the best restaurant in Punta Gorda. I have to say, it was good. We got there a bit early with nowhere else to go. So, Emory got us a few Belikin beers and we waited for the dinner hour. While we waited he brought out the left-overs from lunch as an appetizer. A fisherman had caught a Kingfish and sold it to Emory. That was the lunch special and was very good. Soon our dinners of butter-fried shrimp and lightly breaded snapper came and we ate dinner to the din of obnoxious, Texan fly fisherman boasting of a day of fishing for Permits (large, crab-eating fish that inhabit the shallows around the mangrove cayes. They are notoriously hard to catch and fight terrifically when hooked).

Full of fish and beer, we got a taxi to Cuxlin Ha. Cuxlin Ha is about 7 miles out of Punta Gorda. About half of the way it’s paved followed by a long stretch of dirt road off the highway that leads to the village. We saw a black feline about the size of a medium dog on the road. It jumped into the bush pretty quickly, but there isn’t much else it could have been but a panther. Very cool.

Cuxlin Ha:

Cuxlin Ha is a cooperative built by Dona and Gale and currently 14 Mayan families. Dona and Gale Scafe are an American couple that moved to Belize about 8 years ago. They built the co-op over the last 5 years. They taught the Maya trades like laying tile, carpentry, cement work, and painting. The Mayan people work for the co-op at a better pay rate than they can get elsewhere. The resort was built largely by the Maya in the village and thanks to the Scafe’s all of the Maya’s houses have running water and electricity. The resort is very nice. The tile work is awesome. Celiano, who laid the tile, was a farmer with no electricity or running water. He is now 43 years old and moved to the co-op five years ago. He says he works harder now than he did as a farmer because he used to take days off. With his higher wages he first bought a stove, then mattresses for him and his family, then a refrigerator, and the week we were there, a television. His house became very popular after he put up the antenna. The first day he had it working we drove by and Maya people were spilling out of his house.

 

Punta Gorda
Local artists were painting this sign while we were here.
Downtown Punta Gorda
The Market in PG
A tortilla factory
Kayaking Trip
Kayaking up the river.
In the mangroves.
Out to sea.
A Kingfish
Good eatin'. I photoshoped out the guy that was holding it. His hand is still holding the bottom.
Cuxlin Ha
The road in
Black panther. Furrrro-cious!
The resort
The pool. One of two in Southern Belize according to Gale.
Our door
Mural in the bedroom painted by a Mayan from the village.