Part 1: Placencia to San Ignacio
We were sad to leave Placencia after such a great scuba adventure but we also had plans to check out San Ignacio for a few days before the trip back to Belize City, and the flight to Flores in Guatemala. Getting from Placencia to San Ignacio was a fairly tortured affair, starting with a 6:15am bus to Dangriga lasting 1 hour 45 mins and then a further 1 hour 25 mins from there to Belmopan (total cost $16 BZD each = about £6 GBP). From Belmopan you can then get another bus to San Ignacio which can take about 2 hours with all the stops. We happened to be standing next to a young American couple at the Belmopan bus station whilst they were being offered a 45-minute taxi to San Ignacio for $20 USD per person, the guy saw us taking interest and offered us the option to join too. I figured a total of $80 USD for a 45-minute taxi was a bit steep so we agreed on a final price of $15 USD per person and we set off.
After another local taxi from the San Ignacio bus stop to our hotel on top of the hill (we’d decided to splash out for a few days) and we could finally dump our stuff and quit the sweaty day of travelling.
View from the hotel over the area surrounding San Ignacio
The view during breakfast was awful too…
Entrance and murals down in the main town
Close-up of the murals depicting Mayan ancestry
Wandering around town
Love a bowl of cow foot soup
Seems there are some decent local artists
Sunset over the edge of San Ignacio
Part 2: The Mayan Ruins of Cahal Pech
Staying at the Cahal Pech Resort meant we were just around the corner from the Mayan ruins which gives the resort its name. These ruins were the first that we’d been able to climb up so I was like a kid in a playground, scaling as many steps as I could and getting a serious quad workout at the same time.
Artist’s representation of Cahal Pech in its prime (circa 1500-1600 A.D.)
Those steps are steeper than they look
Spot the Englishman getting it wrong
Nature has taken hold
Sometimes I require adult supervision
Other than the ruins on the hill there isn’t really too much on offer in the small town of San Ignacio, it’s a basic town with a little market and a couple of pleasant streets. There are quite a few tours on offer all within an hour’s drive or two but unfortunately we had to wig out on the tour we had booked due to some dodgy prawns at the hotel; meaning that we both needed to be near a toilet for the best part of two days.
We did however find some incredibly cute kittens living under the bungalow next to ours which cheered us up.
Kittens can’t resist chasing stuff
5 minutes later and this one has given in to a full belly scratch
Leaving San Ignacio on the public bus back to Belmopan was pretty damn packed but we were somewhat used to this by now, just an hour for the first leg and then two hours from Belmopan back to Belize City; all for $10 BZD each (about £4 GBP). I really can’t say much for Belize City I’m afraid, it’s a bit of a mess and doesn’t have a great vibe. We stayed at a cheap place on the river called the Belcove Hotel but it left a lot to be desired, a basic room with a shared bathroom and working toilet is fine by me but the strange stink that wafted through our window at certain points left us feeling underwhelmed, and a bit like throwing up. Combine that with the hotel dogs barking throughout most of the day at anything that moved, be that people, pelicans or even each other, made for a bit of a crappy 2 nights.
That’s why we got out of the city on our one day there to go visit Belize Zoo.
Part 3: Belize City Zoo
Now I’m not normally a zoo kind of person. Vic and I had been to Copenhagen Zoo in 2016 and were left traumatized by the repetitive behavior of larger animals like the Polar Bears and Elephants who were obviously massively bored in their fake habitats.
Belize Zoo is slightly better in that all the birds and animals there are rescue cases; in so far as they were injured and had been nursed back to health, that they were at risk of being killed because they had been eating farmer’s livestock, or that they had been born in the zoo and were now simply not equipped for a life in the wild.
It was amazing to see so many tropical creatures in one day but also sad to see that they had become so dependent on being fed by humans. At least they’re not extinct I guess…
Huge wild iguana, like literally ‘wild’ and just running all over the zoo
Now that’s a cute Ocelot
Yeah, because the ‘wet paint’ is what you need to be cautious about right now
This thing was massive; the fact that it lay motionless seemed to make it even more threatening
Wild pigs get busy with the fruit salad
Getting the bus back from the zoo to Belize City was also a bit random, whilst there’s a bus stop on one side of the road for arrivals at the zoo, there’s nothing on the other side to help you get back to the city; kind of like ‘thanks for visiting, good luck getting home’. In reality all you have to do is wave down the next bus which comes along and jump on board, but there is that 15-minute wait where you’re thinking, what the hell are we doing standing on this desolate road in the middle of Belize.
Part 4: The flight from Belize City to Flores, Guatemala
First thing’s first, being reunited with Bryan! (He’s our GoPro Karma drone). We’d had to leave Bryan with Belizian customs upon arrival a month previously because we didn’t have a drone permit (despite the fact that we saw at least 3 other people stroll through customs with drones and not get stopped, but we won’t go into that). Anyway, it was a joyful reunion once I’d wrestled it from the custom’s lady, ha ha.
Operation ‘Karma Rescue’ is a success
(ignore the jesus-type sandals, move along, nothing to see here)
Stage two was a bit of a surprise to both me and Vic, whilst we had been expecting a small aircraft for the 50-minute flight from Belize City to Flores we hadn’t quite figured it would be a twin propeller plane with just 12 seats. There was no allocated seating, no overhead lockers, no attendants, and instead of pre-flight blurb from the pilots they both just turned around and said hi; it was awesome.
Approaching the plane like: ‘Woah, this is a small plane!’
Couldn’t get much closer to the pilots if I tried
There were no overhead lockers so…
Incredible views of the huge expanses of jungle that cover both Belize and Guatemala
Epic shot of ‘Isla de Flores’ as we make our descent
Coming into land in Flores
Excellent work lads
As much as we had enjoyed certain elements of Belize and its people I’m afraid to say that our overwhelming feeling is that it was way too expensive for what you get. In that sense we immediately fell in love with Guatemala not just because it was a little cheaper but also because the quality of what you get for your money is so much better than Belize. Plus Guatemalans are generally really friendly!
Celebrating our instant love of Guatemala with double mojitos
Getting some use out of Bryan the GoPro drone with an aerial shot of our accommodation in Santa Elena
Pretty happy with my artsy coin shot
‘Cool Beans’ does the best coffee in Flores
Wandering the streets of Flores
We weren’t entirely sure if the Isla de Flores is actually slowly sinking
We’re very happy to finally be in Guatemala, so tune in next week to hear about us getting from A to B and me seriously geeking out at the humongous Mayan ruins in Tikal (it’s a Star Wars thing).