We made our way back down to the border of Belize as fast as possible. Camping once again in Chetumal before our border crossing. Everything felt familiar. A couple stops at Walmart and Auto Zone, and we were ready to exit Mexico once and for all. We crossed the border in about 40 minutes and drove down familiar roads toward the town of San Ignacio, away from the coast this time and into the mountains.
On the way, we made a detour to drive through the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout (it looked just like middle America farm land), where we hit our first river crossing...by hand crank ferry. We told the guy we were really heavy and he said he would take us anyway. The "anyway" was because he would do it for no charge. I said we were just worried we would sink. "No mon, ya not gonna sink". Oh. Well then, let's do this.
On our way into San Ignacio, we got a little lost and passed what looked to be a horse race. In Belize? We had to turn around anyway so John decided we needed to see the ponies run. It was the annual Father’s Day horse race in Santa Elena, the next town over from where were going to camp. We pulled in, ordered a couple of cold Beliken beers and watched the races. Belizean style. There was an interesting mix of cowboy hats, Rasta dudes, and Mennonite families. The first races were local kids on bareback, followed by farm horses with Western saddles, and then what looked like the real deal race horses. They were blasting reggae music in between races and it was a fun diversion for the afternoon.
Horse racing Belizian style.
San Ignacio is an agreeable mix of border, tourist, and local-Belize-flavor town. We camped at Mana Kai, which had cabanas and a big field. It also had a few hammocks under an outdoor palapa in front of a TV. By some miracle, John found the U.S. Open golf tournament and spent the evening explaining it all to Frank, the Belizian caretaker. I wish I had a photo of those two swinging in hammocks, three dogs underneath them, talking golf.
Two full days of driving had taken a toll on our backs, so we decided not to tackle the Guatemalan border the next day and instead take a day to hike and relax. Or so we thought. We went to explore the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and hike the Rio On pools, but as soon as we turned out of San Ignacio town we were on dirt roads. We slowly bounced our way up through the mountain, where the 46 km took almost two hours. Once at the pools, we hiked around a little but knowing we had another two hours back down the mountain, a long lunch seemed like a much more appealing option than more hiking. We passed Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge on our way up the mountain so that seemed like a civilized place for a stop. It’s billed as a jungle lodge but we thought it was set in what appeared to be a severely deforested mountain top surrounded by planted jungle foliage. Regardless, it was a fabulous lunch of Napa Valley wine, pizza and salad. Unfortunately, we did end up doing another 4 hours in the truck that day.
Our camp spot at Mana Kai.
Cattle on the drive up Mountain Pine Ridge road
Water falls at Rio On pools
Next up we have to review our steps for the border crossing into Guatemala. We think this one will be a little more complicated than the others, but we are ready for a new country!