First, I will take a moment to say Thank god for dual sport bikes! Within a few miles of entering Belize, we’ve been on are densely packed dirt roads with gazillions of potholes – and that’s the main road! Not sure what to expect for the rest of Belize, but if this is any indication, we’ll be getting plenty of off roading while we’re on the road if you’re picking up what I’m laying down here.When you think of Belize, most people’s first image or vision would be of white sand beaches, the clear aqua water, the Blue Hole, or any of the amazing Islands or ‘Caye’s’ as they are called here. As we planned our route into Belize we volleyed a few ideas of where we’d plan to spend our first couple nights and ended up choosing to go inland to the Orange Walk District first, landing at a rustic cabana built on stilts adjacent to a river in the small community of San Antonio Rio Hondo.
We were greeted with pleasant smiles by our hosts Carmen and Jose and their 4 cute kids. We unpacked the bikes and the kids helped us bring our gear into our room. The cabana is rustic with no hot water, but has great bug screens and a comfy bed that is hung on chains from the ceiling. With every move the bed goes swinging, which sort of feels like being in a hammock. Approximately 100 families make up this village in the middle of nowhere. With no restaurants or shops; if you want food, you either arrange dinner with the host family or go to one of the other families in town that is known to serve food. Meals are costing us $5 US for 2 meals, which is great on the budget and we’re eating good. Beer isn’t sold in the general stores (very tiny snack shops really), but you can get it by knocking on the door of one of the known neighbors who might have some, sold in 42 oz bottles.
This family has been wonderful to stay with. A true Belizean experience with a family of have nots. They clearly struggle with day to day life and live on a shoe string budget. Elementary school is free, but middle and high school requires tuition, which means most of their money goes to paying for the kids’ school. Carmen let us washing some clothes which is done by hand outside the house, then put into a spinner and hung out to dry. With a family of six, she must hate laundry day. Their kitchen is a stove, with a couple tables to store pots/pans and food. The refrigerator is in the living room, and dishes are washed in the backyard. They have a fire pit to cook things that take a long time (like beans) instead of having to use electricity in the house. The house is meager but full of love and warmth. Most people don’t have cars; they ride bicycles or take the bus that comes a couple times a day for a ride to the bigger community of Orange Walk Town.
Jose has lived his entire life in this village, as did his father (who was the village shaman) and grandfather. Family roots go deep here. We’ve met a Texan (Rod) who has lived here for a couple years and has done some good work for this community by building a library and also providing the only (and free) internet café. The high school kids are required to use internet and since there is no connection here other than Rod’s, it help the kids with their curriculum. You’ll find a lot of activity at Rod’s boat house/internet café any given time of the day. He’s a really nice man with a huge heart.
We spent a day with Jose hiking to the see the local cenotes – which turned into repelling down a steep embankment using a rope on cenote #2. You could see the pride in Jose as he showed us their community treasures and explained the history of his village. Later in the day we jumped on the canoe and paddled down the Rio Hondo. The river is calm and tranquil, with no sound but that of birds, fish jumping and water dribbling from our canoe oars.
People of this community are so friendly and welcoming with their relaxed, laidback attitudes and loads of waves. This is a place where you’ll find chickens in every yard, a few cows and goats, a shitload of dogs and kids running freely in the village day and night.
We have enjoyed this little village for our first couple days in Belize. It’s off the beaten path places like this that we seek. And it’s places and people like this that remind us how grateful we are to have the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures.