Wednesday, November 19, 1997
In the morning I caught the bus to Belize city. The border crossing was very crowded, and it took a while to get through. There were tons of other gringos on this bus, all of us frustrated that Cancun is the only airport in the region with prices affordable to the budget traveler. I didn't meet many Americans on this trip, so that holds true even for Europeans traveling in the area.
Busses in Belize are equipped with good stereos, and the drivers love to share their music with the passengers at a loud volume. The good news is that the music is decent.
The northern part of Belize is strikingly different from Mexico. Many houses were made of wood, as opposed to the concrete structures in the rest of Central America. Lawns generally were kept cut, and many people have nice gardens. I also noticed along the way that caskets in cemeteries are ABOVE ground. Actually, it is done in an attractive way, though it did seem somewhat less sanitary.
I had planned to spend this one day exploring Belize City, but almost upon arrival I realized I had made a mistake. Signs in the bus station warned travelers to remain in the bus station for their own safety and to travel only by taxi within the city. You could just look out the door and see the parasites waiting for an unsuspecting victim to walk out the door.
I took a taxi to a hotel- "Freddies" and dumped my stuff off there. Freddies is in a decent neighborhood (by BZ City standards) but even when carrying no cash, I did not feel safe in the neighborhood. I needed to eat, but everything in town was closed due to a Garifuna holiday. I was accosted several times while I tried to find something open, by people who tried to convince me that they knew of an open restaurant back in this dark alley or that secluded doorway.
Back near the hotel, I came across an old man doing crossword puzzles outside an office building. I asked him to advise me on how to get some dinner, and he said that would be a really bad idea since the nearest open restaurant was several blocks away. He offered to ride his bike up there for me and pick up some chicken and french fries, so I took a chance and gave him $5. He returned with a nice portion of both, and $4 in change! I sent him back again to get some for himself and we spent the afternoon chatting about Belize, and he educated me about the changes since the British left and the current political situation. Not such a bad day, after all.
I can say without any hesitation that Belize City is the most dangerous place I have ever been in all my life. Please be careful!