Cruise 09

Our Western Caribbean Cruise (Part Four)

Lost? You can catch up here with the precursor, part one, part two and part three.


This bit of vacation dribble is brought to you by the city of Belize.

I feel I must apologize, upfront, about the boring pictures this go-around. There are a lot of pictures of broken down homes, and overall poverty.

But I learned three important things while we toured Belize:

1. I am sooooo thankful that we live in the United States. (And it REALLY upsets me whenever I hear people slam the U.S. – visit a third-world country, sometime. I’m betting things will suddenly look A LOT better here in the good ole U S of A).

2. I think Jazz has an interest in photography.

3. I will never wear spaghetti strap shirts any place OTHER than the beach/vacation/away from home. (I hate my football shoulders).

These pictures … depress me. The good folks of Belize are working on building up their community, thanks to tourist dollars, and you could see improvements in spots, but overall, most of the Belize people are poor and live in rusty, tin houses.

I thought it was especially important for the boys to see this, and we talked about their living conditions afterwards. I think it gave them a new appreciation for everything they have. It sort of makes getting upset over a slow internet connection seem shallow and superficial, doesn’t it.

We took a tender to shore. The ship had to dock about thirty minutes away because the waters were too shallow to get any closer. The pictures of the outside of our boat were taken on the tender, as well as the pictures with the waves. Jazz claimed the Canon Rebel camera and shot away.

I think these are the coolest shots from the trip.

We finally arrived at the pier and were herded through a mall-type structure where the tour buses were waiting out back. We loaded our bus and began our tour of the city.

Everywhere we looked, we saw impossibly skinny dogs sniffing through clumps of garbage. We saw buildings barely held together with twine and other materials. Belize is a structured chaos, if that makes any sense.

Belize also doesn’t have a welfare system – everyone works or they go hungry. They have nationalized health care, but have to wait weeks to see a doctor. Their schools are built next to churches, as the churches run the schools. And they allow their teachers to discipline their children by spanking them whenever they disobey the rules. As a result, their children are very well behaved, both at school and at home.

Whenever our guide was going through these various facts about Belize, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was telling us this to somehow teach us something about our own chaotic and politically correct society.

I couldn’t help but agree with her.

I found the history of Belize really interesting:

From Wikipedia: The history of Belize dates back thousands of years. The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about AD 1200. Several major archeological sites—notably Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich—reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. European contact began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the coast. The first recorded European settlement was established by shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. This period also was marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging, and sporadic attacks by Indians and neighboring Spanish settlements.[1]

Great Britain first sent an official representative to the area in the late 18th century, but Belize was not formally termed the “Colony of British Honduras” until 1840. It became a crown colony in 1862. Subsequently, several constitutional changes were enacted to expand representative government. Full internal self-government under a ministerial system was granted in January 1964. The official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June 1973, and full independence was granted on September 21, 1981.

They have to bury their dead above ground. Belize is one to three feet under sea level. This means, they get flooded, a lot. They soon discovered, that burying their dead below ground, wasn’t feasible as the bodies would float to the surface whenever their city flooded. There is a picture of a graveyard in the slide show – it’s a plot of land with several concrete boxes.

We spent 45 minutes on the bus. It was a long and bumpy ride and I nearly tossed my cookies before we reached the ruins. I was literally swallowing my bile back down when we finally turned one last corner and were there.

Belize only has six street lights in their entire country and do not have speed limits, though they have speed bumps which forces people to slow down. They also have police checkpoints, which we had to pass through in order to leave town and head to the Mayan ruins.

They do not display gas prices. All gas stations charge the same amount and the overall price is controlled by the government. This sounds great on the surface, but they currently pay a little over $8.00 per gallon. As a result, most people can’t afford to have cars so most people either walk or ride bikes everywhere. Yet another reason competition is necessary in order to bring prices back down to an affordable level.

There are several pictures of the ruins. We had all three cameras out and, well, we had a lot of pictures. Our guide took us around the grounds and told us the history, but unfortunately, she was soft-spoken and we didn’t hear 3/4 of what she said.

Here’s a short video that Kevin took of our guide and our group shortly before we started the official tour of the Altun Ha ruins.

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more about "Starting Our Altun Ha Tour on Vimeo", posted with vodpod

(Subscribers, you’ll have to click over to see the videos, so sorry!)

From Wikipedia: Altun Ha is the name given ruins of an ancient Maya city in Belize, located in the Belize District about 30 miles (50 km) north of Belize City and about 6 miles (10 km) west of the shore of the Caribbean Sea.

“Altun Ha” is a modern name in the Maya language, coined by translating the name of the nearby village of Rockstone Pond. The ancient name is at present unknown.

The largest of Altun Ha’s temple-pyramids, the “Temple of the Masonry Altars”, is 54 feet (16 m) high.

The site covers an area of about 5 miles (8 km) square. The central square mile of the site has remains of some 500 structures.

The ruins of the ancient structures had their stones reused for residential construction of the agricultural village of Rockstone Pond in modern times, but the ancient site did not come to the attention of archeologists until 1963, when the existence of a sizable ancient site was recognized from the air by pilot and amateur Mayanist Hal Ball.

You can see a larger version of this slideshow here.

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more about "Cruise 09 (Day 3)", posted with vodpod

Last stop: Cozumel, Mexico. Kevin and I honeymooned on Cozumel 19 years ago. It was a real treat to take the kids back there and to revisit the place where it all started.