It’s not exactly predictable where you end up when you google. In this case I just searched the internet for instructions for the Hella lights I got for our planed winter tour to North Cape – but I accidentally ended deep in the rainforest in Belize. All because I came across www.nolimitx.com.
NoLimitExpedition is based in Guatemala, and Angela and James Brown, who is behind the company are very experienced Overlanders, who has traveled an awful lot of places around the globe. A travel experience they like to share, and that has become their way of living.
The concept is quite simple. NolimitX got the knowledge about where to go and what to see, their vehicles are fully equipped for expeditions. James is a brilliant cook and together with his co-guide, Graham Jackson, they make unforgettable and adventurous tours in Central America. I joined them on 8 days of adventure in Belize.
Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, is an independent country on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is only about 290 km long and 110 km wide. It is probably most famous for its beautiful beaches and the scuba-diving paradise on the huge reef just out of the coastline.
The History of Belize dates back thousands of years. The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC to 1200 BC and flourished until about 1000 AD. Severales, including Cahal Pech, Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. 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, sporadic attacks by natives, and neighboring Spanish settlements.
Great Britain first sent an official to the area in the late 17th 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 21 September 1981. So now tiny Belize is on its own, with some scary large neighbors, and as the only country in the area, it has English as the main language.
We didn’t come to see neither beaches nor reefs – we came to see jungle! Dense and impenetrabel jungle. Or almost impenetrable, because with two Land Rover Defenders, chainsaws and machetes we actually managed to get through it.
Approximately 12 hours before I had to take the train to Copenhagen airport, I was notified that I only had 6 hours to do it. Congo Airlines (=IcelandExpress) had chosen to cancel the departure to New York EWR at 1pm. Instead they booked me on a flight to Düsseldorf at 9 am. Since check-in time is two hours prior take-of I had to take the train from Odense at 4:30 am!
The flight to Düsseldorf went well, and so did the connecting flight to New York, except it landed in JFK – not EWR!.
So I took the subway to Manhatten, jumped of at 42end street and inhaled the NY feeling for a few hours. I might seem a little provincial when I go to Copenhagen, but in NY I felt like a true hillbilly. I spend about 5 hours in the city before I headed out to EWR, believing I could take a nap before checking in at 4 am.
You can simply forget all about napping in an airport, when you have to sit across two armrests while you are entangled to your duffel back so nobody runs away with it. But at least I could listen to a lot of great podcasts! After boarding, the rest of the flight to Miami and further to Belize City went well, except they didn’t serve any meals on board.
When I landed in Belize I took a bus approx 50 km to New River and then a small dinghy to Lamanai Outpost Lodge. A little bit tired and a little bit hungry…!
Early birds get up with the sun, and so did we. Breakfast at 7am and take off at 8am. But I happened to be completely rested after an amazing sleep. I fell a sleep to the sounds of birds singing, cicadas and howling monkeys – the original soundtrack of the jungle…
We only had half a hours driving to get to the temple of the jaguar and the near by Mask Temple close to Lamanai. The days stage ended deep in the dense jungle at Gallon Jug close to the Guatemalian border. After pitching the tents on a hilltop with a great view above the steaming forest we had the best gourmet dinner and a glass of Ron Zacapa while listening to the sounds of the jungle. Ron Zacapa goes with most places, but this particular spot happened to be very authentic!
The part of the jungle we stayed in was privately owned. The owner of the largest brewery in Belize, Belikin Beer, bought a giant estate. Most af it is now protected as a nature reserve. The Belikin Beer family has built themselves a little village in the middle, with its own post office, school etc. They fly in teachers from USA to educate there children, to be sure they get the best education possible.
Third day started with packing the tents in heavy rain, while James did the cooking. Must say it’s okay, we chose to move in to a rainforest after all.
We proceeded the journey trough “the land of the Belikin-man” to Chin Chin, where we had the national dish of Belize -fried chicken – for lunch, before we headed of to Macal River Lodge. In Macal River lodge we trekked the medicine trail and enjoyed fried chicken for dinner.
Brilliant breakfast -and no, it wasn’t fried chicken! And that delicious creamy brown stuff on the plates wasn’t Nutella either. It was moshed beans. But the coffee was excellent and so was all the rest of the meal..!
We spend a few hours in the local Shamans company – or maybe it was just his descendant. Point is that we had a very fine guided tour in the herb garden, where we learned a lot about the medical use of the plants and intoxicatingly use of the same in particular. Lunch we ate in San Ignasio – chicken, but not fried!
After lunch we drove out on the bad roads, and since nobody fancied driving righthanddrive with manual sticks in a lefthanddrive country, I could drive as much as I wanted.
We ended the day in the coolest luxury lodge in the middle of the Pine Ridge reserve. A couple of us did a long hike to make space for the upcoming dinner. A very clever investment…
The Hidden Valley Inn brewed their own coffee – as in, they made it from the bottom. Cultivated the coffee plants, collected the beans, dried and roasted them and poured water over them. It brought the meaning of homemade coffeeto a new level and it will never be the same again…
The 5th day started with some green-laning and picnic in the area around The Hidden Valley Inn – and ended on an abandoned British military base. The Englishmen finally left the country last year and amongst others left this spooky ghost town.
I guess Belize must feel a little divided with their independence. I know I would. The precence of British troops has probably been what kept Guatemala out of the country for decades. Time will show if Belize is an independent country on borrowed time.
We had a longer drive to day. We went to Caracol, to visit one of the most famous Maya complexes. To be sure to have that experience on our own we went early. And we were rewarded – we were the only ones around.
From Caracol we continued to remote research station, where scientists studied the big cats and the nearby caves.
We spend the afternoon studying 100 ways to get stucked in a Land Rover -simply by driving down the Monkey Tail Trail. And we just managed to visit one of the caves before dark.
On the second last day there was cave exploring on the menu. In Barton Creek Cave we sailed approx 900 meters into the cave. We saw stalactites and stalagmites in the incredible beautiful cave. Some places it was big as a cathedral!
We spent the last evening and night not far from the cave. -just had to cross a river to get there.
After breakfast we all split up. Some went to Guatemala, some went to USA. I went back to Denmark via Miami-London-Frankfurt-Copenhagen. Belize is just pretty far away! But absolutely worth a visit.
Belize – I’ll be back!