January 27-31, 2004
When we arrived in Belize we were ready for almost total inactivity after a very hectic last month in Mexico. There we tried to crowd in lots of things before our 180-day visas ran out. Such exertion took a toll on Jan, who had been recovering very slowly from a low-grade but very persistent and very debilitating cold caught in Oaxaca from Gerry.
We started our Belize stay in Orange Walk, where we mostly frittered away five days. Our first order of business was to find a doctor and some medicine for Jan. With directions we went over to the local hospital and while seeking help as to whom to talk to, we met a young lady from Pennsylvania doing an internship; she was studying to be a physician's assistant. She, and her two companions doing similar internships, are among the small minority in the world who have an a priori reason to come to Belize. Jan got the anitbiotics for free, and even the doctor's services were free — he was a volunteer from Nigeria — which gave Jan some guilt pangs but didn't stop her from taking the stuff. It is entirely unclear whether her gradual recovery that continued through the next few weeks was due to the medicine, in spite of the medicine, or independent of the medicine.
When we came into the country we noticed a lot of trash - some vegetation, like papyrus - all over the road, particularly around speed bumps (or "topes" as they are called in Mexico). At first we had no idea what they were or why the country didn't clean up the roads. Then as we walked and drove around Orange Walk and noticed that we were often slowed by large trucks, or even trains of three and more trailers drawn by a single tractor, we realized it was sugar cane.
In the north of Belize it was sugar cane harvest season. On our second day Gerry went out to the refinery near Orange Walk where he saw hundreds of trunks waiting to unload their cane. He asked how long harvest lasted. Answer: six months.
Having relaxed a bit and recovered some health we set out to be tourists again by going for the day to Lamanai, the number-one tourist attraction in Belize. Most people take a river trip there but we felt we'd done that and set out to explore the country by car. It was an exciting trip because we got lost so much and most of the roads we took were unpaved. After another day we went on to Belize City