Still Not As Weird As MONA

7th Oct. 2016

Who's a pretty boy then?We’re moving on again today, this time in to Belize. It’s hard to believe that we have been in Guatemala 10 days. Not only has the time passed so quickly, but we have been in 4 different places each of which has had a unique feel and each has shown us a different side of the country and its people. Suffice to say that we have loved it all, have found the people friendly and we’ve learned an awful lot more about the geography, culture and history of Guatemala (not hard, as we knew almost nothing before we arrived!)

Before we head on, there is just time for one last set of photographs of the hotel in its pretty lakeside setting. I’m not sure we quite got the best of the jetty and reflection of hills on the still lake waters, but I’m quite pleased with the picture bwlow. Also in the hotel grounds is a sanctuary for Scarlet Macaws and I definitely need to get pictures of them. The path up the hill to the sanctuary is a little hard to find, but a couple of friendly gardeners pointed out the scramble up the wall and path up through the woods. Cue some time fiddling with camera settings and waiting for the Macaws to pose properly!

Early morning reflectionQueueing for Belize immigration

The border is about an hour & a half drive (“mas o menos”) from Flores the first part of which is retracing our steps toward Tikal. Also, at one point, Saulo, our driver, points out the road to Guatemala City and tells us it is at least an 8 hour drive away. We are very happy that we flew up.

Heliconia flowerBy now, we have done so many border crossings that we have become a bit complacent about them. On our last trip, in both the South America and the Africa segments, our guides would always tell us that border crossings were unpredictable and that if the officials were in a bad mood, it could take a long time. We never had any problems or any particularly long waits. Until now. The leaving Guatemala part was easy – we weren’t even asked for the departure tax we were expecting to pay.

SlaveryIt was when we got to the Belize immigration post and saw the queue snaking out of the door of the hut that we realised there was a problem. Even seeing the “Welcome Prince Harry” sign painted on one of the walls didn’t make up for the snail like pace by which the queue moved forward – with us stuck out in the tropical sunshine. We are now essentially at sea level (for the first time this trip) and it is much hotter and more humid than we have experienced before which does not help when standing in line with pack on back. Eventually, a second official is added to the processing desk and the rate of processing more than doubles and an hour later, we are through and introducing ourselves to our new driver Shen Li.

Painted PontiacBefore we get to our hotel, we have a pre-planned stop at Poustinia Land Art park. As you have probably worked out, we are intrigued by off-beat, quirky things and Poustinia certainly fits that category. It is set in the grounds of a former cattle ranch and is home to a number of modern art displays – that are gradually reverting to nature. For example, there is a relaid parquet floor (the timber was originally Belizian, taken to Britain and laid as a floor and then salvaged and returned as a wooden strip on the ground to Belize). All very well, but the floor is now almost completely rotten and we would not have spotted it if it weren’t pointed out to us.

Little Miss Muffet & friendThere must have been 30 or so pieces of art set in a 60 acre “park” (i.e. trails through the jungle). Some were obvious – and some we needed to have pointed out (and explained) to us; some were thought provoking; most were bizarre (this is modern art, remember); and some had been almost totally reclaimed by nature. Apparently, if you are an artist, the deal is that you can have free accommodation in a villa (hut) on-site whilst you create your work. The photographs in this post capture some of our favourite pieces. Overall, we thought this was a good idea and worth coming to – the pieces were not as downright bizarre as those we encountered at MONA in Tasmania (see here). What Poustinia did need though was more art and more customers. Not only was this the first time Shen Li had been to Poustinia, he had not heard of it before.

InvasionAfter being dropped at our hotel – and finding that our room was not yet ready for us – we dropped off our backpacks and headed into town for a beer, lunch and to collate our first impressions of Belize. The big surprise about Belize (we really haven’t done much Perfect Prior Preparation) is that the official language is English. Janet recalls that the country used to be called British Honduras, and conversations with Shen Li (who has a Scottish Grandfather) confirms that not only is this the only Central American country with English as an official language but that it should really be thought of as a Caribbean rather than Latin American country. After a month of being in Spanish-speaking countries it is a bit of a culture shock – especially not feeling guilty when resorting to speaking English!

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