Says Price Charles, Homeless Propagator of History: "Unbelizeable"

Belize City Travel Blog

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The moment our bus parked at the station in Belize City, the doorway was mobbed by men and women clamoring in thick Caribbean accents. The motley crew weren't passengers for the next bus to leave, but an array of unofficial taxi drivers aggressively competing for our business and bags.

One grabbed us, convinced us he wasn't a scam artist, and off we drove toward a nearby hostel. The blocks of the city we covered were mostly concrete and dilapidated wood, connected by sandy, potholed roads. Belize City rests on the water, home to an almost entirely English-speaking Caribbean population, some latinos, with a number of transplants from India and especially China, who have a monopoly on Asian cuisine and convenience stores. American hip-hop, baggy shorts and basketball jerseys outfit the culture of youth, and the bloodshot eyes of policemen discredit the posted signs decrying drugs. Every taxi driver and many corner-lounging pedestrians accost tourists with drug-procuring offers, and beggers are aggressive again, hounding tourists, the all too obvious sunburned ghosts gliding at a pace too fast for a rasta-haven.

Our personal leetch called himself Prince Charles, a well-educated homeless man rambling on about Belizean history and allegory. Our denial of his services didn't deter him from leading us to a guest house as light dwindled, we on the Lonely Planet designated less-safe side of the bridge, nor did it discourage his uncanny tracking abilities, appearing with magnetic reliability every time we stepped outside until our departure the next morning, constantly working us for a "little piece of cheese." We ate delectable stew chicken with rice and beans, the Belizean staple, at a nearby restaurant before settling down for the night with a bagful of Beliken, the excellent national beer, entranced by cable TV, making a triumphant return from its fading hold in mythology, cheering USC's upset by Oregon State. (Too bad I've missed every Panther's game since the opener, UM's historic comeback vs. WI, and PSU's defeat of Illinois. Plus hockey season is starting. Ahhhh, fuck...)

Rural Belize has a low-country southern US feel, green, marshy terrain and one story houses on flat lots, others mounted on stilts, people in flip-flops or barefoot, shirts optional. The seedy city rush opposite the beachfront relaxtion we craved, we ferried to Caye (pronounced key) Caulker, a Belizean island, early the morning after our arrival in the city. A forty-five minute boat ride transformed Belize into a sand-paved paradise spotted with reggae bars and small, open-air diners.

It's the down season, so we're the only inhabitants at Tom's Hotel on Caye Caulker, a large, barebones beachfront hotel a few minutes walk from the main strip. Where we paid US$40 for relative luxury in Belize City, we're back to less than US$20 total on the island. Beer in Belize is sold only in single, heavy bottles, however, and never cheaper than BZ$3 (US$1.50), so booze and food constitute larger expenses, even with affordable, filling meal options like stew chicken, rice and beans. Waking up on the island for the first time today, we've already booked an additional three nights, scoped out a handful of eateries and a liter of Belizean rum.

I've wasted no time establishing myself as the crazy white boy (by which locals have several times referred to me), miffing the ganja-gangs huddled in the shade or strolling sans-shirt in the midday heat, scorching sun unimpeded by cloudless skies, as I sprint by on a ill-timed run. "Boy, ya know ya gon' kill ya'self doin' dat," yelled one dreadlocked artist as I sped past a meandering biker, another inquiring, "Boy, where ya goin'?" the second time we crossed paths, inevitable on the tiny island I could cover on foot in less than 10 minutes. The agonizing second half of the run lent credence to their incredulity, and if I wait only a few hours more in coming days I can share the sea breeze at sunset, the island engulfed in total black by 6:15pm, quiet and deserted save a few operational restaurant-bars and Chinese-owned convenience stores.
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Belize City
photo by: travelman727