After traveling nearly 24 hours, an amount of time that could get you to say, Cape Town, we finally arrived at the Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. Three plane rides, one mechanical break down, and a bumpy three hour backroad ride would land us on the border of Guatemala, in a lake side open air villa overlooking the river. It was well worth it.
On the last leg of the flight I was, admittedly, beat. Having barely slept in the prior twenty hours I mostly felt apathetic. That was of course, until we broke through the clouds and got our first glimpse of central America. I was immediately cured and elated. Atolls stretched out endlessly, skipping towards the horizon with a perfect gradient of dark green to turquoise water extending from the mainland. The sky flecked with clouds, was mostly a brilliant cyan blue. The landscape was familiar, yet entirely unique; low tightly packed shrubs filled the flat landscape with little break aside to show the many small clusters of red-roofed homes. I had yet to feel the normal thrill of travel, excitement yes, but not quite the all encompassing giddy feeling I normally experience. That view, gave me that, and more.
On the ground we met our driver to take us to the lodge. The weather was warm, and sticky, as you might expect. Driving west through the countryside I was struck by the eery similarities to all the other developing countries I had visited. Aside from the obvious indication of a lack of wealth there were tell-tale, if not subtle signs that this was not in fact, a first world country. One of the first stores we passes, and open air market attached to a restaurant in what could have also been someone else’s home with a sign that read “BBQ pork chicken: Jesus saves.” ah, yes. Families sat on the porches of their homes while kids ran around in the yard, a multitude of colored fabrics hanging from every possible branch on a near by tree. Ubiquitous coca-cola signs marked bars, or grocery stores, or schools. But mostly what gave it away were the roads. Well paved for a while, but then suddenly so pot-hole laden our cruising speed topped out at 25mph. A large logging truck had careened off the side of the road and hit an electrical poll, and was naturally, abandoned there. Well, let me clarify, four years ago the government had placed these polls there with a promise of electricity in attempts to rally support for a particular elected individual. Then, nothing happened, some locals cut them down for fire wood, but a few remained. So I guess you might say he just careened into an inconveniently erected stick. Though to be fair, Belize isn’t just like any other developing country, its so far, quite clean and strangely boasts a few “gated communities” which look transplanted from middle America. Mostly, though, it’s just really, really beautiful. The lowlands give a view of the caribbean you expect, but the rain forests are astounding. Perhaps it’s the quick change from scrub and blue to towering Jurassic plants and deep green. The lodge itself is on a reserve, and having been built by Francis Ford Coppola in the likeliness of “apocalypse now”- complete with actual elements from the set (think: ceiling fans) it certainly has a travel back in time feel.
We got a glimpse of the last rays of the sunset and had just enough time for dinner before retiring at the late hour of 9pm. Day 1, already done.