One of the main reasons we chose to travel to Belize was a trip to Glover’s Atoll Resort way off shore. The only way to get there is by boat from Sittee River so we needed to get from Caye Caulker to Hopkins where we planned to spend New Year’s. We could have hired a taxi to take us there from Belize City but we are cheap and we like to see the country so we decided to take the local bus.
We knew it was going to be a long day so we took the 6:30 am ferry from Caye Caulker to Belize City. We arrived in Belize City too early for the banks to be open but we were getting to the point where we need some cash. Harold went out in search of a bank machine that would take our card an activity that would take up more of our time as the trip went on. We called it bank machine roulette. On the third try he got lucky and we got some cash. Cash is king in Belize but more upscale places will take a credit card.
We took a taxi from the ferry terminal to the bus station. It is not very far but given the reputation of the Belize City and the fact that we had luggage we decided to play it safe. The ride cost us $10, the taxi was pretty beat-up and I am not 100% sure it was legit but he got us to the bus station and I am glad we did not walk. The areas we drove through looked pretty rough.
The mainstream tourists don’t use the local buses but everyone at the bus terminal was very helpful and we were not the only foreigners using the buses. We took the “express” bus to Dangria- Punta Gorda. Bus schedules are hard to find in Belize but the buses run regularly so it’s not really an issue if you are traveling during the day.
All the buses are old US school buses. Belize is where school buses go where they are too beat-up for American kids. The insides are what you expect but the outsides are repainted and some are very creative. The buses were very full and had a “No Standies” rule which meant that some of the people waiting for the buses did not get on. Good to know if you are on a schedule. We were not really but we did get on. Once on the bus they have a guy who collects the fare or tickets and packs people into the seats. All children ended up on their parent’s laps with some families having 4 people in one seat.
The bus stopped at Belmapan and then continued on to Dangria. At each stop people came on to the bus to sell food. We were told we could get off to go to the bathroom but we worried that we would not get back on if we left our seats! Update- we later left a hat on a bus when we got off by mistake and went back to discover that the seat was unused because we left a hat on it.
Between cities the bus stopped and picked-up or dropped off passengers along the side of the road, the “No Standies” rule was much more relaxed on the open road.
The buses are cheap, we paid $28 Belize for the whole trip. Belize does not have a lot of roads and many of them are not paved as a result many of the bus routes are not direct. Different parts of the country are serviced by different bus companies so most longer trips require a change of buses. There are a few direct air conditioned tourist buses but they only go to the major destinations from Belize City. Hopkins is not one of them.
The bus dropped us off at Hopkins Junction which is a dusty bus shelter along the highway about 5 or 6 miles from Hopkins. We had no idea how we were going to get to town but a local at the stop assured us that sooner or later a local taxi or a local resident would show-up and take us to town. Sure enough a taxi did show-up and he took us to our lodgings for the night the Abacus Cabanas.
The Abacus Cabanas was quite far out of town by Belize standards. We picked it from Booking.com because the price looked Ok and the reviews were reasonable. We usually book most of our accommodations online from Ottawa before we leave. We use Expedia or Booking.com most of the time. Our preference is booking.com because they have a wider range of bookings. It’s a bit of a risk but we have never had an issue with a booking and we have always told ourselves that if we get there and the place it awful we will go somewhere else because we are not 20 something’s, we have credit cards and we are on vacation.
When the taxi pulled up in front of Abacus Cabanas we thought we had arrived at the spot that was going to put that to the test. The roads in Hopkins are not paved and the route to the Abacus Cabanas was along a dirt road with potholes so big even the locals had to drive around them. They had had a lot of rain and there was water everywhere. The building looked to be in the middle of a swamp. We went to the door and knocked but no one was there. We found a note saying we are in the garden. Harold eventually found the owners a German woman, Bregeta and her partner Rudy who turned out to be from Ottawa. They had one employee Clayton who was forever cleaning things! The inside was much nicer than the outside and thanks to Clayton it was very clean. We actually saw Clayton taking all the books off the bookshelves and cleaning under them! We had a room with a shared bath. There was a sitting area and a kitchen with a fridge, bottled water, a microwave and a stove. Everyone was very friendly.
We dumped our stuff and walked into town. The owners actually offered to take us in but we wanted to walk and explore. The roads in Hopkins all leave a lot to be desired, particularly for cars. Never buy a used car from Hopkins, even if it was only driven by an old lady on Sundays.
We found three grocery stores all were Chinese (as are most bigger grocery stores in Belize), two fruit stands, some stalls selling wood carvings and drums, and a few small bars and hotels.
We walked to the main beach which is pretty small. The water was brown and pretty choppy but that may have been because of all the rain. There were lots of dogs wandering around but they were friendly. There is a bar at the main beach so we hung out and had a beer. The other patrons were mostly locals and one guy did offer to sell us some weed.
We bought rum which is very cheap in Belize and Tang which comes in many different flavours in Belize. Clayton opened a coconut from the garden for us and we tried rum and coconut but it tasted too much like rum to me so I switched to rum and pineapple tang which we mixed in a Bushtukah water bottle.
The owners joined us on the back step for drinks and suggested that we should join them at the Windschief for New Years the following night.
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