One of the very good things about living right up in the north of Belize is that we are only 8 or 9 miles from the Mexican border (see the location page). This means it is very easy to go there for a day trip and the Yukatan peninsular is really beautiful and full of fascinating history.
Last week a friend, by way of celebrating the 30th anniversary of her 40th birthday (she stopped counting at 40) took a group of us to Bacalar for the day. It was a fantastic day. I so enjoyed it.
I must say crossing the border gets easier every time you do it. The first time it is totally confusing and everyone tends to have a different story about what to do or what to expect. Until you have permanent residency you have to pay Bz$37.50 each time you leave Belize even if for only a day. On the Mexico to Belize crossing there is sometimes a problem with the Mexicans charging an exit fee but this is apparently not legitimate. You can go by car or by bus. A bus from Corozal to Chetumal, a trip of about 20 miles cost all of Bz$2 (US$1) can you believe it.
This time we did it quite differently. We drove through the Belize border and then parked the car outside a hotel in sort of no man’s land in the Free Zone. We then walked across the bridge into the village of St Elena where we were met by a former Corozal expat friend who now lives in Chetumal. From there it was about a 40 minute drive to Bacalar.
Bacalar is situated on a 35 mile long lagoon also known as “the seven colors lagoon” for its varying shades of turquoise and blue color. It was a Mayan town taken by the Spanish in the 16th Century. It has a fort built in the 1720s to protect it from marauding pirates. Later on during the extremely violent Caste wars which began in 1848 it was used by the Maya people to fortify themselves against the Spanish.
After some breakfast we took a boat out on to the lagoon.
There are private houses (many built by American and Canadian retirees), resorts, hotels and back packers’ lodges dotted all along the shore. One can’t help but feel anxious for the environment as more people discover this little jewel in the middle of nowhere.
So many different styles. Look at the Om symbol on the roof of the cabana in the second photo.
The lagoon is quite shallow but within it are several sink holes or cenotes. It has a large colony of living stromatolites – literally living rock, an algal that evolved 3.5 billion years ago. This is one of the very few places in the world where the ancient life-form continues to thrive.
The boat ride ended with a lovely lazy swim in a canal that links the lagoon to the Hondo river and then we went for lunch. Great for sea food, a bit tricky for vegetarians but you can’t beat that salad for presentation.
Nearer to home we were very pleased to see a fox in the garden a few weeks ago. Pleased because the ongoing practise of turning forest into sugar cane fields up here in the north is drastically reducing the area for wild animals to move freely. They are hunted shamelessly and although Henry had seen foxes passing through in 2010 when he first moved on to the Retreat, this is the first time we have seen one in the 4 years I have been here. However the pleasure was short lived as the next day the fox was seen dead on the road and the vultures were doing their job of cleaning it up.
But on a much brighter note, the very patchy rains have at least brought some colour to the garden. Even though we water when it is dry and even though we water with well water, as opposed to chlorinated town water, there is nothing like the rain to produce that life and colour.