This story is one of my favourite stories to tell because it was so unexpected, and the unexpected adventures are the best, no matter how small they are. A great resource for reading travellers’ stories (and finding travel buddies!) is gapyear.com and I am immensely proud to have been featured on their website before.
So, my story…
I was in San Ignacio, near the border of Guatemala in Belize, and I was with my Dutch friend, Ellen. Us two had decided that we wanted to go Horse Riding instead of caving, which is where the rest of our group had gone for the whole day. I have done a lot of caving in the UK as I was a Sea Scout, so fancied something a bit different. Plus anyone that knows me knows that I adore animals so anything involving them will be high on my list.
Our horse riding tour took us through the fields and grasslands of the area, across a river – my horse took quite a bit of encouragement to walk him onto the boat platform – and finally up to the ruins of Xunantunich. There, we had our own guide and the ruins were practically empty apart from just two other groups. They’re not particularly popular ruins but the lack of people there makes them great if you want to wander around at your own pace without the hustle and bustle of over touristy ruins, like Chichen Itza. Surprisingly though, it’s quite popular with the Royals, Prince Harry being the most recent visitor.
This is also where I saw my first lazy Howler Monkey. Thankfully, while I was stood underneath them they didn’t let out their famous death scream (or poop), but when they did a few minutes later, well, let’s just say I definitely DID NOT think a giant Panther was right behind me.
After making it back to our eco-lodge campsite me and Ellen were at a bit of a loss as to what to do. The rest of our group weren’t getting back for another 5 hours or so. We decided that we would pop into town to get to a cashpoint, come back and maybe play some frisbee golf. What we actually ended up doing was MUCH better.
We asked the receptionist how we could get into town and she said just flag down a cab (cars with a green license plates) so there we stood for a few minutes watching all these full green-plated cars go by. Eventually a pick up truck, with a white license plate, stops just ahead of us and Ellen goes to talk to them. At this point i’m just thinking ‘ummm i’ve never hitchhiked before, there could be some creepy guy with a baseball bat and bad intentions in there’.
Turns out it was an old Dutch lady so she and Ellen hit if off immediately and off we popped into town. After dropping us off the ATM she picked us up again and we decided to go the supermarket. A lot of the supermarkets there are owned by Asian families and nearly all family-owned shops in Central America are called Mama’s or Maria’s because of the close communities, so it was quite odd to be walking into Chan’s. Just something I didn’t really expect in rural Belize! Anyway, after doing our shopping she asked if we would mind if she went to buy some of her friend’s cheese. I wish I had a friend who makes cheese because who doesn’t love cheese?! (I’m looking at you Sam…)
We were up for a little adventure so we said we’d love to come and we arrived at a wonderful house with an absolute jungle of a garden, crammed to the borders with herbs, flowers and shrubbery (and bugs…). Turns out the woman who owns it moved here 30 years ago from Yorkshire (where I was born) and we had a lovely chat talking about places we both knew. Something else I didn’t expect in rural Belize – this place is becoming a lucky dip of the unexpected. They have their own chickens and cows and produce their own eggs, milk, bread, pastry and loads of different cheeses, which they sell at the market on the weekends. It was called Cool M Farm and they also have accommodation, and who doesn’t want to wake up to fresh bread and milk. Her daughters brought us some lovely coffee and then they mentioned the best news I think I had ever heard…
A litter of 13 6-week old puppies were in the back room… YES! I tried really hard to contain my excitement so I didn’t look like a complete puppy-obsessed weirdo but I don’t think I did very well. We sat there chatting for another hour or so with 3 adorable puppies sleeping in my lap. Eventually I was forced to leave this paradise behind and retreat to my puppy-absent campsite, but not before I bought some fresh yoghurt for the next morning. Just before we left though, the young girl only counted 12 puppies so I guess i’ll never know where the 13th one was hiding.