Toledo District, Belize
If you get into the Toleda District be sure and go down toward the border of Guatemala , the Southern Hy. takes a hard left ( you really have a stop sign at a T intersection ) at a village called DUMP the signs will point to your left (going south) to contiune on to Punta Gordo instead go right you will have some rough roads but will see REAL Mayan villages like San Antonio, Santa Cruz, Santa Elena, Pueblo Viejo. ect. stop at the stores and teahouses to get to really know these friendly people
The Village is in the southern part of Belize. The people are mostly Mayan. They speak english, and are very accomodating. They will allow house stays for a small charge. There is not too much to do there if you aren't an eco-tourist.
While visiting the South (Toledo District), I visited the Mayan village of San Antonio. These two kind girls guided me up to a small waterfall -- and walked around town with me. Although this village is somewhat tough to get to (depending on what your used to!) -- it is worth the dust and sweat to get there!
Punta Gorda is a beautiful and quite peaceful part of Belize. I have been there many times, and each time I am amazed and don't want to leave... which may not be the worst idea. It was in Punta Gorda that began an interesting and cool adventure. We stayed in Punta Gorda for the night, at the house of a friend of my family. We slept well the first night there, I in a hammock, falling to sleep to the warm air and mysterious sounds of the jungle. The next morning the fun began. Many natives of Belize use a small, ferry-type boat to get to such places as Livingston and Puerto Barrios. It is generally safe, although i know of one incident in which a few people died.... well, they were killed... shot to be exact... anyway, it was this same ferry my family and another family (friends of ours) took. We had started from Punta Gorda Belize, shoving off from a covered dock that has been there at least thirty years by this point. We stoped along the way to visit the Seven Cascades, a series of waterfalls that, in the wet season, are quite impressive. The kids sat up in the front of the boat and took in some sun why the adults chatted over the engine noise. We came first to Livingston, where we went through the Guatemalan border crossing and walked up through the town drinking orange fantas, and stopping to look at the merchandise of the street-side vendors. The soldier guarding the customs 'office' was a young guy, probably in his thirties, with an Israeli Uzi on a sling around his neck. We watched as thousands upon thousands of birds took off from the water, and either landed somewhere nearby, simply spooked, or flew an unknown distance away. We went back to our boat, a private ferry reserved just for us (and with the amount of crap we had, we needed it) and our driver, named Patrick and another young crew member with dark brown skin and amazing, striking and beautiful hazel/green eyes drove us to Puerto Barrios. We arrived in Puerto Barrios and found some food and drink, then went about finding lodging for the night. In the darkening evening light we watched huge Chiquita and Dole container ships being loaded with their cargo of bananas. I want to rememeber the name of the hotel, but cannot. It had simple rooms, a bed, a sink, a light bulb, a toilet, and a nice patio around which all the rooms could be accessed. We stayed there that night, and the next morning our boat, loaded again and ready to go, shoved off. We puttered our way along the coast, once again in open ocean, decently protected by the reef, way, way out, until we at length came to the mouth of the Rio Dulce. Up the river. So began our journey up the calm Rio Dulce. The majestical cliffs above, the storks, blue herons and other various water-foul flying alongside and over our boat, contrasting white against the deep jungle green of the surrounding hills. Onward we went for countless hours up the river. We stopped once to refuel and get lunch, a lunch of fresh jumbo shrimp at a fairly modern restaurant. At some point in here there was one resort (oddly placed, I thought) that wasn't technically open as they were remodeling and expanding. We parked our boat on the circular wooden raised walkway above the water, I guess used as a swim area, and walked up. They were very, very nice and accomodating, and I really want to know the name so I can thank them properly here. Us kids ran around the place until dinner was ready. After a while we came to the place we planned on visting, Casa Guatemala, where years later I would return. We took a tour of the orphanage and were offered a chance, at some later date to work there for a time. We left Casa Guatemala and headed downriver to a quite impressive bridge. In the afternoon shadow of the bridge, we cleared all our stuff from the boat and got into a taxi that we had called to pick us up. I say we, and there I should say Larry, an amazing missionary-friend of ours who lives in PG. He made most of the arrangements, if not all of them, for us. The taxi drove us away from the river, over land and through the Chiquita Banana Plantation, a huge, vast and unbelievably immense plantation, with row after row after row after row, etc etc etc of banana trees. It was quite amazing. However, to get there, the driver went into the little grocery store under the bridge and bought some things, like Cokes and cigarettes to give to the plantation police as a bribe to let us through. We also shelled out some money to them. I'd say it was well worth it. Somewhere within the plantation we stopped and got all our stuff out of the two taxis in which we rode, piling it near a small thatch-roofed shelter. It was at that shelter that we met another American travel, Don Smith. Besides a comedian (although he didn't know it at the time) Don Smith was a wealth of knowldge, and a true world traveler. This older gent was quite the man to meet, and I'd love to make his acquaintance again some day. Mr. Smith, if you're out there... email me. We waited for a while at the shelter, poised atop a bank leading down to a smaller river or creek. When our boat, much smaller this time, arrived, we loaded it full of all our luggage (way too much, especially for this type of trip) and got in. The new drivers, younger guys, took us us the creek to a point where we veered off the main body and eventually narrowed some much we conldn't go on by boat. From there we picked up our luggage and portaged five minutes away to another boat. Except that it was not five minutes. It wasn't ten. It wasn't fifteen... I don't recall how long it took, but we did finally make it to the other boat. This we got in, with some slipping and scuffling, and the even younger drivers drove us through a shallow, open area, ou of the trees for a while, in what seemed to be a swamp, covered in water lilies with pink blossoms, then back into the trees where the water got very clear and very shallow. So shallow that we had to get out and walk the wooden boat until it got deep enough to get back in. The water, again, was crystal clear, and the bottom sparkled with various rocks or minerals. We got back in the boat and continued on our way arriving finally at another place where we had to get out. We weren't to return to the boat, however, as our path, and Don Smith's took us on a walk through Honduras, yes Honduras, until we reached a road. There was a store on the road, and in front of the store we drank orange fantas and smelled the pungent and somewhat unpleasant smell of drying beans, or nuts. We had no car to pick us up here, so had to find a way to get to Puerto Cortez. Lo and behold towards us, going in the direction we wanted to go, bounced a small, white pick-up. We asked the driver, a born-again Christian, for a ride and he agreed to drive us. Into the bed went al our luggage, and on top of our luggage we sat, Don Smith resting his number 7 vertebra on the tailgate. (Funny guy) We drove until we came to a bridge, at which point the driver asked us to get out and walk across the bridge, as he didn't trust its integrity. We did so and got back in the truck on the other side. A ways down the road, we were accosted by a herd of cattle, oblivious to our horn and yells. We managed through them, and drove down into Puerto Cortez. The hard part (hard? HA!) of our journey was over. From Puerto Cortez, we flew, after spending the night, to San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, then on to Roatan, where we spent the next week on the sand at Fantasy Island Resort. What a trip. Next up, repeat of that trip, Casa Guatemala
For people that don't care as much about the tourist thing to do and want to connect with the local people, then the Toledo Ecotourism Association is the thing for you! The Toledo district is the southernmost part of Belize, and is far away from the heavily visited Cayo district, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. Therefore, it sees very few tourists. This is both a blessing and a curse for the locals, as without tourists, they are free to live there lives without rich Americans taking advantage of them and destroying their peaceful way of life. However, without tourists, very little money makes it into the area except from farming. TEA was formed by a group of several Mayan villages to allow open-minded and adventurous travellers to sample their way of life. Visitors stay in a simple thatch-roofed bunk house (There is one in most villiages) Meals prepared by and eaten with a different family each day, and during the day, you can work with them as well. For more information, go to their website, www.plenty.org
Don't forget to go south.. We do missions in the Mayan villages there and they have much to offer the tourist.