They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but in Belize an excursion usually begins with a smile.
And during your Belize Airport to San Ignacio's Chaa Creek, it keeps getting better as our friendly, knowledgeable drivers help acquaint you with the unique topography and colourful history of Belize as you make your way from the sparkling Caribbean coastline to the lush rainforests of the west.
The adventure begins even before landing at Philip Goldson International Airport, usually with beautiful views of the blue Caribbean, Belize Barrier Reef, the hundreds of tiny islands below and pristine Belize coastline.
The airport is outside of Belize City, and the drive out is pleasant and hassle free with the land continually changing as you leave the coast.
The low-lying mangrove and sand begins to give way to low bush, with homesteads and small villages with names like Ladyville, Hattieville, Bermudian Landing, Burrell Boom, Teakettle, Roaring Creek and Ontario scattered along the Western Highway.
The Maya Mountains are visible for most of the hour and half drive, with the distinctive, jagged Cockscomb Mountains becoming more distinct as you move inland and pass the national capitol of Belmopan and the turn off to the Hummingbird Highway. More fertile farmland appears and the land begins undulating towards the foothills of the Maya Mountains
The trip is comfortable and it will seem like no time at all before you’re passing the sprawling Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout, the well-tended agricultural stations of Central Farm & the old British Forces base of Holdfast Camp to begin approaching the twin towns of first Santa Elena & then San Ignacio across the Hawksworth Bridge.
People often remark on the old west colonial look of San Ignacio, or Cayo as it’s called locally, which houses what must be one of the most diverse populations on the planet, with Latino, Creole, Maya, Garifuna, European, Mennonite, Chinese, Lebanese, Indian and people from other cultural backgrounds calling the twin towns home. Perched on the border with Guatemala and the meeting of the Mopan and Macal Rivers, it has long been a vibrant bilingual agricultural and trade centre since the time of the ancient Maya.
San Ignacio is where many people become introduced to Belize’s rich Maya culture, both through today’s Maya citizens and the remnants of the many structures, temples and archaeological sites dotting the area. Cahal Pech, a lovely excavated site with a royal palace and ceremonial areas is near the centre of town on the way to Chaa Creek. Sprawling, shady El Pilar and the exquisite temple of Xunantunich are also close by.
Soon after leaving town on the way towards the Guatemala border you come to Chial Road, which has connected the Western Highway with small farms along the Macal River for as long as anyone can remember, and leads to Chaa Creek.
Still unpaved, it is packed with white marl, just as the ancient Maya roads, known as sacbeob (plural for sacbe), have been for thousands of years.
You’ll soon notice the dense verdant rainforest and rolling hills behind the pasture lands as the jungle rises to the Maya Mountains as you wind your way through the final leg to Chaa Creek.
With our friendly staff waiting to greet you and a cool drink soon at hand and, after such an easy-going introduction to Belize, you’ll be ready to relax and let the adventure continue.
Darren Lamb, Adventure Connoisseur