Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Crocodiles y un otro Juventus

Since travelling alone things have taken a refreshing turn for the bizarre, as will hopefully become clear.

Shortly after I wrote my last post I got on a bus bound for Orange Walk, in northern Belize. The reason I was going to this small(ish) town was because it would afford me the opportunity of spending the next day taking a boat trip down the imaginatively-entitled (can't trust Spaniards to name anything) "New River", through some jungle, to the Mayan ruin of Lamanai.

While other Mayan cities mysteriously declined after about AD900, Lamanai continued to prosper. Even after the conquistadors arrived its location in Belize, a country the Spanish didn't really care about, meant it was left relatively unscathed (except for a bit of church-building). Only when a load of British pirates decided to pack the buccaneering game in and start a sugar mill nearby did it fall apart, the European diseases ravaging the population. The sugar mill was an abject failure, too.

What wasn't a failure was my river trip. Leaving aside the Mayan ruins, about which I have written in the past and will in the future (suffice it to say they were dead good as usual), the real highlight was the wildlife (more mosquitos not included). During the journey I saw several crocodiles (one really big one, estimated by locals as being between 7 and 15 feet long depending on who you talk to), a turtle, some bats, several iguanas, lots of birds and a coatimundi or two. At the ruins themselves howler monkeys were visible (and extremely audible). All in all it was fantastic, except for the previously mentioned (and more previously lamented - see other posts) ravenous mosquitos.

My day didn't finish with the joys of wildlife spotting in the jungle, though. Oh no, it was to get much more weird than that. On the evening of that same day, as I was about to go out and get dinner, the woman who ran my hotel asked me if I wanted to go to the local karaoke bar with her and her bloke to celebrate with the rest of the town because their football team had won the Belizean championship the day before. When you get an offer like that, you can't really refuse, so I didn't.

The football team is called Juventus, and they even seem to play in the kit of the Italian giants. And I don't just mean they also play in black and white stripes, I mean they actually use Juventus kits, presumably bought from a market somewhere. What's even more astonishing, though, is that most of the locals are totally unaware of the existence of another Juventus outside of Belize. They think that their Juve is the only one.

The story around Juventus (or, as they're known in terrible weekly rag The Belize Time, "Benny's Juventus" - not sure why) is that they used to be the best team in Belize, and won the Championship several years on teh trot. Then their players all decided they should be paid more money, and since the club couldn't afford more money, they all up and formed a new team based in Belize City. So Juve went under (from what I gather). But a group of young locals decided they wouldn't have that, and formed another Juventus team. And after a few years, they have now won the Belizean championship. All this I was told while waiting for the team to arrive in their 4x4 with the trophy, poised and ready to take some photos which I could "sell to papers in the States" as the woman running my guesthouse put it (no matter how many times I told her I wasn't from the US bus from England - it was like a reversed version of the way in "For Whom The Bell Tolls" all the Spaniards call the Septic main character "ingl├ęs").

The woman was actually really quite annoying. Fair play to her for inviting me out, but she had one reason and one alone for doing so, and that was so that I would buy all of her drinks that evening, and those of her bloke. So it cost me a fair amount each round, and thus I drank pretty slowly. Then she decided I was taking her and him to Corozal (another Belizean town) the next day where they were going to show me a nice time. Of course I would be paying for all that too. This ended up in me skipping town the next day and hopping on a bus bound for Mexico, like a fugitive in a film, except crossing Mexico's southern border not the northern, and running from a forceful old woman, not the cops. As for the drinks, I got a load of them bought for me later by a gaggle of Belizean twenty-somethings with whom I ingratiated myself. Which meant that I finished the evening crying with laughter standing outside a cheap food shack watching a couple of Belizean girls dancing provocatively with a crazy old tramp to loud music pumping out of the 4x4 we were driving around in. Madness...

Anyway, back to the team, I did indeed get lots of photos of the players with the trophy (as if I had any choice - the old woman was extremely bossy), so if any papers happen to read this, and want the snaps when I return to Blighty, just let me know...

My crawling exit from Orange Walk came at half ten on the morning of the 27th (Belizean time). It preceeded a long journey to Palenque in Mexico, where I now find myself, having arrived here at three thirty am on the morning of the 28th. But it wasn't too bad - I wasn't travelling all the time. Most of the time I was waiting around in Mexican border town Chetumal, which meant i got to watch Batman Begins on the cinema. It's pretty good, in my opinion. Nothing really interesting happened during my journey, except that while I was waiting for the sun to come up in Palenque bus station so that I could safely go and find a hotel, the open air building was suddenly swarmed by a load of massive winged insects. It was cool - everyone had to run away until they turned off the lights and thus enticed them outside (sort of). Still, homo sapiens had the last laugh - when I left several locals were picking up downed bugs and putting them in bags, with a view to cooking and eating them later.


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