After an awesome stay with Ricky and Rex, we hopped on a bus from Orange Walk to Belize City. We were with a German couple we met the day before. They were charged $6/pp when the day before we were only charged $5 on exactly the same bus and company. It’s so difficult to know the cost of things, you can’t really argue sometimes and to be honest you just have to expect that as a tourist you will get over charged a bit which is fine. As long as no one is totally taking the piss which most people really are not. $1 to someone who works on the busy buses in Belize means far more to them than it would to us and the bus conductors move your luggage for you, carry it on and off the bus etc. The people have been so nice and friendly, always willing to help.
We got off the bus at the junction to Crooked Tree. We started walking the 3 and a half miles from the highway along the dusty and bumpy track but the midday heat soon stopped us and we hung about under a tree for no longer than 20 minutes until a bus came along! There is only one bus in a day! It came past at 11.55am. We met our first female bus driver and bus assistant.
On the short bus ride we met Jean, a wonderful and interesting retiree originally from Tenasse. After working for NASA for 30 years, Jean spent 27 months in the Peace Corpse in Nepal working in food security and agriculture and since then has been travelling all around the world with no plans to stop! Oh how we both want to be Jean, although with the amount we work and with times as they are, we probably won’t ever retire.
Crooked Trees @ Crooked Tree
Crooked Tree got its name, so they say, from early logwood cutters who boated up Belize River and Black Creek to a Giant lagoon marked by a tree that seemingly grew in every direction. These turned out to be logwood trees, and they still grow in abundance around the lagoon. Up until the causeway was built in 1984, the only way to reach the island was by boat, which explains the pace and lifestyle here. One dirt road through crooked tree takes you past a grocery store, a local vendor selling fruit and vegetables, a primary school, police station and a hurricane shelter. Crooked tree is as small town as it gets!
We found Tillett’s Village Lodge and met Judy who seemed to be running the joint from her little shop. She was nice but didn’t seem to give much of a shit about anything. The accomodation was the only lower cost option in the whole village and we still paid $60BZ ($30US) for a stand alone hut/cabaña. That is a lot compared to everything else, plus the hut was mouldy and rotten. We don’t mind that it was very basic but paying that much for that excuse for accomodation was a bit frustrating. The kitchen is was filthy. The kettle had mold in it, there was dirty dishes everywhere (from Judy, not other guests) and the fridge was horrendous.
Unfortunately Judy’s uncle had just died (in his mid 80s) and that day they went to dig a grave for him. The next day was his funeral and it sounded like pretty much everyone in the village was going.
We walked around the village three times over to see what was going on. Turns out nothing at all was going on and that was just fine by us. There were birds in everywhere we looked, I could have stayed here for weeks just taking photos. We had a beer with Jean and then finally found a place to eat that was open called Carry’s. The women cooking were so moody but the food was as usual fantastic! Tradition Belizean food which consisted of Salbutes (a puffed deep fried tortilla that is topped with lettuce, sliced avocado, pulled chicken, tomato and pickled red onion) and Garnaches (composed of a fried corn or wheat tortilla topped with refried beans, shredded cabbage, carrots, cheese, vinegar and salt).
The Vermillion Fly Catcher @ Crooked Tree
The Great Egret and the Cow @ Crooked Tree
The Tropical King Bird, not to be confused with the Couches King Bird… @ Crooked Tree
The Great Blue Heron @ Crooked Tree
That night the slats on the bed fell apart 3 times, such a dodgy little huts. Well that OR it could have been too many tacos… but let’s stick with the shoddy craftsmanship.
The next morning we were up at 5am for a birding tour with a guide called Reuben who had been guiding for 10 years. It was the most expensive birding tour I had ever been on, Judy was a total gun with the pricing. We started off great but less than half an hour in it started to pour down. We spent the next 2 hours spotting birds in the rain (and thunder and lightening!) which was a shame but we still really enjoyed it.
Here are some of the birds we saw as I bet that will really interest everyone….
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Green Backed Heron
Jacana (a.k.a the Jesus bird, as when it walks along the lily pads it looks like it’s a walking on water)
Tropical King bird
Couches king bird
Hook billed kite
Green king fisher
Vermillion fly catcher
Unfortunately we did not see the Jaribu stork (the largest bird in Belize which is basically the same height as me. Jabiru storks can stand 5ft tall with a wing span of 9ft!). Apparently one lives permanently in the middle of the village but we didn’t see it. We saw one at Belize Zoo and to be honest we were quite grateful to not come face to face with one that could chase or eat us.
Limpkin Eating a Snail Breakfast @ Crooked Tree
We would have loved to stay longer to just enjoy the quiet village life and the vast birdlife but we decided to move on as accomodation was expensive and pretty grim, plus the rain was now torrential.
We left beautiful little Crooked Tree in the pouring rain. We walked to the bus stop on the junction on the road out, met a guy called Benjamin who rented out marquees, garden furniture and portaloos for a living. We hitched a ride back up the road with a local guy called Steve (who was heading to Judy’s uncle’s funeral that afternoon) and caught a bus to Belize City, then another bus on to San Ignacio.
Mr Terrapin Catching Some Rays @ Crooked Tree
Belize is very Catholic and on the bus we were treated to what felt like all spoken word music with lyrics like- “Marriage is for life.”, “Every woman has a deep desire to become a man’s wife.” And our favourite- “She makes herself a victim of her own stubbornness.” (If “she” does not find a husband).
We often get whistled and shouted at in the street quite. It really doesn’t seem to matter about dressing conservatively, we’ve seen lots of locals in tight, sheer, or cropped tops and short shorts. We are pretty sure it’s just because we are tourists and essentially white. A little more aggressive than we are used to but we’ve read it’s not meant “aggressively”, and we are yet to experience anything other than verbal “Cat calling”. Aside from the whistling, the Belize people have been so friendly. Everyone smiles and says hi and often wants to engage in conversation with us just because they are interested.
Sad to leave crooked tree, but we will be back.