US Border to Belize by bus!

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Jul 23rd, 2018, 08:46 AM
  #41
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Baboon Sanctuary
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Jul 23rd, 2018, 09:26 AM
  #42
 
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Thanks Daniel for this unusual trip report. I visited Belize about ten years ago, though more conventionally, by jet, and stayed on San Pedro and in the Cayo. What I took away was an image of a culturally and racially mixed population which seemed, on my admittedly superficial exposure, to live harmoniously.

Your report brought back memories of the Mayan ruins and our snorkeling and fishing trips. Perhaps we'll return, as we didn't see much of Belize City.
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Jul 23rd, 2018, 11:55 AM
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Thank you Fradiavolo for your comment. I agree there seemed to be an appreciation of the unique mix that made up Belize among those I spoke to--the tour guide considered himself Creole as he had a grandparent that was Afro-Belizean but he said maybe he should declare himself as Mayan as he had another grandparent of that group. Shanice at the Radisson, who had beautiful distinctive high cheekbones, was so pleased when I said I was interested in the Garifuna as her father belonged to that group.

Your post reminds me that for such a small country, what a mind-blowing wealth of activities there are. I completely missed the whole Cayo District and just saw San Pedro in transit--some people in Caye Caulker were telling me about all the amazing activities they did in San Ignacio, that it was their favourite spot and couldn't believe I wasn't going. Not to mention the many other Mayan sites, the Southern coastal communities and the Blue Hole, to name 3...
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Jul 23rd, 2018, 02:30 PM
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*My final hoorah in Mexico/Central America Real de Catorce*

Coming from San Luis Potosí northbound, I decided that at long last I was going to do a
pit-stop (for 2 nights) in Real de Catorce. I had always been a bit put off from going in previous years as getting there requires 3 buses from SLP. First to Matehuala, then to something called Dolores Trompeta and finally a small bus through a tunnel to Real de Catorce. What was a bit of a relief that I didn't realize was that one could purchase a ticket through Grupo Senda (Transportes del Norte) in San Luis Potosí that would get you all the way there and back to Matehuala. And that the first 2 buses were larger, with bathrooms in the back and space to put luggage underneath.

What had me concerned though was when on the 2nd bus from Matehuala we turned off of paved highway onto a stone road that went bumpity bumpity bump and was on the narrow side, winding in places with blind curves and steep precipices below. Especially when I'd see a sizeable vehicle moving toward us in the opposite direction. There were 3 or 4 stops along the way, in tiny communities that made Matehuala seem gargantuan and cosmopolitan in comparison. No one told me this, so I'll tell you; the stop in front of the tunnel going into Real de Catorce is the *last stop*. And then you wait...for maybe 20 minutes? After waiting, this clunky, no-frills low bus (mine said Turismo on it) arrives and you pile on, suitcase likely between your legs as you sit. The bus then goes through this maybe 10-foot tall roughly hewn out of rock tunnel that made me anxious as I wondered at times if we would actually fit as the driver had to adroitly maneuver the turns for several kilometres to make it to the other side.

I'll be honest that at first I was thinking "what have I done?" upon arriving as the streets were all of this stone that made it challenging to wheel my luggage to my hotel, with a quite narrow space between the stands where vendors sold all ilk of crafts & trinkets, with sometimes steep hills with occasionally smoothish and therefore slippery rocks to get to my hotel, Amor y Paz. Now a Pueblo Magico, quite popular with Mexican tourists and a smaller number of extranjeros, I quickly warmed up more to the town as it hearkens in some ways to an old Mexico, with horses and mules commonly observable in a setting of mostly old stone buildings, surrounded by some
absolutely spectacular desert mountainscapes. An excellent photo op was an arena where cockfighting took place called Palenque with stadium seats made out of stone --fascinating and brought me back to a Mexican culture of yore.

My hotel room offered similarly Old World charm with stone walls and wooden shutters with a courtyard to cross to go to the main dining area and reception. At first I was concerned that there was neither A/C nor fan but I soon realized that neither were necessary as Real de Catorce gets very cool at night, so much so that I wore my fall Montreal jacket to walk to breakfast my first morning there. My second favourite thing in Real de Catorce was my hotel room, during the day for the views and at night for the view of thousands of stars in the night sky, compared to the maybe 5 I see at night in Montreal thanks to light pollution.

My far-and-away favourite activity while in Real de Catorce though was riding a horse up to the Cerro Quemado to a holy shrine of the Huichol people. For 500 pesos, I arranged the three hour tour with one of the guys (name Jose Santos) wearing a tag in the plaza next to the cathedral. He went and readied the horse immediately after I had agreed to go, a beautiful, gentle male named Relámpago. Since I had not ridden a horse since I was 14 years old, he lead Relámpago up via a rope attached to his mare Princesa. The early part of the journey by horse was fascinating as we passed by an abandoned hospital, fortifications and aqueduct from the days when Real de Catorce was a prosperous silver mining town in the 19th and early 20th century and needed protection from bandits. During the Mexican revolution the town was abandoned and the citizens fled to the state capitals. Once out of the abandoned town, I had about 40 minutes with horseback views of phenomenal desert valleys and mountains, dried river beds as we worked our way up the rock and dirt path to a spot where we hitched up our horses before making the final 20-minute climb to the shrine. In addition to a small building where people had placed their offerings (colourful rhombuses with the four cardinal directions were common as well as candles), there was a scenic outlook with concentric circles of stones that the Huichol would travel to all the way from Jalisco state (a several week trek made by foot) and a sacred ceremony would be performed that involved the hallucinogen peyote. Fascinating; the guide asked if I could feel the special energy of the site--I can't say that I particularly did, but I said "quizás" to be polite.

All in all, Real de Catorce is a stunning town that is worth a detour if in the Monterrey or San Luis Potosí area--there are also jeep and other horse/mule tours that bring visitors to other scenic spots. I would say 2 days would be plenty for most, unless you decide you simply want to chill in an Old Mexico-style locale where you can see the stars.
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Jul 23rd, 2018, 02:36 PM
  #45
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Huichol shrine. Worshipped sun at center.


View during horse ride.


Town of Real de Catorce.


Horses seen in Real de Catorce
And here to finish the Mexico/Belize report are some photos of stunning Real de Catorce!
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Jul 24th, 2018, 03:06 PM
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Parts of the mostly forgettable move "The Mexican" with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts were filmed in Rd14. There is a funny scene however at the entrance to the tunnel. And my all-time personal favorite Mexico photo is one I took there. Nice report.
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Jul 24th, 2018, 06:44 PM
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An unexpected bonus. My friend in SLP also recommends Real de Catorce. Thanks again for an eye-opening thread.
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Jul 25th, 2018, 12:39 PM
  #48
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Thanks baldone and Fradiavolo for reading up to Real de Catorce! Great picture, baldone. Wishing you both happy travels this year! Daniel
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Aug 26th, 2018, 08:41 AM
  #49
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Correction: A friend pointed out to me that what I referred to repeatedly as the Strip in Caye Caulker, is actually called the Split. Oops.
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Sep 25th, 2018, 08:21 AM
  #50
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Another error I made: Chetumal-Villahermosa cost me 523 pesos, not Chetumal-Puebla!
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