Culture / July 22, 2011
By Matthew Bossons
It was packed full of people. Trying to generalize this group was difficult, yes most were Belizian, but there was also a good mix of Mexicans, Americans, Europeans, and obviously, Canadians.
It was impossible to pin an average age on this rag-tag group. There were elderly people and babies side by side. Both sweating alike in the blistering midday heat.
This was a bus ride through the heart land of the strangest country in Central America – Belize.
You may wonder why I claim this place is strange, and well, I have my reasons. The first thing that caught me off guard about Belize is that the country’s national language is English. Every other country in the Central America is first and foremost Spanish-speaking.
The second thing that I found unique is, unlike it’s neighbours, it has a large black population. These citizens are descendants of African slaves brought to what was once known as British Honduras to serve the British Crown. Or at least that’s how it was explained to me.
These once oppressed people are now free, and extremely welcoming and inclusive. They are proud members of an amazing Caribbean culture, one that I have the utmost respect for.
The bus was packed, far beyond capacity. People were crammed so carelessly into the aisles that I wondered who would be the first to collapse from heat stroke. Heat stroke is a very real threat in 35 degree weather, especially in a metal bus with no air-conditioning.
The bus pulled out of Belize City shortly after noon, and it began the long, reckless drive north, to the Mexican boarder. Me and my companions had no intention of crossing into Mexico, not now at any rate.
Our destination was Corozal. A small, yet bustling, town along the Caribbean Sea with tons of charm and an unlimited amount of character.
I was really unsure how long this bus ride would take, based on previous experience I figured it was a three hour drive in optimum conditions, but today was anything but optimum.
The bus would just begin to pick up speed before seeing a pedestrian, pulling over, and cramming them onto the already full bus. This happened so frequently that I figured the drive was going to take days.
This was not actually the case, we made it to Corozal before sunset, but regardless, this ride was long. It probably took five hours to reach our destination, but when you feel like a pizza in an oven it feels like eternity.
To make matters worse, the locals were in the midst of scorching and burning the farmland beside the highway, which meant the only air circulating through the bus happened to smell like campfire. Not good for the asthma.
On the plus side, I got to meet some eccentric locals, many with outrageous stories of past commutes to, and from, Belize City. Another plus was the catchy and relaxing reggae that the bus driver was jamming through a distorted old stereo.
It wasn’t your typical bus ride, but nothing about Belize was typical. What else to you expect for $2.50?