You know the feeling when you belong to a country where cricket is worshipped and your husband is one of the most ardent believers? Yeah, I know it. While I know that I also know that when my eyes show interest in his passionate, and sometimes animated, replay of all the technical details of the game my mind can actually wander around the house, the neighbourhood and even nearby districts and come back.
Well, it was on one of these days when my mind was away on its exploratory quests that I heard the words “Tournament in Belize” echoing in the void. I ditched my quest midway and immediately returned to the present moment where I was being told by my husband that we would soon be travelling to Belize for a cricket tournament yippee!! I didn’t really know anything about the country before that, just the idea of a vacation excited me.
We took a flight from San Jose to El Salvador and from there to Belize. It took us around three hours to get there. A bus waited outside to take the players to their hotel. As I stuck my head out of the window and watched the city go past, two things clearly struck me – the heat and the emptiness. The streets were quite deserted and the heat made me miss the pleasant weather back in San Jose. Swallowing the first little disappointment with self-imposed optimism I looked forward to the rest of the trip. After a short break to freshen up we left for the grounds for the first match. As the guys padded up I befriended two beautiful ladies who were also accompanying their husbands on this trip. We grabbed boxes of rice and chicken and watched some dusty cricket as the sun set in the distance. After the long, hot day it was time for chilled Belikin beer and snooker at a nearby restaurant. By the time we called it a day, Belize was starting to grow on me.
The next day we parted ways, while the guys headed for the field again the ladies went on to rent a car and explore the city. Our first stop was Altun Ha, the ruins of the Mayan civilization. Calling it ‘the ruins’ seems a little unfair since the place is so immaculately preserved. We saw a number of pyramid-like structures some of which had been temples where sacrifices were made back in ancient times. After soaking in the beauty and sturdiness of these age old structures around us we just sat quietly on the highest temple roof and imagined what the Mayans would have been like. We visited the museum on the way out where we read more about the Mayan history and also bought a few colourful souvenirs.
We decided to spend the rest of the day at the beach, however, I had to be left back at the hotel as my migraine had kicked in full force, all thanks to the benevolent sun god ! My friends did not end up at the beach that day, instead, they took some pretty amazing pictures at the colourful Belize Sign Monument. The only colour I turned was green when I got to know what I had missed.
Anyway, I was feeling much better by evening and we went to go see how the cricket was coming along. The people of Belize, it turned out, are as crazy as Indians when it came to cricket. The place was packed with the locals cheering on the teams and gulping their favourite Belikins. Our team did win that match which set the mood for dinner and we decided to try out an Indian restaurant. The place was like an Indian watering hole where all the Indians in the city had gathered for a round of loud chattering and some spicy food with Bollywood songs keeping time in the background.
The last day of our trip and the final match of the tournament, we stayed to watch and cheer. The stands were packed and the ‘Champion’ song was on loop. The teams battled it out and it was an effort worth watching. I enjoy the fours and the sixes, I realised, it’s just the technicalities of the game that bore me. The closing ceremony was a colourful spectacle. The teams’ jerseys ranged from tomato red to sunny yellow to bright blue. Heartfelt speeches by the officials and the genuine care by the hosting country was a testimony to Belize’s love for the game. We didn’t win the tournament but their hospitality won our hearts.
On our last afternoon in the country we finally got to see the blue waters of the Caribbean. Almost all the members of our team joined in for a snorkelling trip. We took a boat almost 5 kilometres into the sea before we reached the snorkelling area. The waters were beckoning and we dived in one after another. My average swimming skills didn’t really let me dive in so I climbed down the ladder at the side and held on to a buoy for dear life. Once I put my face into the water it was a different story, the waters were unbelievably clear and the fish were plentiful. The corals were so big that we could stand on them to take a break from swimming; the instructor even showed us a lobster! It was hands down the best snorkelling experience ever. On our way back to the shore we stopped at a splendid little island resort with sand so white we thought it was artificial! We took a dozen pictures and splashed around at their beach till it was time to go back.
This last dip in the Caribbean was the best part of the Belize trip. We could not visit the Great Blue Hole, one of the best scuba diving sites in the world, on this trip but that still remains on the wish list for which we will return to beautiful, blue Belize soon.