Belize’s Southern Exposure: in Toledo

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Think Belize is over-touristed? You’ve been spending too much time in San Pedro, amigo. Time to head south to Punta Gorda and Toledo District, where vast tracts of forest, reef, river, ruins, and ridges await the handful of lucky visitors who decide to get off Belize’s beaten path. I leave from the southern tip of Placencia peninsula early in the morning and show up in PG ready to rumble.

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The highlight of my town tour has to be meeting legendary musician Paul Nabor, who I find smoking a cigarette behind the old Garinagu dugu. My tour guide for the morning, Ian Morton (one of the charming and tireless Brit proprietors of Hickatee Cottages) asks for a song. Mr. Nabor agrees, singing an old, original paranda in the Garifuna language about “coming home from Honduras because I was sick.”

Then it’s back to pounding the pavement and walking the coastline.

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I visit the Maya Bags “factory” near the airport, a dozen accommodations in and out of town, the fish market, and dock. I meet a handful of tour guides, dive masters, whale shark scientists, and also Mr. Wallace Young, one of the only surviving direct descendants of Confederate soldiers who fled to southern Belize after the U.S. Civil War. We chat in front of his home on Front Street, one of the oldest structures in PG, constructed of brick ballast brought over a century ago on British ships.

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It is an exhausting tour that is, thankfully, followed by Belikins in the back-a-bush setting of Hickatee, chatting with a fascinating cross-section of southern Belizeans and expats. The morning of my departure, I awake to howler monkeys and hummingbirds. Then it’s down to the ocean where I fortify myself with a giant Belizean breakfast at the market: eggs, beans, plantains, fry jacks, and Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, while admiring the mountains of Guatemala and Honduras across a flat, gray Caribbean on this drizzly November morning.

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“Belly fuul, botty glad,” I say in my best Creole accent, causing my cook, Mar, to laugh. Then Ian treats me to a seaweed shake at the hardware store before dropping me at the James bus station. I am northbound, headed for Hopkins…

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