Think this is a great base for day trips? Think again…
Reading up about the small beach town of Hopkins before we went, it sounded like there were lots of things to do. Technically, there is, but the problem is you can’t get to any of them!
For our first day, we wanted to visit a national park with a waterfall and some nice, easy nature trails. It was supposedly only one hour away, and the hostel’s website said to ask them about transport options. So we did. The response wasn’t quite what I expected. The owner raised an eyebrow and scoffed,
“Why do you want to go there?!”
Taken aback, I stumbled over my words, muttering something about a waterfall. Straight blank, he said:
“Well, you can’t go. There’s no way to get there.”
“But, it said on your website to ask about transport options…”
“Well, there are no buses and no public transport. Gas prices have gone up, and taxis are disgustingly expensive. NEVER GET A TAXI IN BELIZE! It will cost you over $100 to get there; you could rent a car, but that would cost even more. The only other way would be to try and hitchhike, but that will only get you part of the way there.”
As backpackers on a budget, this wasn’t exactly the news we wanted to hear.
“What about the other national park?”
“Well, there is a bus, but you’ve missed it. It goes once a day at 7 am. Also, it doesn’t take you the full way; you’d still have to do some hitchhiking.”
“We’d quite like to do a river cruise, but we couldn’t find many options online, and they all seemed pretty expensive.”
He suggested a tour guide he knew and to pay him a visit. We went to see him, but he was fully booked for our entire stay. To be honest, even if he wasn’t, there was no way we could have afforded one of his tours.
Defeated, we returned to the hostel and sat down with our Lonely Planet, wondering what the fuck else we were going to do.
The owner returned and offered us some suggestions: a friend of his lives in a bus and sells hemp, we could go visit her. I tried not to laugh at this one.
Then he mentioned a beach spot, an ice cream place, and a hole-in-the-wall for dinner. OK, that might salvage the day.
The ice cream place was closed for renovation. Before we even reached the beach, the heavens opened, and buckets of tropical, torrential rain whipped around by fierce winds. We took refuge in a bar and played cards all day. The restaurant was also closed; it closes on Tuesdays, apparently.
We set our alarms for 6 am the next day; maybe we’d give the other national park a try? We awoke to thunder and lightning, looked at the weather report, and went back to sleep.
We awoke again later, moping around the kitchen, looking confused and wondering why we were here. Every other backpacker had the same look on their face.
We made some friends at the breakfast table, and they said that they were going to visit a chocolate farm and do a workshop. Did we want to come? Yes! We jumped at the chance to do something, anything.
Looking at the map, I thought it was within walking distance, or maybe we could get a bus there. The others seemed to know what they were doing, so we followed them. They went as far as the side of the road where they all put their thumbs out. I gasped. Oh no, I really don’t want to hitchhike, but somehow we ended up in the back of a truck, which took us as far as the nearest junction. From there, we managed to get a bus to the chocolate farm.
We made the best of it, cracking jokes in our raincoats and snickering at childish things like when trying cocoa fruit, an American woman exclaimed loudly, without irony
“SO YOU JUST PUT THE WHOLE THING IN YOUR MOUTH AND JUST SUCK IT?! YOU SUCK THE BEAN?!”
We also nipped next door to a tiny butterfly house run by a very sweet, passionate man who seemed delighted to tell us everything he knew about butterflies.
The bus was late on the way back. When I say late, I mean two hours late. It got dark, and we were worrying whether it was going to come at all. It took us over an hour to get there and nearly three hours to get back. The chocolate company is a twenty minute drive from the hostel. This sums up the frustration that is Hopkins.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre things happened that night when we went to a local restaurant/bar to watch some traditional drumming.
While watching, I saw something out of the corner of my eye that made me jump out of my skin.
A man in a terrifying white gauze mask with a caricature face drawn on it, complete with dead eyes and a mustache. It was haunting; it looked like a nightmare.
“Oh God, it’s coming over!”
The nightmare came over to our table, then pulled back the mask to reveal a handsome young man with kind eyes and a lovely smile. I felt relieved. He told us it was his 21st birthday and that tonight we had to make sure we stayed to watch him dance.
We watched the dance and had to stifle our laughter; it was bizarre. He had shells strung around his knees and did a disjointed jig and knee wobble to clatter them together, completely out of time with the drumming.
While watching, Joe whispered,
“It looks like white face. Do you think it’s white face? Is this racist? Maybe he’s taking the piss out of the white tourists, and they’re all just clapping along? I feel like I’m in an episode of the League of Gentlemen.”
“Erm… I don’t have a clue; it must be some sort of traditional/cultural dance and dress?”
We watched, feeling ignorant, confused, and highly amused all at the same time.
We looked it up later. It is indeed white face.
Jankuno a costume and dance created to parody white English men from the 18th century, in particular for their lack of rhythm and inability to dance. But not just any old Englishman, slave owners. Fair play. Slave owners were the worst type of human in history; they more than deserved to be mocked, they deserved a hell of a lot worse.
If you can afford the tours, car rentals, or taxis, then who knows, Hopkins might be a wonderful place to visit. You could experience both the national parks and river cruises, but for those on a budget, I wouldn’t add Hopkins to your Belize itinerary.
Don’t get taken in by the list of “nearby” things to do because it doesn’t matter how close they appear, you can’t get to them without paying a heavy price or trying your luck at hitchhiking.
The one and only hostel tells you to ask for transport options when you get there only to gleefully tell you that there are none. We thought the town would be a good base for day trips and I felt like the hostel had made it seem that way and that they almost scammed us into going there.
I wish that somebody had told us this before we went. Now I want to be that somebody for you. If you’re on a budget, don’t go to Hopkins in Belize!
Thank you for reading! Hearts and tips are always welcome, and your support is very much appreciated.