One of the primary destinations in Belize is Xunantunich (pronounced “chew-nahn-too-NEECH”) Mayan ruin. For years the only way to cross the Mopan River to access Xunantunich has been on a unique cable ferry. Suspended by fixed cables that allow the ferry to rise and fall with the river level, this ferry was operated by a hand-powered winch. The ferry could carry two vehicles and lots of passengers, and it was interesting to see these huge loads moved across the river by one guy turning a crank.
Our Belize Adventure Week adventure package used to visit Xunantunich weekly (we now only kayak by the ferry, we don’t have time to visit it anymore), and we have crossed the river on this ferry many, many times. A recent bulletin from Belize informed the public that the ferry will be closed October 29 – November 1. This will facilitate the replacement of the old ferry with a more modern craft. We assume the new one will have a power winch rather than a hand-cranked one, which will greatly facilitate its operation and allow a greater volume of tourists up to the ruins. It may be progress, but it is sad to see this classic piece of past times disappear!
Anyone visiting Belize in early March will be surprised when the entire country shuts down for days for a mysterious holiday called Baron Bliss Day. The country goes wild, it is a huge party.
Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, commonly known as Baron Bliss (16 February 1869 – 9 March 1926), was a British-born traveler who willed two million U.S. dollars to a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of what was then the colony of British Honduras, now Belize.
The Bliss Institute (a performing arts center that was previously a museum, research facility and library in Belize City) was part of the benefits from this endowment, as were the city’s Bliss Lighthouse (where Bliss’s tomb is located), the Bliss School of Nursing and various other medical facilities around the country.
Belize celebrates Baron Bliss Day each March 9 in his honor.
Bliss’s early personal history as well as the origin of his “Baron” title is uncertain. He styled himself “Fourth Baron Bliss of the Kingdom of Portugal”; there is some speculation that the original Portuguese title was Barão de Barreto. He was born into a wealthy Suffolk family and was rumored to have been disinherited for keeping a hansom cab waiting. He subsequently made a substantial fortune speculating in petroleum shares. Unfortunately, he contracted polio and decided to travel the world in a luxury yacht. After spells in the Bahamas, Trinidad and Jamaica, he arrived in Belize harbor, where he found a climate which suited him. He was extremely fond of the local people, and despite the fact that because of his physical infirmity he never set foot on Belizean soil, he bequeathed the bulk of his fortune for the benefit of the people of British Honduras. He died in the harbor of Belize City.