A lot of travelers may not be familiar with the name, but it’s one of the serious hazards of travelling. The dreaded AFC Syndrome. There’s different strains of it throughout many parts of the world. It can literally run you down and completely ruin your vacation. I could sense I was in danger of becoming susceptible to the local strain of this syndrome. Characteristically, it sneaks up on you without you being aware. Then before you know it, you’re another victim. I chose to proceed with caution.
The best solution I felt was to get off the mainland. Like an island in the Caribbean, off the coast of Belize. Belize is the last of the Central America countries before Mexico. I’ve always had a curiosity about Belize. That was after I got cleaned up by a couple grand some many years ago. It was one of those too good to be true investments. It sure was. Turned out it was a Ponzi scheme ran by some dude residing in Belize. It would be nice, I thought, to see how my contribution had helped to fund his lifestyle. Belize, a country of only 300,000 is the most expensive of the Central American countries. Maybe that’s because the native language is uniquely English.
They also have another claim to fame. Belize has the third highest national murder rate in the world. I was not out to seek unnecessary risk. I assumed the weapon of choice for those contributing to this national acclaim is guns. As such I wanted to make sure I avoided the likelihood of any cross fire that may find itself contributing to the next statistic. So I adopted a defensive precautionary approach. I’d learnt this strategy from the movies. That is by darting from pillar to pillar, crouching behind corners of each building, a quick visual check before dashing to the next position. I found it took longer than everyone else to move around the city. It was also very tiring. Particularly with a full backpack. So I was pleased to get out of the city. I chose to spend the rest of my two day Belize experience in the country’s popular Caye Caulker Island. It’s a pleasant forty minute ferry ride from the city.
I had only just arrived on the island. The reality of the well established tourist trails navigating backpackers throughout central America, became even more evident. Two groups of people I had travelled with a month or two ago, each in different countries of Central America, I now met up with again wandering down the island’s main street.
After a pleasant stay, complete with a snorkeling trip to the reef, it was back to the mainland. Tulum in Mexico is a pleasant afternoon bus ride further north across the border. With a street lined full of restaurants cafes and bars, there’s a noticeably higher level of tourism sophistication than its southern country cousins.
But it was now time to face my fears. The potential AFC Syndrome. AFC Syndrome originates in England. There’s been well documented case studies of AFC, particularly for first time travellers to England. You’ve no doubt experienced it yourself if you’ve toured there. That’s right, “Another F#$!?# Castle”. A strain of the syndrome known as AFT occurs in South East Asia due to similar levels of high exposure to Temples. Here in Central America, the AFR strain is widespread.
But first, can you answer this one question for me please? Am I the only one that had never heard of the Mayan civilisation? Or was I nodding off again during that part of my ancient history school lessons. I don’t know how I could have missed this piece of ancient history, as there’s ancient Mayan ruins all over the place here. Of course the danger is, that means being susceptible to the local strain of the AFR Syndrome. The Ruins of Tulum, an enjoyable twenty minute bicycle ride from town, is one of these sites. Fortunately this one is right on the coast. With the beautiful Caribbean coast line, if I was a Mayan back then, I would sure have chosen to live here.
Having fortunately avoided the AFR Syndrome, venturing further north along the Mexican coast reveals even further increased tourism development. The main street of Playa del Carmen is like a Gold Coast strip offering all the usual tourism razamataz of merchandise and services shopping. The beach front below is amass with high end condos and private hotels. Clearly not for backpackers. As soon as I stepped over the line in the sand, little men in white outfits topped off with official looking shoulder lapels, a shiny name badge and their very own walky talky, were there to quickly remind me I had encroached their space one step too far! Mmmm.
Cancun, top of the Caribbean coastal strip is a favourite for many North Americans. I can see why. Beautiful beaches. Delightful weather and great food. A perfect winter get away. I’m not sure if there’s a syndrome for excessive exposure to lovely sand, beach and sun. I expect not.
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