Borders, Buses and Boats

Trip Start May 27, 2009
Trip End Dec 22, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hotel Europa 2

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday June 12
Way too early of a start today! Was up around 5am and by 5:45am we were standing on the side of the road waiting for the 6am(ish) chicken bus into La Ceiba. By 6:30 it still hadnīt come past but someone heading into town offered us a ride so we jumped in the box with the two others who were already in there (Donīt worry mom and dad, this is completely different than hitch-hiking!). I was a bit sad watching the jungle disappear as we drove down the rode. 

We got dropped off at the edge of town and from there we caught a collectivo taxi to the bus station. As soon as we pulled up to the bus station a guy was there asking us where we were going and grabbing our bags. He ran over to a bus and threw us on one that was just about to leave, perfect timing! At each town, people come along the side of the bus and on the bus to sell food and drinks, so bought some coconut bread in Tela for breakfast. A couple hours later and we were in San Pedro Sula.

The bus station in San Pedro Sula has two levels and we had been told we arrive on top and just go downstairs and we will find the buses to Puerto Cortes. Sure enough, we had just entered the hallway when a guy asked where we were going and then ran down one of the wings whistling, stopped a minibus pulling out for Puerto Cortes and threw us on. Just before we left town we were stopped by the police and Ļ"solo hombres" (only guys) had to get off and line up for a weapons search. Another cop came on and checked all us girls passports and then we were off again.

Almost in Puerto Cortes and one of the guys we had been doing our best to have a conversation with (the search got everyone talking to each other) starting saying Guatemala, Guatemala! We had told him we were heading to Puerto Barrios, he whistled at the driver, then yelled to him we were going to Guatemala. The driver jumped out and flagged a chicken bus stopped on the opposite side of the road. The minibus driver grabbed our bags and the chicken bus guy motioned for us to run across the highway and then pulled us into the back of the old American school bus. I love how there is absolutely no waiting time for connections, just one bus to the next!

We spent way too long on that bus, I know the old man on the minibus was just trying to help, but it took almost 3 hours for the one hour ride. A man came on selling snow cones (with carmel on top??) which made the hot bus ride a bit better. It was also great for people watching! We made it to the border, changed a bit of money with one of the many guys at the border and then walked through to immigration. On the other side we caught a colectivo minibus to Puerto Barrios.

One quick stop when the driver had to jump off and get our passports stamped. I was a bit nervous at first, the bus was pretty full and he was asking us to hand over our passports and we were already way past the border. I was relived to see the small writing saying Immigration on the little building he ran into. It was a nice ride, even if there were about 25 people packed into the van and hanging out the side of the door. The road goes through a bunch of pineapple and banana plantations and, since the van was too full to close the door, there was an awesome breeze!

We arrived in Puerto Barrios, a tiny port town that doesnīt really give you the best and safest feeling, and found a cheap (and safe looking) hotel for about $15. Went for a quick walk to check times for a ferry tomorrow. Grabbed a Guatemalan baleada (bigger than the ones we had in Honduras and with whole beans and cream) for a yummy dinner. We also had to have our first Guatemalan beer! Back to the hotel straight away since I had heard it wasnīt the best town and the way the streets cleared out at 5pm seemed to back that up. We had a tv in our room so spent the night inside catching up on my journal and watching friends and any movies they had in English.

Sat June 13
Horrible sleep last night, car alarms and barking dogs all night, and Iīm a heavy sleeper! By 6am I was up from good and couldnīt sleep anymore. We were ready by 7and headed out for some breaky (soupy beans, scrambled eggs, fresh mini tortillas and sour cream), to get our passports stamped and to get our ferry tickets. We had to pay $10US to leave Guatemala and $25 for the boat ticket to Punta Gorda, not cheap! Went back to grab our bags and then headed down to the port a block away.

We left Puerto Barrios in a little boat and an hour and a half later we were in Punta Gorda, Belize. They had a band playing in the center square and the streets seemed to be packed with people and vendors, it seemed like a very colorful and lively little town on a Saturday afternoon. I wish we could of made the last ferry yesterday and stayed here instead! Unfortunately we had our bags with us and no where to leave them so we were stuck sitting on the other side of town for 2 hours waiting or a bus to Independence. On the upside, we had the best burrito ever for lunch! Spicy stewed chicken, beans and cabbage wrapped in a fresh tortilla.

We caught the chicken bus (that just means old American school bus that gets packed, stops a lot, and is cheap) up the coast to Independence. The money collector let us and the couple other travelers know when we arrived and then we got off and walked through the dirt street town to the waterfront where we caught a water taxi to Placencia.

A truck, a taxi, a minibus, a chicken bus, a packed colectivo, a shitty night, a boat, another chicken bus and a water taxi and we had finally made it to a beach in Belize!! Placencia is such a cute place, itīs filled with colorful houses, a lot of which are on stilts. It has a long beach on the wast side and mangroves back to the mainland on the west. We made a quick email stop (overdue after our extended stay in the jungle) and then grabbed some dinner. Ground beef tostadas hit the spot!

We ended up sticking around the place, which was right on the beach, to try out our first Belikins (Belizean beers), listening to the live reggae-ton band and meeting some of the locals and fellow travelers. I think I am going to like this place!

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