The boat trip within the Belize reef

Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
Trip End Feb 28, 2009

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Flag of Belize  , Toledo,
Saturday, November 1, 2008

As a matter of fact, the boat trip started pretty well. The weather was nice, the sun was coming out, there was blue sky and dolphins were following the boat. We started fishing straight away and caught a large barracuda within the first hour. The rest of the boat trip was a completely different story. We made our initial stop to snorkel and have lunch after about three hours of sailing in ok weather and pretty good wind. While we were snorkeling, the crew, three boys, prepared lunch. Unfortunately, the waves were too big and the wind too strong for an enjoyable snorkel. Everybody came out of the water pretty fast since there was nothing fantastic to see; apart from the barracudas. After lunch, we had to use the motor as the wind had picked up and was now too strong to sail. We were supposed to visit English Caye but the strong wind made it impossible for us to stop. We saw it from a distance instead.
We arrived at our first island, Rendez-vous Caye, for the night early enough for us to snorkel around. Unfortunately, the wind was extremely strong and it was once again impossible to snorkel. This island, under other climatic conditions, would have been a paradise. It is a tiny forty sqm island with four palm trees and heaps of beautiful gigantic pink conch shells...and that is about it. The first chore was due as we had to make our beds before dark. I am sure some of you have tried to set up tents under wind so just imagine doing it under tropical rainy season type of wind. We all teamed up to do the job as at least six people were needed at a time to make one tent and hold it against the wind. Two hours later, the tents were finally up, well kind of. They all looked crooked and laid by the wind, but they were functional at that stage. As for the restroom, what do you expect them to be when you are on a forty sqm island with only four coconut trees and some conch shells? Yes, you got it, there are none, you just have to be imaginative or very good at holding it.
Meanwhile, the crew had prepared some special rum cocktails for us. As it was impossible to do a barbecue with the weather they boiled everything, but that did not prevent the lobster tails or the barracuda that we just caught earlier to be delicious. We all had to sit in a line to prevent the blowing sand from going into the food. There was also no light, only a couple of torches, so the darkness and extremely strong wind made this dinner very challenging. We played a couple of games around a bonfire that warmed us up a little as the wind was getting chillier and chillier.
I then tried to go to bed, but sleeping was not easy. The tent lost its shape because of the wind and it was getting smaller and smaller: the walls were blowing closer and the ceiling was coming down. The ground was hard and I discovered that we were not the only alive things on the island. Crabs were living here and my tent was actually right on top of one crab's house driveway...It was trying to come out of his hole all the time, pointing his shell out and pinching my thighs. It obviously had friends who came to help him as I felt the entire ground under me ruffle around. I could also hear them. Also, I am sure all of you have fallen asleep on the beach and been awaken by the sound of footsteps on the sand. It does this profound, deep sound that echoes in your head. Now you can imagine the sounds of the crabs running around the ground right under my "bed". Added to that, there was also the noise of the wind and the waves. Oh and the rain joined in as well... 
The night was appearing to be a long one when I heard one of the guys still at the bonfire screaming gently that he did not want to alarm us but some tents were floating away in the ocean...They all rushed back to the tents and it was the one belonging to a nice Dutch couple who had all their possessions; passports, iPods, cameras, and phones in it! Everything was absolutely soaked hence out of order. The tent itself was no longer usable. Because of the strong wind, the waves began to inch closer and the island was no longer forty sqm but a mere thirty. Just enough space for the rest of the tents. Since I was alone in my tent, I decided to donate it to the Dutch couple and went to sleep on the boat floor with the crew. There, I could really feel the wind. I was so cold all night long. I could feel the waves and the rocking of the boat was quite strong. As we were anchored to the island, every time we were pushed towards it with a wave, the boat was hitting the ground and it made everything on the boat bang. Sleeping with three guys, I could not escape the snoring concert as well. It was not an impression anymore, the night was long, very long and once again so cold.
Everybody was up at six as nobody really slept so we had a quick breakfast and set sail.......with the motor of course. As it was too dangerous to be on the water with that kind of weather, we went straight away to the next spot for the following night; Tobacco Caye which is an inhabited island by people as well as crabs. There are twenty four inhabitants on the island ...and two hotels in which the crew put us up as it was impossible to camp again. After lunch, we all went to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. The island was about ten times bigger than the island of the night before, with maybe about thirty coconut trees, twenty houses and fifty hammocks, but nothing else, so sleeping sounded like a good use of the island. Everybody woke up for dinner, but I could not really stand up, I was sick, very sick, with a high fever, certainly from the night before. I was coughing, my nose was stuffed and the fever was over forty (Celsius that is). When my boatmates did not see me for dinner, one of the crew went to pick me up and realized how hot I was. He then sent the Dutch lady who happened to be a nurse! She had a lot of drugs with her and fed me with what she found appropriate, put a wet towel on my forehead and stayed with me the whole night because she was worried about my extremely high fever. I have to say, it was very nice to have her around as I was on my own and she was the sweetest person, a very dedicated nurse. I wanted to thank her again.
The next day, I felt the same and went straight to the boat, hoping it would not be too rocky so that I could make it alive to our final destination of Placencia. The day was long, very long. I was feeling really bad and stayed in the boat with my eyes closed the whole time, but the boat was moving so much. It was dreadful. Once arrived in Placencia hours later, I crashed in a hotel room and stayed there two days without moving a muscle. Drinking, eating, standing up or even sitting up was a challenge, I could not even open my eyes, I was very sick and there was absolutely nothing at all in the town of Placencia. It was time to go.
There is a weekly boat from there to Honduras leaving at 9am, so I forced myself out of bed and went to wait for the boat to finally get out of Belize. Unfortunately, it did not happen. At 9:30, the boat was still not there while about twenty people were waiting for it. The locals told us it was useless to wait any longer, the boat would not come, it did not show up the week before, the weather was too bad. They told us we could take the 10 am water taxi out of Placencia to catch the bus to Punta Gorda and get a boat to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala to catch a bus to the land border of Honduras and then another bus to wherever we wanted to go to in Honduras. Why not? I did not feel like waiting another week anyway, so here I go, following the crowd into what seemed to be a never ending adventure.
The taxi boat was a half hour ride, then the chicken bus to Punta Gorda was a good hour and a half but with a big group, time flies. In PG, we had to go through customs to leave Belize before boarding the tiny little boat that was allowing us to leave Belize. At that point I remembered the reason why I could not leave Belize to begin with: bad weather, so why was that tiny little boat leaving Belize to get on a two hour journey to Guatemala whereas the big boat could not go on a three hour journey from Belize to Honduras? I still do not know, but what I know is that the tiny little boat with twenty people in it made it to Livingston first to drop off some people. Then we had another hour to Puerto Barrios. During those hours on the boat, suffering my sickness out, I had time to think and decided not to go to Honduras anymore. As I had to go through Guatemala anyway, why not start with El Salvador and make my way up to Honduras, hoping that by then, the rainy season would be well over.
I left my friends who were arguing the price of the bus ride to Honduras and went through customs. What a surprise when the custom officer talked to me about a fine because I failed to comply with the customs regulations when entering Guatemala, in Livingston that is. I had to explain myself for a while about why I was not allowed off the boat during the initial stop and had to gather my friends over in order to provide proof that we were all 'in the same boat.' They phoned the captain of the boat and discussed it with him before the custom officer decided to let us all go and fine the boat company that made us cross the border without the proper paperwork.
After all the chaos of leaving Belize, I realized I did not have enough Quetzals (Guatemala currency) to pay for anything by the time my bus dropped me off at the remote highway junction of Rio Hondo in the middle of the night. I managed to convince the owner of the one and only hotel, which was quite scary if you can imagine (think trucker's hotel and 'hourly' if you get the idea), to accept what little US dollars I had. The next morning I limped my way to the nearest town of Zacapa to get money and see a doctor. Did I mention remote? This part of Guatemala was like the Wild West. While visiting the local medical clinic and seeing the doctor, the previous patient had returned to casually grab the gun that he had forgotten on the table in the examination room. At the time I was so sick and relieved to receive medical attention and antibiotics that it did not phase me (can you imagine this type of behavior in England?). By the way, I'm still not sure why my doctor's visit was free. 
Finally, off to El Salvador.
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