Trip Start Jan 07, 2008
36Trip End Ongoing
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The minute I stepped onto the bus outside of immigration in Belize, the change was obvious. No more nice Mexican buses....it WAS the chicken bus without the animals. Retired American school busses with honking sound systems installed and blaring Soca music. Welcome to the Caribbean, mon. And... English speaking black folks too. I was so happy I could hardly contain myself.
The bus ride to Belize City was a few hours and as smooth as you would expect a school bus to be on a poorly paved road. We passed though a town called Orange Walk which interestingly enough had a Menonite community
The next day I headed back to Belize City and caught a bus to Dangriga which sits about ½ way down the coast of the country. The ride was rough again, but the music good and the vista amazing. After we passed through Belmopan, the road changed dramatically and I could hardly believe how beautiful it was. They call it the Hummingbird Highway, and it really was about the prettiest two hour ride I have ever been on. And, the weather was CRAPPY. Lots of cloud ringed mountains laced with palm trees, orange groves as far as the eye could see, and green, green, green. It was harvest time and the scent of oranges that hung in the humid air was breathtaking.
When I arrived in Dangriga I could have been pulling into the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans....no lie. All black folks, all friendly, architecture the same, fried chicken, all the stereotypes inherent with NOLA.....It was terrific
Day four found me on the road again heading to Palencia, a small peninsula town near the Southern part of the country. I had heard that the weather had created some problems on this roadway a few weeks back and suspected I might run into some issues traveling, and I was right. It took all of 3.5 days for me to run into that "rainy season road issue" I was worried about. Four weeks previously a huge storm had washed away a fairly substantial bridge. Then, the day before I left the temporary bridge was washed away so when I got to were the bridges used to be, we off loaded and headed across the river via inflatable launches. I swear, I thought that this would be the point where all travel would turn bad. Talk about third world....Then when we got to the other side there was no sense of organization for buses and such so I just sat it out waiting to see what was going to happen and opted NOT to get on the over crowed bus. "I'll wait for the next one thank you."
While waiting I got eaten alive on my legs by some small bugs I never saw, but a few hours later when welts turned up on my shins, I knew they had existed
Transport here usually doesn't leave until it is full. Better economics. So when our very small launch was loaded with 20 people and their luggage, we headed towards Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. The seas were a bit rough and we basically sped across the top of 4 foot swells. There was lots of trash, organic as well as plastic crap, floating in the water and a lookout on the front of the boat directing the captain around it. Things got really wet really fast and they pulled out long black piece of plastic for people to hold across the rows to keep dry. NO way for me. I am not riding in a plastic bag for an hour over rough waters. I was lucky enough to be on the front of the boat and didn't have such a huge problem with it. At this point I frequently laughed out loud to myself. The others on the boat just stared at me
Again, Immigration a complete non-issue and I decided to go back down to the waterfront and try and catch a boat to Livingston my final destination. Did it and again, loaded onto a full boat and headed out. Wrong choice. There were several moments for sure I thought we were going to roll - mid air. Crazy! But, I kept saying to myself, people do this every day around here. I'll be okay. And ultimately I was but my hands hurt from holding on so tightly for 30 minutes.
We arrived safely and I was thrilled but again, some special event had hotel rooms very full and I had difficulty finding one. Eventually there was a little rain and I covered my back pack. Then more and I put on my stylish poncho/tarp then it was raining so hard I had to step inside a store. What next? I've got to say, I just kept laughing. There was nothing I could do about it. I met a nice heavily pierced and tattooed Catalonian man inside the store and he told me that he was sure there was room in his hostel and offered to help
I was fortunate enough to get a room at the hostel for a whopping $7 for the night and dropped my pack and headed out for some food. I was tired and wanted to just take a shower and go to bed. But, when I returned there was no water in my room. That took an hour to remedy and then when it did come on, there were big black chunks in it. After I clean up a bit I finally laid down on the bed and it was so soft I couldn't get comfortable. No sleeping tonight. And, as romantic as the notion of a mosquito net over a bed may seem, they do NOT let fan air into the sweating person laying inside. I found myself laughing hard at about 2 in the morning.
Suffice it to say I got up early the next day, packed my bag and hit the street. I found an awesome room for the same price on the other side of town. By the time I got settled in I laid down for 4 solid hours and stared at the wall. I was wiped out.
Been here for a week now. It is a bit of the Mayans meets Jamaica scene and I am enjoying it. Heading up the Rio Dulce tomorrow and hope to find a cool place to stay there for a few weeks. Will keep you posted on the adventures.