Belize Part 2: I'm Walking On Sunshine
I love the tingle of anticipation that builds just before departing for a new locale. I can never wait to see what it looks like, what it smells like, how it makes me feel, and what memories will be created there. Today was that point in our trip to Belize. The long day when we relocate from one section of the country to another. If you recall, we had just left San Ignacio (aka the Jungle portion of Belize). And the day started out a bit like the roads around here though. Bumpy. "Where do we catch the bus to Belmopan?", we asked the local girl working at the front desk. She responded that there is no bus stop and we just had to hang out near the main square to catch it when it comes. So we follow her instructions, trudging along the road for ten minutes until we reached the main square. We had our bags with us so of course, every single taxi that drives by has to honk its obnoxious horn to see if we need a ride. After the thousandth taxi honk, we simultaneously think "we gotta get the hell outta here!" We cruise around the corner, literally a hundred feet from where we were sitting and guess what we find? A bus stop. Okay, fast forward a few hours and we are sitting on our second bus of the day (picture dilapidated old American school bus packed with people) and we are making our way south to Placencia. All is well in the world again. Our butts are sore, but we are getting closer and closer to our next destination.
From the Jungle to the Beach
I remember sitting on the yellow school bus and allowing my mind to wander. I'd stare out the window and drift from one topic to the next. What would it be like to grow up in Belize? Maybe I'd speak English, Spanish, and Creole like the other locals. And what if we fall so in love with Placencia we end up wanting to spend winters here? Maybe I'd be a yoga instructor on the beach (I actually haven't done yoga in a few years) and Chip would take people on snorkeling tours. The boys would tag along and be little dock hands, serving our snorkeling customers with cold beverages and local snacks. You know, just typical thoughts one might have with ample time on their hands. I love that about traveling because we rarely at any other point have the hours of free time (without Internet might I add) to just let our minds wander. It doesn't happen often enough in my world with work, and kids, and stuff that needs to be done at all hours of the day so I welcomed the free time for my brain.
We arrived in Placencia mid-day. The layout of the town is simple. To start, it's a 16 mile peninsula with a majority of the locals, restaurants, and things to do on the southern end. The northern half is reserved for high end resorts and luxury homes. We stayed in the south. The crescent shaped beach is facing the east, or the Caribbean Sea, and the Placencia Lagoon, comprising of thick mangroves offering abundant wildlife such as rays, turtles, manatees, crocodiles faces the mountains and inner countryside of Belize. The only road, which was paved not long ago, is called Easy Street One and the pedestrian road (or sidewalk) is called Easy Street Two. Only recently has Placencia been added as a tourist destination in Belize. Thirty years ago it was a sleepy, small fishing village. The friendly people of Placencia, and Belize as a whole, remain its greatest asset. In Placencia you will find every ethnic group including Latinos, Garifunas, Creoles, Maya, Mennonite, East Indian and Chinese and of course hundreds of North American and European expats. We dropped our bags in our standard but adequate room at The Manatee Inn and threw on our swimsuits like giddy little school children. Then we skipped off to the beach to bag some rays and enjoy the quietude of beach life.
Life slowed down for us here with the lack of noisy trucks, buses, and less hustle and bustle among people and tourists. We found ourselves catching sunsets at The Tipsy Tuna every night. We would order whatever drinks were on special, which often included something fruity and finished with their local beer, Beliken, then sit on the rooftop patio and let the sun descend turning the sky into beautiful hues of pink and orange until there was nothing left but the moon and stars. We laughed after the second night when the girls we sat by the night before were there again. We swapped travel stories and recommendations and found that we enjoyed the shared company. Some of my favorite conversations of all time are those that inspire me to do something new that I might not have otherwise tried, and vice versa. That's simply how we found some of my all time favorite countries of Vietnam and Turkey. By the third night, we knew the girls would be there, and they were. By then it was unspoken that we would spend the next hour conversing about the day's events over Beliken or fruity cocktails. Each night we would part ways to another (cheap) restaurant to have dinner. Having a little routine on vacation never hurt.
Probably the highlight of our time in Placencia was our full day snorkel tour to Silk Caye. We found a company that enticed us by using their friendly laid back selling techniques. So their office was a mess, surely their tour would be fine, right? We show up prompt the following morning and find that the main guy is scrambling to get more food for our tour. 'Everything's gonna be alright', I whispered under my breath. We on island time. Or should I say peninsula time, but it felt like an island. Slightly behind schedule we all packed into the boat like a bunch of sardines. The floor was an eyesore, strewn with bright yellow life jackets, non-matching snorkel gear, and buckets filled with our lunch. But alas, we were cruising out to Silk Caye which was an hour offshore. The views alone made this specific trip memorable. We passed so many other cayes I lost count. And Silk Caye is stunningly beautiful to look at. Because it's a marine reserve we had to pay an entrance fee to spend time on or around the tiny island. After doing so we throw on our snorkel gear and head out with our group and guide to explore the reef that hugged the island. Was the snorkeling pretty? Yes. Did we see some things? Sure. The guide was adequate. But it wasn't anything to write home about. Yet. Like I said, this island was the draw. Our cook was slaving away while we snorkeled and shortly after we were back on land, we dine on BBQ chicken, coleslaw, and potatoes (with an added jar of Cheez Wiz - yum). No one knew when to get back on the boat when all of a sudden I heard one of our guides say under his breath 'Jesus Christ, people. Get on the boat.' Clearly he was annoyed and it passed quickly but we were all lacking direction from the folks with the company.
The next best thing was about to happen, I can assure you! We stop in the middle of nowhere in the ocean by a rickety old boat captained by an older, sun-worn man. We all have the feeling this is where the magic happens because the guides began to light up as they talked about this location. We fling ourselves off the boat once more and snorkel our way towards the old boat. The ocean floor is about 30 feet down and I see something huge and alive poking around. At first I thought it was an octopus. No, it's a giant loggerhead turtle with lobster shells sticking out of its mouth. Score! Circling the ocean floor are five or so sharks and a couple of spotted eagle rays. Double score! Or would that be triple score?! We don't bother them but just watch in amazement. Over the next twenty minutes we spy on our snacking turtle as the captain throws out unused portions of lobster. He pops his head up for air every few minutes, coming as close as a few feet away from us, then lazily makes his way back down. He's all business and I love it! This little moment will be forever ingrained in my brain. It's a quiet boat ride back to Placencia. What made the trip? Obviously the sea life. The tour, while it wasn't anything special in terms of delivery, definitely brought another memorable travel memory to fruition so I'm grateful for that.
As much as I didn't want to leave Placencia, Chip and I were ready for the final leg of our trip on the northern islands. Not to mention we were really looking forward to an air conditioned room. Three nights covered in a sheet the size of a Kleenex and still waking up hot was not our cup of tea. Or in my words at 1 am one night 'I'm too old for this shit.'
Up next: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker (Oh, and more swimming with sharks...)