Belize is killing my wallet, and my bank account will be happy once I get on the boat to Livingston, Guatemala tomorrow, but I still had a blast these past two weeks. After I left Caye Caulker, I stayed the night in the town of Dangriga on my way down the coast. Val’s Backpackers overlooked the sea and I spent most of the evening sitting in a hammock finishing off the National Geographic I bought in the airport. The next morning also found me there, where I got to talking to an English woman named Natalie. A social worker on a 6 month sabbatical, she and her friend Aiden from New Zealand were headed the same direction as I was and we both had booked into the same hostel for Christmas in Placencia. I hooked up with them and we all left dry, dirty Dangriga in search of a better beach until we could get to Placencia.
We got off the bus in a fly-speck place called Hopkins with dirt roads and rusted sheet-metal roofs, and checked into The Funky Dodo. The place had only opened up a few months ago and was owned by a tall English guy named Will. His family was in town for Christmas so were helping out with the hostel work while we were there. It turned out that the day we arrived was the first time Will had filled all of the beds so there was a bit of a celebration. Will brought in beer by the case-load and his sister Pippa joined us at the big outdoor table where we managed to polish off much of the beer as well as several liters of rum. The next day was quieter and most of it was spent sleeping on the beach.
From Hopkins, it was a couple hour bus ride to Independence where we then caught a water taxi to Placencia. The place we were booked into was called Seakunga and it was a few miles out of town, and there we met up with two of Natalie’s friends from home. Fran and Alice were both English, but had been living in Edmonton of all places, so there were many Alberta jokes to be endured. At least they had a good appreciation for the steak! When I had booked in at Seakunga, I had to pay ahead and had reserved for three people under the assumption that my travel companion from Mexico and her friend were going to join me. The hotel insisted I pay in full because of the time of year so one night in the dorm and three nights in a cabana cost me $380 US. Then I got word from Kia that her and her friend weren’t going to be able to make it. Seakunga refused to refund me the extra so I was stuck, though I did manage to barter off one of the dorm beds to an American woman named Carrie, who also ended up hanging out with us for a while, but the cost was a painful one to take on considering how much Belize was costing me as it was. But as my friend Caro said, there are worse things than having overpaid for a seaside cabana in the Caribbean Sea. It was just too bad about the cockroaches I found the second night and the bad service. Alas!
On Christmas Eve we headed out to the Barefoot Bar for the big party they were having. Santa Claus came down the one street in town on a fire truck instead of a sleigh wearing a pimp hat and accompanied by Mrs. Claus in a glimmering red dress and followed by a score of scantily clad lady elves dancing with over-sized candy-canes. Definitely one of the stranger Christmas parades I have encountered. Christmas day was a bit subdued due to yet another hangover, but I still managed to spread a little Christmas cheer. Aiden, Alice, Fran, and Natalie had set up a secret Santa exchange between them weeks beforehand so they all had gifts to give for the morning. Before going to bed that night, I took all the presents and buried them around the beach and in the morning provided maps detailing their locations.
When we left Placencia, I decided to tag along with the group for a couple more days and followed the Aiden and the girls to Tobacco Caye, a small 5 acre island east of Dangriga. It was truly tiny, and definitely a bit expensive, but I had to wash the bitter taste of Seakunga out of my mouth before leaving Belize, and besides, my Guatemala ferry only left on Tuesdays and Fridays, so I had a couple days to kill. We caught a water taxi from Dangriga with Captain Patrick and when we were almost at the island we came across a broken down water taxi full of passengers. After a discussion with the other boat captain, we piled everyone into our boat and almost tipped when a very large lady climbed on very quickly and unbalanced the load. Though our clearance above the water line made me somewhat nervous, we made it to land with no more troubles. The island itself felt quite exotic, with a permanent population of a couple dozen people, two bars and a whole lot of palm trees. It is a common stopping place for sailboats, but is mostly a mid-range backpacker destination. Our first night we played board games and then went to one of the bars for beer and stargazing. The bartender knew more constellations than me (and that is a lot)from his years as a fisherman, and Natalie saw more shooting stars that night than in her entire life (though I can’t imagine you get to see any, living in London). The next day we went snorkeling along the barrier reef and overpaid for the privilege, but the fish and eagle rays were still amazing. We also saw a manatee and some dolphins as well as a small caye that was a dedicated as a bird sanctuary so no one was allowed to walk there. I have never seen so many birds in my life.
And now here I am in Punta Gorda, at the bottom of Belize. I parted ways with my Aiden and the English girls when we got back to the mainland and tomorrow I am off to Guatemala where I can hopefully improve my abysmal Spanish skills. Cheers and goodnight folks!