Go East Young Woman
Saturday, February 24
Sunday, February 25
Monday, February 26
Belize Day 19/20/21/22
No more cycling
And the bus showed up on time! I had decided to take the "express" at 7:20am to head back east to Belize City to catch the water taxi to Caye Caulker. They gladly loaded my bike, for an extra fee, underneath the old MCI which was apparently a former Greyhound bus. Then I ascended the steps into the bus and found that there were already about 10 passengers standing. I tried to jam my camera bag into the overhead rack and immediately found that my small emergency rum bottle was leaking and dripping rum onto a couple tenderly sleeping in each other's arms. The man gave me an annoyed look and the woman just smiled wrily when I apologized in Spanish and said "it's only rum". The man helpfully suggested I keep the bag on the floor.
Now, in Belize an express bus doesn't seem to mean fewer stops. We stopped pretty much everywhere until we arrived in Belmopan, halfway to Belize City. We kept taking on additional passengers and I stood for an hour, hanging on as best as I could at highway speeds. After Belmopan we had plenty of seats for everyone. That was wonderful since I could now find a spot far away from some German whiner who was incessantly complaining about everything. I tried to deflect the conversation as one would do with a 3 year old but I only had minor success with that. As it turns out, "express" in Belize simply means that the driver speeds even more than usual, passes more aggressively than usual in order to get there faster. But in all fairness we did ignore everyone trying to flag us down after we left Belmopan. I could just picture the driver sniggering each time he flew past someone without stopping ...or maybe that's just me thinking back to my old job at Greyhound ;-)
I had time to load up the bike. Saunter down the road, nudge a parked vehicle with the front pannier, drop the bike, pick it up again and head to the Seaside Inn to leave most of my stuff with them before catching the 10:30am water taxi to Caye Caulker. I went with Triple-J water taxi, the cheaper and slower one which was also a lot closer to the hotel.
Tropical Paradise Resort, Caye Caulker.
1 hour later we arrived at Caye Caulker and I slowly trudged down the sand road looking for a hotel. I had been told that everything was very expensive on Caye Caulker so I had wisely stocked up on 2 gallons of water in Belize City. As it turns out, a gallon was 25 cents US more expensive on the Caye. So there I was, silly turista, hauling 2 gallons of water with me in the hot sun, squinting with the bright sun reflecting off the white sandy roads and beaches. On Caye Caulker I was going to splurge. I opted for a private cabana with private bath, hot water for real, and cable TV. All for US$40. This was the first time I had watched TV in almost a year. Man! I loved it. But I did tear myself loose to watch the sunset at the split. On the way back down the island a young gringa was having trouble with her rented fixed gear bike. Her sarong had gotten caught in the chain. Can't backpedal on those things and pedalling forward meant the sarong pulls right off. I sprang into action and realized that this bike had nothing in common with anything I knew. The sarong had to come off so I could crank forward to dislodge it. She commented "I'm glad it's a woman that came along". I thought "yeah! me too" as she stood there in her skimpy bikini.
Caye Caulker Sunset.
Caye Caulker Sunset.
Caye Caulker. How does one describe it. It's so laid back one forgets everything else. There are no cars except 2 or 3 construction vehicles. Everyone gets around on foot, fixed gear bikes, golf carts and the occasional moped. It sure makes a difference not having large, noisy, smelly cars around. I simply had to do some more snorkeling so I signed up with the highly recommended Ragamuffin Tours for an all day snorkeling outing on a sailboat. I was told there would be three stops, lunch would be included and there would be reggae music playing in the background. It all sounded fabulous. Little did I know that this would be my worst day so far.
Rush Hour on Caye Caulker.
Caye Caulker Beachfront.
One of the crew showed up reeking of alcohol and looking like he hadn't been to bed yet. We crammed 16 people onto one boat and 13 onto a smaller boat. We finally left 1/2 hour late but the cruise out to the first snorkeling spot was actually quite enjoyable in the steady winds while listening to Bob Marley.
Leaving Caye Caulker.
We jumped into the water and my mask leaked immediately no matter what I did. The water was trickling in right beside my eyes which started stinging from the salt. I couldn't see anything and asked for another mask since that one was obviously not wide enough for me. That one also leaked in the same way and they gave me a third mask which did exactly the same thing. They had supposedly fit me with a mask before we left. But not knowing much about snorkeling I didn't know that they didn't do a good job of it. I was hanging from the boat's ladder and told the guides that the mask wasn't working while handing it back to them. One of the guides simply turned around and started cutting some fruit and the other one just sat there and said nothing. I hung in the water for about a minute wondering what was going on. Then the second guide finally said "we have no other masks, miss". I was pretty choked at just having been ignored in the water. After that, the trip was just miserable. I was out on the water, sitting in a boat with two guides who had pissed me off and nothing to do while everyone else played with the stingrays and nurse sharks. I was looking for other boats in the area to see if I could jump in, swim over to them and offer them some money to take me back to Caye Caulker or even Ambergris Caye from where I could catch a water taxi back to Caulker. Maybe I could still catch a more professional 1/2 day tour in the afternoon.
I had put myself into such a state of brooding anger that I ended up with an infected bladder accompanied by some serious pain. At the second stop I simply jumped into the water for a swim and to get away from the guides who weren't speaking to me either. Halfway through that stop one of the guides offered me his own mask and I did manage to see a bit more even though the mask didn't work too well either.
At the third stop I still had the guide's mask and the experience was a lot more enjoyable even though I had to stop every 5 minutes to empty the water out of the mask. Here we saw a huge black grouper, complete with huge lips; large eels slinking through the water; nurse sharks swimming within inches of us; large black stingrays within a few feet and a couple of them gliding along a bit further away. It was simply awesome.
Now it was time to head back. Unfortunately my bladder was in serious pain and I had been unable to do anything about it while in the water. I just had to desperately pee but nothing was happening. So there I sat for over an hour wincing in pain while waiting to get ashore. In the meantime the reggae had turned into the most hideously annoying hip hop crap in Spanish blasting from the speakers. The mostly younger crowd was getting right into it while I was scanning the boat for a harpoon or sledgehammer to put those speakers out of their misery. When we arrived at the dock, whe hadn't even tied up and I was already off the boat leaving everything behind except my valuables. I painfully waddled down the dock in search of a bathroom. Relief was immediate once I found one. I consoled myself that I still had most of the day tomorrow to do something more pleasant before I went back home.
The next morning on Sunday the wind was quite steady so I opted for windsurfing. The last time I had windsurfed, in the Gorge in Oregon, was about 8 years and 50 pounds ago. I tried for about 1 1/2 hours with some success. I was elated to have done it again and realized even more that I really need to work harder at my fitness level and weight. I still had a great time playing in the water.
Accomplished Windsurfers Putting me to Shame.
Back onto the water taxi and to the Seaside Guesthouse in Belize City. Therese and Ardis were still as friendly as ever and as laid back as ever. Now I was no longer sure about the quality of the guesthouse. A few cockroaches scurried about but I guess that's to be expected in the tropics in budget accomodation. We got them all and I climbed onto a chair in the kitchen to track one that had gone up onto a higher shelf. When I saw the rodent droppings on the upper shelf I decided not to have breakfast here in the morning.
Monday morning, the day of my afternoon flight, I had breakfast at "Le Petite Cafe" after it was recommended by a friend. It's a patisserie which was part of the Radisson Hotel in Belize City. It was a perfect and peaceful way to end my days in Belize. The coffee was as good as it was back home and the pastries were quite decent. I sat under some trellises and felt like I was in some European courtyard.
Now it was time to seriously continue my machete shopping. They're not easy to get back home and it boggles the mind that none of the gardening stores carry it. It's the perfect tool to hack away that blackberry bramble which has invaded the Pacific Northwest. When one asks for a machete back home one can sense that the clerk is seriously contemplating calling 911. When asking for a machete in Belize one gets told, "yes miss, right beside the hammers, 7 Belize dollars". I finally found one that looks more like a mean, nasty, large knife for $5US and packed it into my checked luggage.
Bustling Belize City.
After a Chinese lunch I went back there for some more coffee and a chocolatie, fudgey kind of cake that simply kicked ass before heading to the waiting taxi at the Guesthouse.
Dessert at Le Petite Cafe.
Check-in was straightforward and the clerk failed to charge me for the bike. Now I had some money left over to do some shopping for tacky, overpriced airport stuff. We left Belize City a bit early and arrived into Dallas 20 minutes early. Then we sat for 45 minutes on the tarmac while they tried to find us a gate. We finally moved to the gate and through the window I could see them trying to operate the ramp, shaking their heads, picking up the phone, dealing with men in overalls, until they got it moving 15 minutes later. There's something to be said about the old fashioned ladders on wheels they still use in Belize and most other small airports. We were now late and I was concerned about my Seattle connection. Being at the front of the plane I dashed ahead of everyone else. There was no one in line at immigration and I cleared in about 45 seconds. Then I waited 5 minutes for my bag and bike. Customs took 3 minutes while the agent asked me if I had any food and said "OK, go ahead". Phew! I had gotten through with the machete. But then this is the US and I could probably have had an assault rifle in my bags without anyone batting an eyelash. I rechecked the bags and went into "full stress mode" to make the long train trip to the next terminal. But first I had to check the gate for my flight. That's when I discovered that the Seattle flight was delayed by 1 1/2 hours. Time for some dinner.
Doing it the Old Fashioned Way in Belize.