The bus from Punta Gorda was, like most buses in Belize, an old U.S. school bus. It was hot as hell in there while we waited to get going. But, the journey north was only a couple of hours. I was heading to a place called Independence. When the bus pulled into the “station” (what seemed like someone’s driveway), there was a guy, as is often the case, targeting the tourist and insisting I take his taxi. Sometimes, I’ll go with it, but this time, I was in the mood for a walk. I had to get to a place where the water taxi would go across the lagoon to Placencia. I said no to taxi man, and walked. In the wrong direction, as it happens. I was walking in the exact opposite direction. Stupid, really, to think I would know where I was going in a town I’d not been to before, but I have a compass on my watch, and assumed that because Placencia is directly east of Independence, I’d be walking towards the water. Wrong. The lagoon curls around, so I should’ve not been heading south and east, but north. It was hot. I bought a bottle of water, chatted with the lady in the shop, and she told me where I needed to go. By the time I got to the water taxi place, I’d missed the 12pm water taxi.
The place was called Hokey Pokey. I bought a ticket for the next one, at 2.30pm. Two-ish hours to kill. Couldn’t really be bothered to go back out to the town and explore, so I sat there in the covered waiting area, as it started pissing it down. Which made me glad I’d missed the noon taxi: I would’ve got absolutely drenched. There were a few other people in the waiting area. A couple of them looked to be expressly ignoring the sign that said “NO LOAFERS.” The woman who was running the place looked like Proposition Joe. There was a Jackie Chan film on the ridiculously loud television. Everyone there, myself included, was entranced. The film was about diamonds or something. At the end, a hovercraft drove over one of the bad guys and all his clothes came off. Prop Joe found this hilarious and shouted, “his batty red!” Aaah, how the time flew by. Eventually, one of the loafers got up and shouted “Come on!” which was our queue to board the boat. We bombed across the lagoon, my enjoyment of the lagoon tempered slightly by having to hold onto my cap to stop it flying off. (My hair was just a mess underneath, and I was already feeling a bit self conscious after a less than satisfactory encounter with a mirror in the morning.) Twenty minutes or so later, we pulled up where water met some wooden planks supported by wooden poles, and it was time to find somewhere to stay. I’d been told of a couple of places that were reasonably priced, and headed off looking for the one that sounded best.
After a bit of a walk, I found the Sea Spray hotel, about 35 U.S. dollars a night. The Mayan receptionist was pretty and smiled a lot. Made me a little melty. The room was simple: bed, shower, toilet, unplugged fridge, fan. But it was only about about 20 metres from the sea. It was situated on the Sidewalk. The Sidewalk is technically a street because it is, apparently, in the Guinness Book of World Records as the narrowest street in the world. It’s about four feet wide. No cars would be able to use it. And there are signs saying that cycling is against the rules, so, not very street-y. I dumped my shirt, put on a clean shirt, and headed off. Walking down the Sidewalk, I heard “Hey white boy!” from behind me. I ignored it. “Hey brother from another mother!” It was an old-ish guy with dreadlocks. We exchanged general pleasantries, then he asked if I liked Bob Marley? I told him no, sheepishly. He wished me a good afternoon, turned around and left. (Later in my trip it dawned on me, after being offered a handful more times, that he was probably going to ask if I wanted to buy marijuana.)
Time for a beer. Went to the first place that would sell me beer, an open-sided bar called Barefoot Bar. They had Wi-Fi. So, moth to flame, iPod whipped out, and I started checking things. A few emails, some Twittering, some Facebookery, and checking on baseball scores. It was kind of like when you give up smoking, and then you have a cigarette, and it’s just rubbish. Tastes crappy and you’re full of self loathing. Really, what had I missed? Nothing.
I have said it before, and I will undoubtedly say it again, but white people are funny when they are travelling. Not all white people, tends to mostly be younger folk. In my experience, Belizean people are friendly, and will say hello on the street. You get into the habit of doing it, too. Walking along the Sidewalk, I passed a white guy, mid-twenties. I said hello, he glanced at me like I’d called his mother a whore and looked away. Dude: you are not an explorer. This is a tourist town. Seeing other white tourists may be spoiling your delusional thoughts of having discovered a pure gem in the wilds of Central America, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a cunt.
After a good, solid, twelve hours sleep, I was up and at ‘em. There’s a coffee shop in Placencia now, called Above Grounds. It’s on stilts, so y’know, ho ho, funny name. Sigh. Decent coffee, though. Went there every morning during my four-day stay in Placencia, and spent my time using the Wi-Fi, and drawing. The next couple of days were pretty much all based around swimming in the sea, drinking, eating, lying down, repeat. The swimming schedule was retarded by not putting on sun block early on in my stay, and having to stay out of the sea when it was really sunny, and having to coat myself in aloe vera at all other times, but now, a few weeks later, I’ve still got a nice bit of a tan, so, swings and roundabouts. One of the benefits, though, was it meant that when it was really cloudy, I’d go swimming. One time, it rained while I was in the sea. That really is one of life’s greatest things, I think. Getting your head down as low as possible in the water and watching the water bounce Tic-Tac-shaped drops back off the surface.
I only spent two days at Sea Spray, they were fully booked for the next two nights I’d planned to stay, so found another place. A bit closer to the shops, bars, etc., a bit farther from the sea. But it had air conditioning. And I used the hell out of that. Not ordinarily a fan of air conditioning. I’ve never lived in a super hot part of the world, so my view of AC is probably different to someone who lives in, for example, Phoenix, Arizona, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to live my days like that. Cold home, cold car, cold office, only ever experiencing the real temperature in short bursts. But, I did spend the whole of my Saturday night with the AC on, lying on the bed in my pants, watching movies on the telly.
My brain was beginning to think it’d be nice to be back in a big city again. But, brain: you’re a dick. I wish I could properly relax and get rid of those thoughts. I did a decent job of suppressing them, but they still found their way through the gaps now and again. And as the holiday went on, the thoughts got fewer and farther between. And that really started properly, as I left Placencia. I waited on the road outside the hotel, jumped on the bus heading north, and an hour or so later, I was off the Placencia peninsula, heading up the highway, toward Hopkins. Which we will discuss in the next underwhelming blog entry.