Flip Flop Flying

Belize, day 10: Punta Gorda to Hopkins

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It rained all night. There’s no better sound, really, if you have a touch of tinnitus. Rain on leaves in the jungle is wonderful to drown out the buzz. It was loud and every time I was aware of the rain during the night, it was loud. Still raining when I got up and went across to the main building for breakfast. I took the umbrella that, helpfully, hangs up outside the cottage door. Put my hand in to open it and something damp touched my hand. I shrieked and dropped the umbrella, then briefly saw a tiny frog leap off my hand. Not so tough, Craig, are you?

After breakfast, I packed up my backpack and said goodbye to Kate, and Ian gave me a lift into town to get the bus. It was lovely to see them both again, and I will miss them and Hickatee Cottages. Really, if these blog posts have convinced you of anything, it should be that visiting Punta Gorda and staying at Hickatee is worth doing if you fancy a trip to Belize.

The bus sat, driverless, for ten minutes before we left. It was quiet during those ten minutes. Me and eight other passengers. My mind focused on the quiet. And, as is often the case, quiet isn’t quiet. We have just learned to kinda ignore sounds. The quiet was actually full of sound from inside the bus. The squeak of people moving on the seats. The sound of people rearranging their bags, getting their seating area just right. The sound of people removing snacks from the bags those snacks came in. The sound of crisp packets and the accompanying waft of a salty corn smell. Every sound, apart from the munching, was the sound of plastic.

The bus ride was painless, just three hours. Listened to The Orb’s first album, Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, which works quite well with the Belize landscape and heat. A woman across the way changed her kid’s nappy. We all got a waft of that smell, which, may be a cute sweet smell to parents, but to me: it’s just the stink of shit.

I got off the bus at a junction. The bus doesn’t go to Hopkins itself. It’s about six km from that junction to the village itself. Last time I was here, I had to walk a couple of those kilometres before someone pulled up and asked if I wanted a lift. This time, though, things were different. There was a taxi driver waiting at the junction to earn some money off anyone getting off the bus. That anyone was just me. It was $20. Yes, please. He was a friendly man. A red baseball cap over his grey beard and slightly buck teeth. He asked where I was from. I told him and he exploded with joy. Not literally, obviously. He looooooves England, he visited three times when he was in the army. He told me the whole story of his army career: got thrown out of Catholic school for swearing at a teacher, didn’t finish his education, was given a chance by the army, and had a 33 year career with them. He seemed like a lovely man. At some point I told him I lived in Mexico. He said that he didn’t like Mexicans. But “they are better than Chinese.” Oh, dude, I was enjoying this conversation, then you had to go and go all weird on me. I quickly changed the subject to talk about Hopkins. That was a more pleasant way to finish our conversation. I asked his name. He smiled and said with a boom, “Boots!”

The place where I am staying in Hopkins is the same place I stayed at last time. Aside from the more spendy luxurious rooms, there are three small rooms that directly face the sea, about 20 metres away. Last time I stayed in the room on one end of the three. This time that room was already booked, so I booked the other end room. I figured that, because the walls are quite thin, it’s best not to be in the middle. The only thing about the other end room is that the toilet and shower are outside. Now, when you are sat at your desk in Mexico City, dreaming of your holiday, the idea of an outside bathroom seems quite… romantic. And it’s the cheapest room (obvs). Cute. Quaint. When you are here and fancy a poo, though, it’s a tad annoying. But, the room is nice. Comfy bed, wooden slats covered with a mesh to keep the bugs out instead of curtains and windows, fridge, coffee machine, and a wee desk. As I write, I’m drinking coffee I made myself, sat at the desk, with a nice gentle breeze coming in from the sea. If you take off your glasses and imagine a bit, it’s possible to think that you are a proper writer living in a fisherman’s hut or something.

I took a lazy cycle up the main road (that is, a dirt track with speed bumps made out of thick rope) to the north end of Hopkins to a place called Driftwood Beach Bar. (An aside: I wonder how many businesses at seaside towns are called Driftwood?) obviously, they were playing Bob Marley’s greatest hits. But, having had a moan about it in yesterday’s post, it kinda didn’t bother me so much today. Plus, I made an effort to try and listen to the songs rather than just hearing bobmarleytediousbeachmusic. And, yes, it was possible to remember what it was like to hear those songs fresh. Still can’t be doing with Three Little Birds, mind.

The woman behind the bar was chatty. Canadian, had run Driftwood for six years, and hey, come down tomorrow, we’ve got a Hallowe’en party. I had a small and delicious pizza. There was a Manchester United teddy bear hung behind the bar. When I say “hung,” I mean “hanged.” The owner’s ex, who I think I met on my last visit to Hopkins, was a fan, but the barman is a Barcelona fan, so he hanged the teddy bear. Good lad. The Marley gave way to a homemade compilation. The Cars, Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins. A couple of Americans were also eating pizza. On his way to the gents, the male half walked past me and asked, is that a Reds hat? It is! A replica of the 1901 Cincinnati Reds cap to be precise. We had a chat about baseball. He’s a Houston Astros fan living in Austin, Texas. He and his wife are on their honeymoon, which explains why they’re spending 50 US dollars a day renting a golf car to get around town. Alternatively, that shows that I’m a cheap bastard, only willing to spend 10 Belize dollars on renting a bicycle.

I bought some bread, cheese, and milk at the store. That’s tonight’s evening meal and tomorrow’s breakfast sorted. While it’s nice to be on holiday and eat at restaurants way more than I normally would, there’s also something fantastic about being very very basic.

I smoked on the verandah outside my room as the sun went down. Then in the nearly dark, I noticed movement, lots of tiny things moving on the decking, next to the ashtray. Ants! Big fucking ants! Oh my gosh, there’s a dead gecko there, and tons of these huge ants, are having a feast. Rather than dealing with it, the holidaymaker in me kicked in, and I went and told the owner, and she came down and did what I could easily have done: scooped up the gecko on a piece of paper and got rid of it. I helped out by using a broom to shift the ants. After the excitement, it was time for a lie down. And by 8.30pm, I was fast asleep.

Written by Craig

October 31st, 2014 at 7:41 am

Posted in Travel

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