Flip Flop Flying

Belize, day 4: Placencia

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It doesn’t take much for my brain to ruin things for me. A brief chat yesterday about rays, manta or otherwise, left me paranoid. Up at 5.45, shorts on, grab a towel, and out to beach. I took my specs off and went to the water for a swim. Without my specs, though, I’m relatively blind. After a wee swim, I settled down, crouching in the water so that all but my head was underwater. Is that-? That shape-? Is that shape? No, it’s not. Yes, it is! That’s a ray hiding in the sand! Don’t be stupid, Craig. Of course it’s not, you’re just being paranoid. But what if it is? You don’t have travel insurance. And aside from the cost, being stung would very literally be a pain.

I’ve already got loads of bug bites. I think they are sand fly bites. People here call them “no-see-ems” because, obvs, you don’t see them, just feel the aftermath of their lunching on your body. Despite lacquering myself with DEET at least a couple of times a day, the lower half of my legs are a galaxy of red bites. I can see the Plough! There’s Orion! I get paranoid, too, that all this DEET is gonna strip the skin away, then the muscle, then the bone will start to bubble and melt like cheese on top of a pizza. I’ll go to sleep feeling fine, and wake up, try to get out of bed and fall on my arse because all my legs have disappeared because of the DEET. I got some on my lip this morning – just touched my lip ever so briefly – and the horrible bitter chemical taste stuck around for a few minutes. Obviously, it is now eroding my tongue and throat.

Whilst I was swimming, a guy walked along the beach. He stopped and yelled, “you wanna buy a wood carving?” I realise you wanna sell stuff to gringos, dude, but there’s a time and a place. You can safely bet I don’t have my wallet with me when I’m doing breast stroke in the sea at six in the morning.

It’s really nice being awake early in Placencia. For one thing, it’s the coolest time of the day. There are fewer people around; the grackles and dogs are up and about, looking for food. There’s the pleasant sound of hotel employees raking the sand on the beach. And as you walk around, you are duty bound to engage in the Belizean hobby of saying hello to everyone. This is something I find fascinating. It’s obviously not a distinctly Belizean thing that people say hello, but I don’t go to many places where it does happen. Walks in the English countryside produce a lot of hellos and good mornings. And walking anywhere in Belize does, too. I like the different types. I tend to go for one of two things: a “good morning” before noon, and a “hi” after noon. Some men will do a proper hello, others will mutter, some will just raise their hand in a lazy wave, others will just make some vague noise that is the Belizean phrase for “fucking tourists…” Women, I have found, engage in this behaviour less. Whether it’s just that they don’t say good morning to male tourists, I don’t know. My fellow visitors mostly seem happy to do it. The older ones, anyway. Younger people don’t seem that arsed and this stuff.

An adorable child in school uniform asked, “do you know what time is it?” “Is it,” not “it is.” I told her, and as I continued my walk, I could heard her repeating the time quietly over and over.

Everywhere in Placencia smells of paint. The tourist season doesn’t start here for another week or so, so there are still lots of places doing renovations ready for it all to kick in again.

I had coffee at Above Grounds. It’s a building on stilts. And they sell coffee. Another coffee shop in Placencia is called Brewed Awakenings. Puns all around. Above Grounds is nice. They were playing the Stone Roses when I arrived. And the owner is a friendly Scot who was happy to chat for a while on the verandah looking out over the main street.

Here are some highlights of a conversation about a Harley Davidson that two Americans had at the coffee shop:
That your beast? (it was)
That’s a sexy bike (it was nice, sure, but not sure if I’d describe it as sexy)
I thought yours was black (no, it’s grey)
It’s like a gun smoke pearl (no, it’s grey)
I painting my Mustang like that (grey, then)
You can tell from the angle of the dangle (no idea what he was referring to)

I went to a laundry place. Just a hole in a wooden shack with a shutter opened. Nobody was inside but there was a buzzer. I pressed it. Nothing. I pressed it again and waited. I heard a toilet flush. Then a shifty-eyed guy came out, he didn’t say anything. I asked if I could get some washing done and if so, would it be ready today? He rubbed his face, looked everywhere but at me, and half-mumbled, “yeah.” I told him I’d be back with my washing and then went to a different place to get my laundry done.

Back at Barefoot Bar in the late morning. Ordered a beer. Was passed a beer. Took a sip. Water. That tastes like water. It Is water. (Budweiser joke goes here.) I tell the barmaid. She tastes it, shows it to other people like I’d found the elixir of life in their fridge.

Had a brief exchange with a guy. He was from Oregon. I asked where. Eugene. “Aah, the Emeralds!” I replied. He seemed incredibly unimpressed that a British person would know the name of a minor league baseball team in his home town, and just asked where I was from. I told him Lincoln. He shouted, “Yorkshire!” I corrected him. He shouted “Yorkshire!” again.

I sat at the bar and made a decision to not multi-task. If I was smoking, I not also be looking at Twitter or reading my book. I put the cigarette in the ashtray when I took a sip of beer. I put the beer back down, took a drag, then put the cigarette back in the ashtray while I wrote these words. It was difficult to do. I only managed doing it for ten minutes or so before the modern trained brain kicked in and I got back to doing several things at once.

The very friendly barmaid, Mel, asked what I was “doing on that thing” all the time. I told her I was looking at Twitter. I felt ashamed and ordered a shot of their homemade bitters.

Just like the night before, there was power cut around dusk. It was a perfect excuse to get away from the terrible bore I was sat next to (that is: a conservative Republican who wouldn’t stop yakking). Had a wander down to the end of the peninsula to Mojo Lounge. A lovely little restaurant on the first floor, overlooking the street. I wasn’t overly hungry, but had some wonderful jalapeƱo poppers. It was moderately busy, but one of the nice things was, that as a solo diner, I wasn’t just shoved off in the corner somewhere. Didn’t feel like I was taking up space at a table for four. While I was there, the staff brought small glasses of some cocktail to everyone for free. White, dark, and coconut rums with orange and mango.

By that time, the booze was catching up with me. I wandered back to the hotel, lay on the bed, and was asleep before 8pm.

Written by Craig

October 25th, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Travel

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