Belize in JanuaryAuthor: Paul (More Trip Reviews by Paul)
Date of Trip: January 2008
When nearing the coastal plain, the highway bridges become narrow; down to one lane. These are remnants of an old rail line that operated here to take sugar cane to market. It was abandoned in the early 1900's. Hopkins and the access road in have not changed in two years. The road is still rough and the town is still gritty. Hopkins is what I imagine Cancun was like thirty years ago; a large crescent bay with sand beaches and a population that mostly makes a living from the sea or land. Large scale development could be right around the corner. We go back to Whispering Seas Hotel and take a cabana. This one is concrete.
The day is spent relaxing at the beach, swimming, relaxing with a nap, swimming and just laying about.
Marcello the owner does not remember us from two years ago; I guess we all look the same to him. Supper is in the large building just behind our cabana, thankfully nobody changes the CD when it stops, we could hardly talk over the blaring music. There are four other gringos at the bar and we join them for a couple of rums. We talk about many things and we share a few pictures of home that we brought with us. One picture is from this hotel two years ago, me and a local boy. We show it to Slim our bartender and she gets very excited; it is her nephew Kieran. She hunts him down and drags him over to meet us. Dallas does most of the talking and we promise to meet at breakfast to share some of the schoolbooks she has brought down. More rum with the crowd follows and we retire quite late.
Monday January 31
It is cool with dark clouds moving in from the east when I walk the beach at 0600. It was a poor sleep. After packing we have breakfast and Kieran arrives in his school uniform. He looks about nine years old but is actually thirteen in grade eight. Dallas gives him the books and he is off to school and we are off to Placencia.
The plan is to take the turnoff to Dangriga and then head south from there. After only a couple hundred metres on this secondary road, we turn around and head back. It is far too rough with large potholes. We were the only vehicle on the road and then we passed a couple of men on bicycles with rifles slung over their shoulders! We didn't know what to expect up ahead.
We travel further south on the good highway and then turn east to Placencia. This road is gravel also but a bit better shape than the last one. Potholes abound and we weave the car from side to side in an effort to miss the larger ones. The rains must have missed this area because the dust from other vehicles is choking. Sometimes we have to pull over and wait for the dust to settle so we can see more than ten feet. Soon we turn south and are on the peninsula. The road deteriorates some more. Our maximum speed is now no more than 30KPH. Glimpses of the ocean can be seen to our left and the lagoon to the right. All vegetation near the road is covered in a fine layer of red dust. No matter the condition of the road, we are still passed by every vehicle that overtakes us; from busses to cars to transports. At one point we come across a tractor trailer rig on its side, it failed to negotiate a curve. There are supposed to be two towns on the road before we get to Placencia but we only see one; Seine Bight. The town is gritty and the people surly looking. The peninsula narrows in one place to no more than one hundred feet across, we can see water plainly at both sides. Development here is booming; dredging operations are creating subdivisions on the lagoon side because there is no more shore available on the ocean side. Million dollar homes are under construction, each one with man made water access right to the door.
The busy Placencia Airport comes into view, the runway running across the whole peninsula, the road bisecting it at one end. We stop and look as directed so we don't become a hazard to incoming planes.
We pull into Placencia at 1100, gas up at the first station and then drive the main street till it dead ends at the wharf.
A friendly young lady at a close by tourist information place explains how Placencia is laid out with the "sidewalk" and gives us a couple of maps so we can find our way. As usual when we are in any new place we promptly get lost and end up at The Tradewinds Cabanas located on the south east corner of the peninsula. We lucked into a terrific place and take the only one available. It is a bit bigger than what we are used to but has a kitchen so we can make some meals if we want.
Lunch is at the Purple Space Monkey on the main street. It seems to be the place for the party crowd.
A few words about the town layout. Placencia is on the southern tip of a narrow peninsula, the only road in or out is on the west or lagoon side of the peninsula. Between the road and lagoon there is only enough room for a single row of houses or businesses. On the east or ocean side of the road there is more land available, all packed with buildings of some sort. A sidewalk runs from the south end of town; the wharf end, snaking its way north to rejoin the main road at some point. This sidewalk is the dividing line between the back of businesses on the east side of the road and others on the ocean side. Sometimes there are extra buildings between making for four deep, some just fronting on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is a major pedestrian thoroughfare, no vehicles are allowed; besides it is only four feet wide. Shops, restaurants and tour outfits abound. Streetlights try to keep out all the shadows at night but some are not working so it can be dim in many areas. Exploring the town only takes a few hours so we have lots of time for relaxing and swimming. Groceries are purchased along with rum and beer (we have a fridge!) and we have a very good time today just relaxing.
Tuesday January 22
Up at 0600 again and walk the beach so as not to wake Dallas. No one is about except me; the sun isn't even up yet. I walk to the far end of the crescent then sit to watch the sunrise. This beach is all coarse sand and my feet are sore by the time I am half way back; must remember to wear some footwear tomorrow. After a breakfast of fresh fruits and coffee our schedule this morning is just hanging around the cabana swimming, taking sun, reading and relaxing. Sometime in the early afternoon we walk to town; all of 200M, to check email and exchange our books at the Purple Space Monkey's library. A straight exchange of one book for one is $5BZ. Town is very hot; it is surprising how much cooler the beach area is.
As a treat to ourselves and also because we want to experience it, we book a night on French Louis Caye for Thursday. FLC is a small private island that we will have for just the two of us and the caretaker / cook. A bit of a splurge, it is $390USD per night but all meals are included and prepared by the cook.
Back at the cabana we make a late lunch of egg salad sandwiches and get back into relaxing. The afternoon is spent just like the morning only we have a couple of beers and 1 Barrel Rum.
Evening finds us walking the sidewalk looking for a place to have supper. We settle on Omar's after reading the blackboard menu. We have grilled red snapper, rice, refried beans and large glasses of freshly made lime juice for $42BZ.
Bed is early tonight after we read a few more pages of our new books, just standing at the bar in our cabana. Sometime during the night the wind picks up and brings rain. I am woken by the sound and get up to close the shutters on the windward side. Other than that it is a good sleep.
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