I am continually amazed how quickly the body deteriorates into complete and utter grubbiness. Let me back up a few hours…
I took my diving certification in November of last year and didn’t get a chance to do my open water dive for full certification. I found out that too much time has elapsed. It will cost more for Max and I to re-certify in Belize than for me to fly back to Canada and take the free refresher courses and open water dives with Kanata Diving where we did our original courses. Combine that with the fact that I can work for a couple of weeks while there, escort Max and Jim’s mom to Belize through the maze of buses and intimidating Mexican officials and it didn’t take long to do the math. Before you could say pass the salsa we had booked my flight home and I was in the open air on a jet boat travelling at mock speed for Mexico hanging on for dear life. Two hours later I stumbled off the boat with my hair looking like – there are no words, but not green like the poor girl across from me. After haggling with a taxi driver bent on soaking me I made my way to the bus terminal. A four hour bus ride to Playa Del Carmen where I panicked thinking I had forgotten my pack somewhere and it was on my back (not used to such a light pack), another bus to the Cancun airport, and yet another into Cancun central where I found a nearby hostel and will soon, god willing, have a shower. My flight is tomorrow afternoon, a night layover in Toronto and arriving in Ottawa Sunday morning. So after all the fond goodbyes and fare thee wells I will be back for a two week work trip sooner rather than later. A little anti-climactic but there you have it. It will be nice to see you all. Oops…gotta go – the showers free!
San Pedro is only five miles from the end of the southern tip of the island. We hopped on our bikes to see what was there. Coincidently, as a side note – to do it again I definitely wouldn’t bring bikes with us. I would buy a bike in Corozol for 200.00 Belizean dollars (100.00 Canadian). The local no-speed bikes here make our $200.00 Canadian Tire mountain bikes look way too super-duper. We are repeatedly cautioned not even to turn our backs without locking them. Within 15 minutes we had ridden off the cobbled street and onto the dirt road which was soon sandwiched between the sea shore and the lagoon (where we have been advised not to swim on account of the crocs). Private luxury residences and small resorts are interspersed with areas of untouched beauty. Riding along he road itself was an adventure. On both sides there were ongoing holes of every size that we continually saw crabs scurry into . We stopped to look at a small (about 1 ½ inches) tarantula that in the middle of the road flipped on his back. Thinking it was dead, Jim turned him over with over with a stem of grass and was rewarded with a quick defensive snap before it scurried away. Lounging iguana’s ranging in size up to 2 feet long were plentiful. At one point I was close enough to almost touch one but didn’t try – they can bite. Near the end of the road, thinking we were riding through a normal mud puddle we quickly found it was some clay type glue that didn’t want to surrender my shoe once I had unintentionally disembarked my bike. Uggg. And then we found the Marco Gonzalez Mayan ruins. It was a protected park that opened last year which we will visit another day as there was an entrance fee and it was closing shortly. An awesome ride!
While on our way to Caye Caulker (with its approximate population of 600 people) we were required to stop on Ambergris Caye and switch boats. We weren’t interested in staying any longer than necessary as we generally gravitate towards rural peace and shy away from areas that are highly touristy but we were there so we figured we might as well look around. The water was the quintessential Caribbean aqua; the white sandy beaches were littered with dive centers, little restaurants, and shops. People were motoring around the streets in their golf carts (they are San Pedro’s main mode of transport). The town was alive with activity and energy. As we walked we started to feel that this crazy tourist mecca might be a better fit for Max. He would have the fun of being in a town with things to do and we were as close as possible to the barrier reef for snorkel and scuba fun which we will all enjoy. (hence the flocking of tourists) On a whim we stopped and enquired about apartments for rent in a nice building overlooking the sea but I figured if there were any they would be well out of our price range. Polo, the owner said there was one unit available and astonishingly it was affordable. As we started walking up the outside stairs to see it my heart started to quicken. I loved the look and the color, I loved the feel, I loved the old world cemetery that it overlooked, and I especially loved the view AND the high school is just around the corner. By the time we reached the third floor (there are four floors) and opened the apt. door, I could barely breathe. I loved it all. By Canadian standards it is run-down but by Belizean standards it is high-end. Before the end of the day we had paid the rent and gotten the keys. Being on an island has its disadvantages; the food is much more expensive, going anywhere else costs money for the water taxi but the advantages for us are worth it. We went ahead to Caye Cauker because we had already bought the ticket but didn’t stay long. It was quaint, lovely, still touristy just much much smaller. The half-hour boat ride back to Ambergris Caye was fast, bumpy, wet and serously adrenaline-pumping. It is the rainy season here now and the pilot was outrunning one of the frequent tropical storms that come up fast and furious. The next day we took the two hour water taxi back to Corozol to get our stuff. I will miss Corozol; its quiet streets and affable people where we have already made friends. We packed up and we arrived for good in our new home this afternoon. So here we are – living by the sea in the heart of the main tourist destination in all of Belize. Who knew! (Trying desperately again to get pics on but the glitch in my system may have to be sorted out again by my dear daughter Sabrina.)
It is nighttime. The waves against the shore are gentle and soothing as a humid Caribbean breeze blows through the screened windows. The muted sound of children playing in the street is both charming and strangely comforting. A dog barks in the distance and a baby cries. Soon they will all be settled into bed and I will hear only the waves and the wind…lulling me to sleep. We have found our place. As soon as we saw it, it felt good. Turns out it’s not in any of what we thought were our three finalist locations. We have rented an apartment facing the sea in San Pedro. I will post details and pictures tomorrow. I have only a little juice left in my laptop and no charger with me. A warm goodnight from Ambergris Caye, Belize.
We are trying to weigh the advantages of paying more and living here for a shorter period of time but being in a location that is closer to diving and nice beaches. Here in Corozol prices are cheap, people are friendly, it is close and easy to get to, but the waterfront is sea wall on the Corozol bay with little marine life. We found a lovely 2 bedroom home for $300.00 a month. (Took a picture of it and will figure out how to post pictures today). It is secluded, just out of town and close to the high school. It’s tempting for sure and we aren’t ruling it out.
Lobster fest today in Corozol so chillin’ here is a no-brainer but tomorrow we will take the 2 hour boat taxi out to Caye Caulker and maybe the next day head back down to Placencia (if you listen very carefully you will hear my bum and ankles howling). That seems to be where we have narrowed our search to – Corozol, Caye Caulker, or Placencia. If we can find something remotely reasonable, I think our first choice is Caye Caulker and cut our stay shorter. I am sure that Max would be happy; there is no high school on the island. He would do the Ontario distance schooling online. You have to be out of province for a minimum of three months to qualify and it is $1000.00 per year but that’s the same as going to a local high school here would cost.
We are comfortable in our little hotel for now. It is cheap, and we have use of a kitchen downstairs. We are always greeted by multiple geckos on the front patio. Last night Jim happened upon a pornographic show from them when he went outside to smash the coconuts (that we bought from an old toothless vendor on her bicycle) with a hammer. We saw our first Belizean snake on the patio of the house we saw – a green headed tree snake. Their bite is only mildly poisonous. And not to be indelicate, but my bowels know they are not in Kansas anymore – I mean Lanark County.
We set our alarm for 4 am to catch the 5 am bus yesterday to Belize City. We mainly wanted to check out a couple of little towns in southern Belize called Placencia and Hopkins. Three buses (with happily no wait time) and 7 hours later we were in Hopkins. About ten minutes after that Jim and I both came to the same conclusion – it was RIGHT ON THE BEACH, laid back and cheap – but very dirty, no high school and too many ganga smokin’ unemployed hustlers. Not good for Max. We saw a couple of places anyway. Seven buses and seventeen hours after we walked the six blocks from our hotel to the bus terminal in Corozol we arrived back at our our hotel tired but having learned more about the user friendly bus system, seen the mountainous rainforest jungles (beautiful even from the bum-sore seat of a bus) of Belize and none the worse for wear. We will see Placencia another day. Funny story – the old buses can get VERY crowded, often a seat will hold two women and four small children with the aisles packed as well. I offered to hold a little three year old behind me, two minutes later his twin brother wanted my lap as well and they were happy to stay there. The very ample woman sitting beside me had a big tray of nuts for sale. It was a bumpy ride and a long leg of the journey.
We had an awesome early morning bike ride to some Mayan ruins dating back to 2000 B.C. There was no gate, fence, visitor’s center, or even information plaque. Just a mound of ruins on the side of the road. With its wide steps leading up to it I imagined it to be some kind of temple. The dark cave-like rooms within the ruins were guarded by the ultra-poisonous (even more than rattle snakes) recluse spiders that were almost the size of my fist. Showing ontext in the picture would have been nice but getting that close didnt appeal to me. We returned to our small hotel for a Belizean breakfast of beans, warm fresh tortilla’s, cheese, avocado and scrambled eggs.
After attending a talk on the disappearance of the Mayans, the rest of the day was spent riding around (after Jim fixed my flat tire) exploring and looking for rentals. Tomorrow we are taking the 5am bus to Belize City and then on to Placencia in southern Belize to check it out. While Corozol is incredibly friendly, we are keeping our options open for now. I turned 51 today and I’m happily homeless. (except I cant figure out how to get the blasted pictures on. Will figure it out another day. I need to sleep)
It’s starting to hit me as I sit here in the bus terminal in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We are on our way to Belize. Other than some fitful dozing on the plane to Cancun this morning there has been no sleep since Sunday night. It’s now 2:30 pm and the bus to Corozol leaves at 11:40 pm and arrives at 4:15 am so tonight doesn’t bode well either but rest is on the horizon. And what a horizon it will be. No argument that it has been a grueling journey lugging our two huge bike boxes stuffed with bikes and cargo, our 50 pound back packs and additional carry-ons as we navigate our way off planes, onto buses, and into taxi’s, back onto buses etc. It is warm and humid outside. When we finally get to the hotel tomorrow Gwyn (the good proprietor) will be able to smell us before he sees us.
The digestive cookie from Westjet didn’t take us far and we demolished a couple of tacos from the corner stand. Note to self – test the green stuff in the little baggie before slathering it on. I still can’t feel my lips or my nose for that matter. For now, we people watch in the Mexican bus terminal; the eager little man who rushes to help everybody with their luggage as he struggles to make a living; the Uzi toting cop sitting outside; the comings and goings of people going about their life. Beautiful children in their mother’s arms are everywhere
7:00 am Belizean time Wed. morning. After leaving home Monday about 2 am we have arrived. Halleluiah!! The taxi driver named Junior that took us from the bus terminal to the Sea Breeze Hotel here in Corozol stopped at a small outdoor stand en route and we had some fresh tortillas with beans and cheese for breakfast. Welcome to Belize!!! I will try to figure out how to post some pictures without Sabrina’s help. if I get into trouble Jim will be able to figurwe it out but he is sleeping right now as he got significantly less sleep than I did.