Leaden skies belied the fact this was the Carribean we were bouncing our way across on the good boat ‘Preciosa’. Looking back beyond our skipper for the day, Carlos, I could just make out the dark jungle clad land mass of Guatemala slipping away behind a wall of spray and heavy swell, while ahead, etched in a steely grey foreboding sky were the southern mountains of Belize, our next destination.
It had been an interesting night. Our place of abode was a far cry from the Catamaran Island affair; while it remained a shed that we slept in that was the only similarity to be drawn. Tucking Emma in behind her double mosquito net, for this hut had part-open sides and a thatched roof with gaping gable sides to allow the sea breeze to come in, I’d settled myself into my own cot and attempted to get my own net wrapped securely around me. Easier done from outside than in!
Just before 12.45am Em had almost had to shout across to me “Could I hear the rain?”. ‘Oh, so that’s what that thunderous noise was!’ And there I’d thought it was our next door neighbour’s snores!! And pour it down it did, although the rythmic rattle of the raindrops on the floors around our hut soon settled me back into a deep slumber, ahead of our early morning ride across the arm pit of the Carribean separating Guatemala from Belize.
The 16 seater boat had kindly come along to pick us up from the Hotel Rosada’s own jetty at just after 6.45am, meaning we were first on board. A short hop to Livingstone’s main jetty and the rest of the boat’s passengers embarked with a variety of bags and other items, but no chickens this time around.
And then we were off, with the skipper stood at the back, ten passengers huddled in the middle of the boat and a lookout posted up front. Within five minutes the look out had found a strip of tarpaulin that was fed down the side of the boat between passengers and the uprights for the boat’s roof, intended to provide some respite from the increasing amounts of spray that were coming over the side as be skimmed across developing sea swells. It had a limited effect, and provided us with a giggle, since the the couple sat at the front decided it would be better just to let the tarp wrap itself over their heads. Fine until they tried to escape its clutches and discovered they were packed in like a packet of M&S sandwiches.
As the outline of Belize began to appear the weather brightened a little, although not that much, and it was a miserble start to our Belizean adventures. Spot on 8am, one hour of sea dancing later, we pulled in alongside Punta Gorda’s dock and touched Belizean soil (well, concrete actually) for the first time. Immigration formalities easily completed (the Belizean official said he would allow Eug in because they shared forenames and it was a good name to have!), we were out on the main street, not that you’d know it.
Punta Gorda, (or simply PG), is nigh on horizontal in its approach to life. It is soooooo laid back! Within five minutes we must have been greeted (not hassled) by at least ten people, all with a relaxed smile, happy-go-lucky way of life and great big grin. We got some breakfast (well, coffee, actually, since we didn’t fancy chicken stew and rice at this time of the day!), and then bagged a couple of tickets for Dangriga, our planned place for the night, around 90 miles up the coast from this southern entry point to Belize and a sweaty, tedious four hour bus ride away.
While the roads were, in the most part, excellent, we managed less than 25 miles an hour because of the Belizean propensity to want the bus to stop for them wherever they want, either to get on or to get off. So, within the space of three hundred yards we sometimes stopped four times, highly frustrating when you think just how much time could be saved. let along gossip passed on, if everyone stood in one place for the bus to pick them up!!
Dangriga arrived, and we were to wish it hadn’t.