We had an early start in Dangriga. The taxi driver, good ole Gifford,who’d taken us to the Pelican Beach Resort the night before, had promised to pick us up at 7am to take us to the little airstrip at Dangriga but as time ticked on, we started to get rather worried that he wasn’t turning up. Eug was half way down the road to find another taxi when he turned up full of apologies for being late.
He couldn’t get the car to start – said it happened sometimes when it was cold!!! He was going to send a friend to pick us up but then the car started and everything was fine. The car wasn’tmuch; it was only when we got to Dangriga airstrip that I realised his car had also enjoyed the rain last night as I exited the car with a wet bum!
We’d booked our flight with TropicAir online the previous day. It was that easy, and also extremely cheap. When we arrived there was a very small Cessna (that’swhat Eug called it) sat rather forlornly outside of a Portacabin, still dripping with the wetness of last night, while the actual ‘runway’ was little more than the very bumpy and potholed roads we’d travelled on to get here. Another tiny plane arrived and we were ushered on up the three wobbly steps. The plane was full – all thirteen of us! It felt strange being in such a small aircraft but the views were good. We landed at Belize International Airport and a few people got off. The door was closed and we took another 5 minutes to get to the Municipal Airport.
A taxi took us on through Belize City to our hotel. It didn’t really feel like a big city, more like a big town. All around were clap board buildings, probably once rather gailey painted, but now showing the signs of peeling paint and damp creeping upwards towards tin roof hats. We crossed over a couple of canals, but there were no narrowboats, and indeed little life associated with them. A relic of the past that has little chance of being brought back to life, judging by the rest of the city.
The Hotel Mopan, allegedly “where the interesting people meet” checked us in and showed us our room which was fine. We got a good breakfast there and then perused the guide books on the comfy chairs on the porch. We didn’t think there was going to be that much to do here either and the stories of hassle and after dark muggings we kept hearing about were also putting us off. We’d planned on having two nights here but we were now starting to think otherwise.
Eug suggested we head straight off to Caye Caulker in the morning, which is where we had the remaining week booked for 5 days of R&R. I liked his thinking but was this going to be too long for us in one place?? Further flicking through the guide book revealed that Ambergis Caye and the tourist area of San Pedro was manageable for a night. The clincher was the fact that San Pedro had a budget hotel called Ruby’s, which is the name of one of our cats – and we’re starting to miss them quite a bit now. So we called Ruby’s and then went out to book the short flight (15 minutes) out to Ambergis Caye.
We had a quick wander around Belize City but admittedly weren’t that taken. We walked down to the harbour, which was a bit of a tourist haven for the cruise ships coming in for a few hours. Further along the harbour, we met an interesting guy. I made the mistake of smiling as he passed by and Eugene had just lit up so he introduced himself to blag a fag. He used to take people out on dive trips but now, he just washed cars and strolled the harbour, doing the minimum to get by, and with the name of Able, he certainly was adept at most things which involved the minimum of effort for the maxixmum reward. And did you know that when you look at the picture of the Queen on the Belizian dollars (it’s wierd seeing the Queen, looking so young, and on different currency) that she looks younger the more you stare at her? And her pearl earrings and necklace jsut disappear in front of your eyes? This guy had seen it himself. We didn’t get suckered in to pulling out some cash so he could show us what he meant (and make the very notes we pulled out disappear as well!). He also liked crystals (probably the white sort) and could look into them and see people coming round corners – it’s great how they work. My fingernails had almost cut through to the bone on my hands at this point and I couldn’t face eye contact with Eugene in case I burst out laughing. Our space age buddy blagged another cigarette from Eug before floating off into his own little world. Definitely the most bizarre conversation we’d had so far this year!
Lunch was in the market hall at “Big Daddys” and a set lunch of chicken, rice and beans, and potatoes – a whopping plateful. Feeling rather full and a little tired we went back to the “interesting” Hotel Mopan for a long siesta.
We’d spied the Harbour View restaurant (funnily enough, down at the harbour, the oldcustoms house, as it rurned out to be, and probably one of the best loved buildings in Belize City) as a nice place to go for dinner and aimed to get a taxi down there as it was after dark. We walked out with this in mind but ended up walking the whole way there which was a bit daunting but hassle-free. My heartbeat quickened as we walked across the bridge where 2 guys seemed to be arguing about drugs – but that may have been my overactive imagination! Apart fromthat.the whole city was pretty much silent, which made walking along the sidewalks, not so long ago thronged with jewellery laden cruise ship visitors, slightly daunting.
We had a lovely meal out on the terrace. Good food and service, and a stunning ice cream, which I normally can’t bear.
It peed it down as we were about to leave. Our host for the night kindly escorted us to the nearby Radisson where we met Linden, our new driver in this city which isn’t worth spending more than half a day in.