When your travelling and constantly on the move, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. Days are long and filled with so much newfound excitement, that its easy to forget to sit down and take a moment to reflect. This morning I was thankful for the rain.
As this trip approached I found that I wasn’t anxious nor apprehensive, as I was on my trip to Thailand. Instead, I welcomed all the possibilities that Central America would have to offer me. Parents were of course lecturing. Adults I find are often scared of the unknown, and spend to much time being caught up in the negativity the news provides them with surrounding foreign places. However I have learned the news is pretty biased. They rarely cover stories about all the joy foreign countries will bring you, but waste no time poisoning you with the horrors you may face, with some troubling luck. I wasn’t nervous. Instead, I welcomed all opinions, taking each suggestion with an open mind.
My flight was easy, which was new for me, as I always have trouble flying and usually calm my unease with 9 dollar glasses of cheap wine. But having only rested for 2 hours throughout the night, ended up sleeping all the way through. With a quick two hour layover in Miami, the entire journey was not more than 8 hours. I was wide awake (and sober) once we descended into Belize City. I was asked not to film the airport, humbly agreed, made my way through customs with zero trouble, and immediately began to look for my travel partner Matt. I asked two security guards if they had seen my giant friend (Matt is 6 foot 10), they denied my assumption, but to my surprise happily asked if I would like them to play a trick on him, and arrest him upon arrival. I know its mean of me, but I figured what a way to be welcomed into his first back packing adventure. It would have made for a good story. Had he not already made it through the gates, I probably would have filmed the entire ordeal.
I found him on the other side, and we made quickly made our exit outside. There isn’t much to see at the airport, and the hassle of hitting duty free didn’t seem worth it, so we got straight into a cab and asked him to take us to the pier where we could catch a water taxi over to the Cayes. Our ride over was something straight out of the fast and the furious. Our driver seemed to be playing chicken with oncoming traffic, passing all the cars in front of us, even though we were in no rush, and even though the other cars seemed to be following the same speed. Though I was nervous that my side of the car was about to take on heavy impact, I couldn’t help but laugh my way through it. Bad driving, and crazy road conditions is all to familiar to me when travelling through foreign countries. I happily watched Matt smiling from ear to ear, looking around in complete wonderment as we drove through the dirty, hectic streets, lined by exotic palm trees, crocodile infested swamps, shady run down houses, and people casually strolling around the streets with machetes in hand. We were not in Canada anymore.
When we got to the pier we were happily greeted by a local named Eric. He gave us the low down on the area, explaining the difference between San Pedro and Caye Caulker. The first being more lively and fast paced with a booming party life, and the latter exhibiting more slow, relaxed conditions. I looked up at Matt and could already read his facial expressions. “We’ll take 2 for San Pedro please.” Eric was good to us, he briefed us quickly before we got on the boat, prompting us on popular tours we could take and letting us know what to expect on the Island. Like all the other locals, he was trying to make a quick buck, and even though we knew he was likely taking a small cut when he asked us if we wanted him to grab us a beer, we happily gave him 10 Belizean dollars ($2.50 American each, who were we to complain).
The water taxi was a dodgy boat filled with pensive locals importing goods back to the islets, and sweaty travelling souls like ourselves, sharing insightful tales of their own travels. The ride was approximately an hour and a half, but felt like no time at all. We made friends with a local woman named Glenda, who to unbeknownst to us, would be our saviour during our arrival on the Caye Ambergris She told us everything we needed to know, the dangers we could face, the cost of living so we don’t end up getting ripped off (which is most of the danger), what to do while there and where to stay. Her only advice, and I pass it on to anyone who wishes to travel without guide here, was to act like we had been living there for a while because tourists are often being taken advantage off for lack of knowledge.
She told us the place to be/stay was Pedro’s Inn, and thankfully warned us not to ring the bell, as we would be expected to buy the entire bar a round of Jager and that was certainly not in our budget. To my frequent misfortune, I was not surprised when my backpack didn’t make it to San Pedro. Normally I may approach a situation as this apprehensively, but thanks to Glenda I felt super optimistic during the short ordeal. She offered to drive us to the Inn after a quick stop to her shop, and exchanged Spanish with the boat guides, who told us my bag was brought to the wrong Caye, and would be available to pick up at 4:30. Naturally, you have to be weary of who you trust, but Matt and I agreed there was no reason to doubt Glenda, we put our trust in her, dropped the remainder of our bags at her store where she gave us water and a snack of our choosing, allowed her to take us off the beaten path to her house to pick up her golf cart, and then took it for an exclusive tour of the island. This sort of tour would have likely cost a lot of money, but she happily showed us around, took us to the hostel, then to the beer store, where we picked up some alcoholic refreshments and headed on. Before we knew it, we were half pissed driving around the streets of San Pedro like locals in one of the most laid back places in the world. We picked up my bag at 4:30 and headed back to Pedro’s Inn to recuperate before heading into the night.
Downstairs in Pedro’s pizzeria the party was slowly beginning to unfold. It was around 6pm, when it started to get dark, and rightfully coincides with the usual drinking time. We started our tab with a pizza and 2 beers, but decided it was a good idea to pay as we went for the remainder of our drinks, after having been the victims of the Jager bell 4 times in the next hour. We met a great group of 10 or so fellow travellers, Max, Jac, Corey, and Reese- four loveable guys from Australia, Leah and Rachel, the poorly English speaking sisters from Switzerland; Manuel, the smart German (works for Google) and Steve the solo ten-month to-go travelling American. We continued into the liquor fueled evening learning a lot about our friends through various drinking games, and quite possibly the most epic karaoke of my life. Lets just say bets were made, and I probably shouldn’t have brought my go pro out, because none of us needed to re-live the horrors of our performances. Shout out to Jac for his poor performance of “I Touch Myself” before he was literally unplugged, and Steve for the most unexpectedly brilliant rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Dead of Alive”.. spirit fingers and all.
The next day Steve, who happened to be our neighbour, and who would come to enjoy speaking through the walls with me, took us for a tour along the beach. He had been living at the Inn for a couple days now, and had found the bar-to-be. Palapa Bar and Grill is owned by an American couple, Scott and Jodie, who left the comfort of their home in 2007 to live out the rest of their lives on the island. It was an hour long walk from San Pedros, along sandy shoreline, with a quick hitchhike over top local flooding not easily accessible for walkers, but absolutely worth the trek. Its straw thatched roof hangs over wooden panels, 2 stories centered over top of crystal clear turquoise waters, where stingrays are seen casually swim underneath the wooden pier that leads to it. We were happily greeted by Scott, who explained his love of the island life, and shared with us his vast happiness since his move 7 years ago. We purchased a bucket of beer, and headed down the stairs to hang with the rays in the water tubes, while they lowered the bucket by rope. We probably hung out in the tubes for 3 hours, enjoyed delicious food, and spent the remainder of the afternoon lazing around in the hammock. I learned very quickly that day that it is very possible to get severely burnt even when its overcast.
The next couple of days were very similar. Breakfast was served at our favourite spot “Melt” (if you ever come to the Island this is the place to eat). We lazed around during the afternoons, exploring everything the island had to offer, and lounged by the pool on our down time, and when it got far to hot to bear. Nights were happily accompanied by bottles of Belekin, staggering pub crawls, drunken polaroids, ridiculous bets, and our new lifelong friends. Seems every place I visit I’m always meeting fun loving, easy going Australians, and they’re never bad company. Loveable luntatics, as Steve the Great calls them, and it surely fits. It would have been easy to make like Pedro himself and move the the Island to live for the rest of our lives, but after three days it was time to move on. We set out for Caye Caulker with our new instant family to explore its sister Island, who’s slogan was “go slow”, and that didn’t sound bad at all.