I Found Nemo, and He Tasted Delicious

23 12 2007

Posted by: Chris

“A breeze.” Crossing the Belizean border is “A breeze” according to our Lonely Planet book. We didn’t expect much when the bus driver told us all to get out and cross the border on foot–that is until we were ushered into a sweaty mass of thousands of locals all pushing elbows to squeeze into one set of immigration doors. If anyone has ever been down Bourbon street on New Year’s or Mardi Gras(and I know for a fact several of you have) then it’s a pretty good visual for this story. People were yelling, babies were crying, nowhere to move but with the flow of the crowd. I kept thinking “this has got to be the least efficient way to handle borders, surely this isn’t normal.” It wasn’t: we happened to cross on what one local referred to as “free day,” which essentially meant no taxes for the Mexico/Belize crossing. The locals go to Mexico to do their holiday shopping and return, well, about when we did. An hour and a half standing in the crowd and we finally made it through the doors. Everyone was extremely nice and apologized for this being our first impression on their country, which was totally unneccesarry but appreciated. One very large construction looking type w/ paint all over his arms and back decided to take matters into his own hands, annoyed that there were 20 guards all standing around being useless. “Single file line, SINGLE FILE LINE, if you don’t stay in a single line I’m gonna send you to the back.” You can imagine the comments people yelled back. He helped get us through, and low and behold the bus actually waited the whole time. Laura started running as soon as she saw our driver, and he had to tell her to slow down. “I’m not gonna leave you girl, just take your time.”

Belize City is mostly forgettable and considered a dangerous place to wander about at night, but the slow border delayed our arrival until around 10:30pm. 4 other travellers were looking for a hostel and Laura led the way as if we were a gaggle of middle school children on a field trip. I had to remind her everyone in the group was over 20 years old. Seemed to be a lot of crackhead crazy types in the streets including one drugged out old man speaking in a strange tongue and trailing us with a badminton racquet. The next morning we decided we’d seen more than enough of the City, and immediately heading to Caye Caulker.

There are many Cayes(just like the Florida Keys) around the area, all beside what is the 2nd longest coral reef in the world. Caye Caulker didn’t seem like much at first: the beach was nonexistant, it was fairly dirty, and relatively expensive. But we stayed 3 nights and the place quickly grew on us. Like at the border, the people were vocal and friendly and cracked us up. Lobster is plentiful and cheap and we indulged. I even had lobster ceviche for lunch and then a whole lobster butter soaked later that night for dinner. Other food included fantastic Red Snapper, Barracuda, and fresh fruit juice(pineapple being the best). We met up with Ethel, our friends mother currently working in the Peace Corps out there, and she gave us the lowdown on the Pirate history of Belize. Blackbeard himself spent most of his life in the country.

Snorkeling near the reef, while cool, doesn’t provide the same experience as diving the Blue Hole would and we aren’t dive certified. But halfway into it the driver pulled up to “Shark-ray Alley” and black shadows crept around the boat. I looked out the side and saw around 30 Sting-rays swarming us. “Go ahead, get in. You can stand up around here,” the driver persuaded. We all thought he was joking; “Sure man, whatever.” But he said it really was ok to get in, and the next thing I know Laura’s overboard. I followed and then of course me being me, I walked right smack in the middle of the swarm. Laura was freaking out grabbing my shoulder while stille treading water, not yet convinced we should actually touch them; “Be careful, don’t step on them or they might sting you!” “Well, if you’d stop spazing out and jerking me off my feet that wouldn’t be a problem.” Eventually she too stood and allowed them to touch her, even chasing after the baby ones which she thought were “so cute.” Soft on top with stone-hard tails, they are truly beautiful creatures. The highlight of Belize.

We briefly moved onto another beach town, Placencia, before heading into Guatemala. We woke up early and decided to start walking towards what I believed to be a nice spot only a few minutes up the road. “I swear the town is up this way, it’s not that far.” Laura knew what I was talking about but thought me an idiot, sure the place was way, way farther away than I let on. We’re walking fools, it’s all we are. Walked damn near 2 hours straight without any real idea where we were. We finally came upon a tiny local village–nothing like the one I was talking about–and realized they probably didn’t get a lot of backpackers hanging around. Hungry, we stepped in the “Country Club Bar and Grill” and had some fantastic barbecue ribs(chicken ribs I think) and chicken. Oddly enough the wooden shack had speakers set up and started blaring out cheesy Tennessee country tunes, which I can’t stand. What can I say? Anywhere in the world I can find the random good barbecue joint off the side off the road, even bumble#%@ Belize. We hitchhiked back to town(Laura no longer glaring at me) with owners of a local upscale hotel. Most their employees live in that village, and yes, they do in fact like country music. They dropped us in an area near our hostel, and immediately I recognized it as the place I orignially was talking about 3 hours before. Laura started glaring at me again.

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2 responses

24 12 2007
mary and lance

Merry Christmas, Chris and Laura!

26 01 2008
Leslie

hey, I stayed in placencia for a week or so, I loved it there, what a small world! and a little fyi for you, the guy that always wear’s a large clock on his neck whose name I cant recall went there during on of his terrible tv shows

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