Last week we were back in Belize on a well-deserved break from teaching (let’s be honest, we needed new visas!). We had special guest and fellow teacher Sherri along for the ride and this is what the three of us got up to…
We left Tela, Honduras on the Monday morning at 6am. Our aim was to catch the D-Express ferry from Puerto Cortes directly to Placencia along the southern coast of Belize. We had tried buying tickets beforehand on line to no avail and as it was, on arrival we were told all the tickets to the only ferry were sold out.
Plan B. We discussed our options and decided that while buses would be cheaper, they would also be rather slow so with our new mate ‘Flash’, a private tour operator and for an inflated gringo price, we headed for the Guatemalan border before proceeding to Puerto Barrios, exchanging land for sea to make the crossing to Punta Gorda.
The boat ride was roughly 1 hour and a half of thudding over waves. We all literally had bruises from the seats on our backs on tailbones. I would even go as far as saying I swallowed my own ovaries at least twice! It was that choppy!
Once in Punta Gorda we passed through immigration and headed to the bus station. From here it was a further 2 and a half hours to Placencia Junction where we would wait, in the dark, in the middle of absolutely nowhere for our connecting bus to Placencia Village. (Normally you would only take the bus to Big Creek and water taxi but given the time of our arrival, we were advised no more taxis would be operating by the time we arrived there.)
It was 8.30pm by the time we exited the bus in Placencia, a meagre 14 and a half hours since leaving home, to find our accommodation closed for the night. Thankfully the owners at Rumfish y Vino called through and arranged for someone to come let us in – otherwise it would have been an interesting evening sleeping on the beach!
Dinner that night was spent at Dragonfly Moon where we indulged in Char Siu Bao, green dumplings and Pad Thai with peanut and tamarind sauce. Absolutely delicious!! Needless to say after dinner, it was showers and bed, ready to take on the next day.
Tuesday was much more successful. After breakfast we headed out exploring town which landed us at Brenda’s Grill with some hard-core, put’s hair on your chest, rum punch. We’d had these on our last trip to Belize but my goodness these were strong for 10am in the morning. We could hardly stop there, so once Sherri had finished the enormous serving of coconut pie and fruit salad she’d ordered, we headed over to Friends at the Pier. Owner Ryan and his family are from Canada and have been running the breakfast style restaurant for roughly 2 months. The service here is excellent and very friendly. We didn't eat here but can highly recommend the coconut rum punch…or the panty ripper as it’s aptly referred to.
Next up we visited Omar’s restaurant to purchase our return ferry tickets for Friday. The tickets are pre-sold here until Friday morning when you can find ticket sellers at the pier from 7am for the 9am boat out. We hoped to avoid another long day on buses going through Guatemala to get home. With one ferry in and one ferry out a week, we knew seats would be limited. This time we had success and secured our seats for USD $65.00 per person. Then it was time for lunch at Dawn’s Grill – something I wish we had skipped given our food was as dry as an old boot – but given I was a little drunk after slamming rum punch all morning, it was probably for the best.
Deciding we were ready to cool off after a hot day, we grabbed our towels and started walking to the beach. We’d walked maybe 200 metres before the rain hit. Plan B. We ducked inside Tutti Frutti for a gelato while we waited for the rain to clear. Unfortunately for us, by the time we made it to the beach, the rain had returned in force so we headed back to our room at One World Rentals where I proceeded to sleep off my lunchtime rum punch binge.
It wasn’t long until the hunger bug had returned and we found ourselves at Mojo Lounge, a funky fusion-style restaurant above a gift shop. Lady luck however was not on our side and we were told there was a forty minute wait for a table. Heading back down the stairs slightly disappointed, we met four lovely Canadians; Kathie, Dave, Jill & Dave. After telling them the bad news they decided to try and negotiate a space for their party of four. They were much more successful and even got the three of us a seat each at their table! Over our respective dinners of conch, coconut shrimp, spring rolls, fish, pork chops and pear and brie bruschetta we chatted travel and all things interesting with our new friends.
After dinner we said our goodbyes and headed to the pier with a half bag of prawns and some makeshift fishing reels using old coke bottles. Justin was strong competition landing the first three fish but I soon surpassed him with my superior skill bringing in a total of four. None were big enough for breakfast so it was a catch and release kind of evening – almost. As Justin tried to remove the hook from one catch, the fish turned around and bit him on the finger! Reminded me of that old nursery rhyme; “one, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive…”.
We headed home empty handed but excited for the new day ahead.
The next morning we made the call to hit the beach early, while the sun had a sting to it. The water was freezing so I only made it in to my knees, but Justin and Sherri found it very refreshing from the heat and humidity. The beach here was best on the far side of the pier. Unfortunately along the length of the bay, the storms had bought in loads of seaweed, so we were limited on places to swim. While litter in Central America seems as common as ice in Antarctica, the beaches here were much better than some other places we’ve been. Normal precaution is warranted though after we found a used syringe washed up onshore.
Shade-baking under a palm tree can be thirsty work, so it was back to Friends at the Pier for another coconut rum punch before boarding the bus and heading just out of town to Jaguar Lanes (BZD $7 per person per game), a four lane bowling alley with fantastic pizza (BZD $20) and excellent service. It’s a shame the ex-pat women’s league turned up though and demanded we hurry up and finish so they could have the lane. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if they needed a new floor with what we witnessed, every ball thrown onto the lane with a thundering crash. Avoid heading out here on a Wednesday afternoon to avoid this inconvenience. So who won the games? I came out the winner of game 1 and Sherri took out game 2. Happy days!
Back in town we headed to the pier hoping to meet the fisherman returning with the day’s catch, hopeful for a snapper for dinner. We ran into Kathie’s Dave down on the shoreline and were disappointed to find out there were no fish today – just our luck! So we settled on sausages and pasta, a nice little home cooked treat.
Now, Placencia is not cheap. The tourist industry here is huge and prices reflect this. Given our budgets were quite tight for this trip, we skipped a number of possible activities in favour of relaxing on the beach, but to give you an idea, these are some of the other things you can do when visiting this laid-back community;
· Snorkelling tours start from USD $45 for a half day tour, up to USD $125 for a full day.
· Scuba diving starts at USD $110 up to USD $300 per person
· Fishing tours start at USD $250 up to USD $1400 depending on the style of fishing you wish you try, and
· Land tours start from USD $70 to $215 depending on the activity and location.
We wanted to do something different while we were here so we chose Bunches of Fun Banana Tours, a fairly new operation commencing only 3 seasons ago, taking visitors to one of the nine plantations here to see how bananas get from plant to table. Yes, plant. Bananas don’t grow on trees…fact number 1!
The tour was insightful, with demonstrations and included a quick hands-on experience of putting the stickers on the bananas ready for boxing. A free sample of the produce is offered and at the end of the tour you will also receive a bag of freshly fried banana chips. Free food makes anything worthwhile!
Here are some other fun facts about bananas you will learn on your tour;
You can opt to use a tour agent to take this tour which will set you back USD $60 per person or if you email ahead, Bunches of Fun will collect you from town for USD $20 (including return for the whole car) and then you just pay entry of USD $15 per person. Alternatively you can drive yourself to save extra $$.
It was also a good day for tattoos with Sherri having hers coloured after having done the outline 17 years ago and Justin having some more work on his left-side to link three tattoos into one piece. Prices are USD $100 per hour at Jaguar Ink with tattooist Rob, a well-travelled and experienced tattoo artist from the States.
Before we knew it, it was Friday and time to head home. Arriving at the dock early we ran over to Friends for one last coconut rum punch before boarding the boat. After leaving 45 minutes late, we knew it was going to be another really long day. After a final pick up in Big Creek, we began the crossing. I don’t normally get seasick but after they stopped in the middle of the ocean to collect tickets, the rocking got me and I spent the last 45 minutes of the 2 and a half hour journey with my head in a bag, throwing up my breakfast.
Arriving back in Puerto Cortes, Honduras we waited a lengthy amount of time for our immigration clearances before jumping on the bus to San Pedro Sula. This was possibly the longest bus ride ever given the distance between the two places. By the time we reached SPS, most buses had already left and the only available option was to stand on the last bus out for the night. It wasn’t too bad and by 8.30pm that night we were home, exhausted and in need of another holiday!
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