The Road to Cayo Belize – part 1 by Alisa Reid
We threw our backpacks onto the back of our golf cart and tied them in for the ride to town. We decide to leave the light on outside and the TV on inside. We have also come to the realization Steve’s office might be a safer place to leave our computers and passports as we live outside San Pedro town, on the more remote North side of the Island.
Our ferry boat to mainland Belize leaves at 9:30, so we decide to go into town for breakfast. We have also decided to leave our golf cart locked up in town on Front Street, as taxis are not allowed on the North side of the Island. We park in front of another real estate office, an empty space now since our English friend Peter jumped ship to fly back to reality. Something you see on the Island on a regular basis.
We go to Estelle’s, a favorite beach breakfast spot where Charles serves us fry jacks, bacon, and refried beans. Our favorite beach dog, who we affectionately named Playa, walks up casually to greet the customers until I say “Playa” and she breaks out into her nervous excited dance. We “adopted” her over a month ago, took her to the vet for shots, bathed her, and let her sleep in our house. After running back to the beach three times, we now realize we cannot own her, we can just be her friend. She walks us to the end of the pier where we get on the water taxi and she quickly disappears.
Our hour long water taxi takes us bumping through blue green waters past other Islands like Caye Caulker, our more relaxed counter part and Caye Chapel, an 18 hole golf course resort where we keep trying to justify spending $200 US each to golf.
We arrive in Belize City in a bustling area where they unload cruise ships full of pasty white tourists looking for a bit of Belizean culture. Unfortunately for them, they are corralled into an area with bars and shops all owned by the cruise ships where incidentally, no locals are allowed to go. We momentarily entertain the idea of trying to sneak in for American prescriptions and booze, but can’t figure out how to even get into the area.
We are quickly escorted to a van that takes us to the bus terminal for three dollars. We have read that the bus station is in a dangerous neighborhood and are feeling a small level of anxiety as we walk into the bus station.
We see a young Spanish looking Belizean man and he asks us where we are going. I notice he has gold fillings around his teeth. I say “San Ignacio” and he points to the oldest looking school bus I have ever seen.
“Leaving in 10 minutes.” I ask if there is an express bus, eying the nicer bus beside us thinking it might even have air conditioning. “Nope.” He smiles. We climb onto the bus, realizing our pale skin is glowing to those already in the bus waiting. We are still anxious as we put our bags in the seat in front of us. Steve looks at me and says, “It smells like tomato soup.” I think it smells like Lipton noodle soup.
We are in one of the roughest areas of Belize City. Where the murders here make any hood in the States look like a playground. Then a little white haired lady gets on the bus and I let out a sigh of relief. We drive through the city, filled with tiny stores with badly painted signs, junk, construction, and destruction. where the majority of houses and shacks look condemned but have bright colored clothes hanging on the line outside, or a mother holding a baby in one arm on the porch, and a cell phone in the other. I pull out my IPod and sit back for the three hour ride, letting people on and off, all the way down the Western Highway.
Along the highway we pass small villages with rusted vehicles without tires, small shacks with nothing in the window but a curtain, two neighbors talking through the window. Plywood shacks with hand painted signs advertising rice and beans, attempting to entice the hungry traveler. The landscape becomes less tropical with more bushes, trees, and mountains in the background. I smell rain before I look up and see it splashing the windshield of the bus. I wonder if the wipers work.
Off the highway I see a dirt road leading to a village. There is a school with windows and doors wide open. Two women are walking on the road and a drunken man is sitting on the road talking, possibly to them but it’s hard to tell.
As we continue to cruise down the highway we come across an accident. A white Chevy truck has rolled, many times. I would be surprised if the person lived. This gets the people in the bus talking across to each other, mainly in Creole. The only words I can make out are FUCK. I think they might be speculating who the driver was, as there are only 250,000 people in the entire country. We pass, and I hope this serves the bus driver as a reminder that this is one of the deadliest highways in Central America.
-To be continued tomorrow