If you read our last blog post
, you'll know that I'd written a note to Angela and Tony explaining how early we needed to leave in the morning and that we wouldn't have time for breakfast but would like some coffee. I also asked them to please call us a taxi to get us to the bus stop in the village by 7 am (the only other bus is in the afternoon). And Barry planted the note in the gate to their apartment upstairs from their restaurant as they were out to eat in town when we went to bed, early.
Fortunately, they did find the note. When we got up on Saturday morning and ventured out, I saw Angela, and the first thing she said was "we got your note". Relief! She also said that Tony would run us up to the bus stop, which was great. We finished our last-minute packing, enjoyed some good coffee, and I signed their guest book before we left.
Tony was on the phone, so Angela ended up giving us a ride to the bus stop, which was much appreciated. Actually, we ran into the bus on its route so got on before the stop, which was good as it ended up being packed. Who knew this bus would be one of the most crowded ones we'd been on here?
All caffeined-up and ready for a day of travel
We made a really bone-headed move on this bus trip, however. Where the road split to go to Dangriga, the bus driver announced that people wanting to go to Belize City could get off at the intersection and catch another bus (instead of taking the bus all the way to Dangriga, then catching another bus and backtracking down the road to Belmopan and ultimately Belize City). We decided, like lemmings, to follow a bunch of locals who were getting off there, thinking we could just catch a bus to Belize City at the intersection to save time.
Getting off the Hopkins-Dangriga bus
Waiting for an elusive bus to Belize City
It was a good idea in theory, but not so good in practice. Every bus that passed was either heading south towards Placencia and Punta Gorda, or was already full and wouldn't even stop for us. We finally realized that catching a bus after it left the Dangriga stop, if it wasn't too crowded to stop for us, would actually make us later than if we'd just stayed aboard the first bus all the way to the station. And we might end up missing the water taxi we intended to take from Belize City to San Pedro and have to take a later one.
Finally, a bus from down south heading towards Dangriga showed up at the intersection, and we all ended up running across the street to board -- only to go exactly where we would have gone on the first bus, and later, to boot. D'oh! We learned a valuable lesson about sticking to our plans rather than "following the crowd". We felt like even bigger fools when we arrived at the bus station only to realize that the bus we were supposed to switch to was an Express to Belize City so was much nicer (and air-conditioned!) than the one we were on and had just paid for. Double d'oh!
Quite a few additional passengers boarded the bus in Dangriga, and it stopped to pick up multiple people along the way. Soon the bus was standing room only. When we got near the Belmopan bus terminal, all the standing people had to crouch down in the aisle so the terminal authorities wouldn't see that we were pulling into the station carrying excess passengers.
Enroute to Belmopan, before the "big crouchdown"
They must really be cracking down at the Belmopan terminal as our bus was delayed leaving the station due to too many people on board, and the authorities would not let us leave with three adults in any seats. Three (or even four) in a seat are allowed, but only if the third (and fourth) are children. There were two seats in our bus with three adults, ours being one of them when a local perched on the very end of our seat. The terminal authorities entered the bus and and said that the two excess people would have to leave. Normally, pretty much anything goes here in Belize, so when the authorities start to enforce some unpopular regulations, the citizens don't like it one bit. Lots of angry yelling from the peanut gallery ensued, in Creole, so we couldn't understand all of it, but we certainly got the gist, along with plenty of cursing. We definitely agreed with the sentiment we heard expressed that there should be more buses if they weren't going to let people stand in the aisles or ride three-abreast. So few locals in Belize have cars that public transportation is heavily used, and it seems like the buses and the water taxis are both fuller than they should be at times. The folks running these have gotta be making money!
Finally, with a little creative seat rearrangement of some of the children and the two adults in question, the bus was allowed to leave the station en route to Belize City, but we still weren't sure if we'd manage to make the noon ferry back to San Pedro, much less stop at Brodie's for a few groceries to save money over San Pedro prices as we'd planned. We had only ourselves to blame for getting off the bus when we did.
Fortunately, all's well that ended well. Our bus driver must have really made tracks to make up time, as we got to Belize City in time to make a VERY quick Brodie's run and to make the noon ferry. We had a list for Brodie's and were in and out in five minutes, a record.
When we got to the ferry terminal, they were already boarding the boat. When we got up to the ticket taker, he told us and the others behind us that the boat was full and that they were going to have a second boat to take the overflow. We got on a second smaller boat, which looked like would be almost empty, but it took so long to leave that more and more people kept coming up and boarding, so it ended up packed to the gills as well. And when we got to Caye Caulker, we had to switch to the original larger boat after it unloaded its Caulker-bound passengers. It was very crowded, and we had to sit on top of the hot engines, slightly melting the chocolate chips we'd purchased at Brodie's. But we made it back to Ambergris Caye/San Pedro.
Once in San Pedro, we had to walk over to Pampered Paws
to pick up Paisley, who jumped up and down behind the doggie fence when she saw us -- boingy, boingy, boingy -- without making a peep, just jumping. Wish I had video of that! Fortunately, Pampered Paws did post these cute photos of her playing while she was there on their Facebook page. It always looks like she has a great time there.
We had to wait the obligatory half hour before the water taxi north took us home to Grand Caribe, and it was packed, as usual. A very uncomfortable ride with our backpacks, groceries, Paisley's luggage, and Paisley; but we made it home in one piece, exhausted but happy. We also vowed not to travel again on the first day after school lets out for the summer, as it seemed like every Belizean in the country was traveling that day.
We can definitely recommend Hopkins as a relaxing, beautiful place to visit if you're in Belize, and Beaches & Dreams
as a wonderful place to stay. We hope to get back one day to try to hike the trails we missed (or didn't quite finish) this time. Antelope Falls will continue to haunt us until we summit the waterfall!