Our morning schedule was rather tight, since we had to catch the 7:40 water taxi, get Paisley to Pampered Paws for boarding, then take an 8:30 am ferry to Belize City. With so little room for error, I was nervously hoping everything would go smoothly and there would be no unexpected delays. It started raining soon after we got up, but thankfully had tapered off right before we locked the door on our condo to head out to the dock with Paisley.
The water taxi finally arrived at around 8:05, chock full of kids. Suddenly, the delay made sense: this particular boat was obviously serving as the "school bus" for kids who lived north of the San Pedro bridge, and it had to stop at many more than the usual number of docks to pick them all up. We awkwardly squeezed into the already-full boat with our big packs, Paisley, and her gear for Pampered Paws. We hoped that we were the last pick-up stop before town, as we usually are. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Since the boat was picking kids up for school, we stopped at several additional small docks south of Grand Caribe. I don't even know how anyone else fit on the boat, but somehow we all sucked in our breath and made room. My stress level was quite high at this point, though I'd already resigned myself to missing the ferry, so I figured we were going to have a relaxing morning sitting around town for a couple of hours waiting for the next one and figuring out alternative buses to catch.
We got to the water taxi dock in San Pedro right around 8:15. I handed my 20-pound backpack to Barry, who would walk south on the beach to the ferry dock, buy our tickets, and wait for me. In the meantime, I took off at a fast clip through the town streets with Paisley on the leash towards Pampered Paws, several blocks south. Fortunately, it didn't take as long as I figured to get there, and check-in went smoothly as well. I was out of there and back on the road by 8:25. I realized there was still a chance we could make the ferry and was glad that I was in good shape from running on the beach. The ferry dock was only about a block from where I was, and I was wearing my trail-running shoes, so I jogged there. I saw that the boat had not yet left, and Barry had already purchased our tickets. We made it! We actually didn't pull away from the dock until 8:35. Whew!
When we arrived at the bus terminal, we had very little time to spare to catch our bus, and the James bus to Dangriga was nearly full when we got on. We got the last empty double seat so we could sit together on the US school bus-style vehicle. The passengers on the bus were mostly locals. There was nothing luxurious about this ride, which cost us just $20 BZD ($10 US) total. The seats were uncomfortable, we had to keep our packs in our lap because the overhead luggage rack was full, and multiple speakers throughout the bus blasted loud music. Fortunately, our bus driver preferred American "adult contemporary" type music, which was fine with me. It could have been much, much worse, as we found out later.
The bus continued heading south to Dangriga. The scenery on this leg of the trip down the Hummingbird Highway was breathtaking. Earlier we had seen the beautiful Maya Mountains in the distance, a lovely sight after being on a dead-flat island for months. Now we actually went through them, with glorious views and foliage all around. We wished we could have stopped to take photos along the way. We also took in the deliciously sweet scent of orange blossoms and saw many citrus groves along the way.
This bus driver had seriously bad taste in music, and we were subjected to some kind of mash-up of American adult contemporary music with frequent bursts of video-game like syntho-sound effects and hip-hop mixed in, all in the same song. It sounded like listening to two or three stations simultaneous and made my brain hurt, especially since it was blasting so loudly. Yes, I am getting old, I guess! Note to self for next time: Bring ear plugs.
The bus let us off just past Casa Placencia, a guest house (similar to Bed and Breakfast but without the breakfast) where we'd booked a garden room for three nights ($60 USD nightly). We met the owner, Jacki, who was super friendly and had homemade pineapple oatmeal cookies for us. I was too full of cookies and granola bars to eat mine so saved it for the next day, but Barry wolfed his down immediately. The room was small but scrupulously clean, and the tiled bathroom was a good size. (Note: The third photo on the Casa Placencia website shows a photo of our room, since we forgot to take one before messing it up with all our stuff.) We usually stay in fancier places, but we really wanted to do this trip on a fairly strict budget, and we knew we'd be spending most of our time away from the room anyway, so we didn't book a beach-front accommodation. Besides, we live on the beach on Ambergris Caye, so that's not as much of a novelty any more.
The ocean is different from Ambergris Caye as well. The reef is out there, but too far out to see; where it is clearly visible from our condo on Ambergris Caye. The color of the water is more subtle, without the vivid turquoise of the sea off the Caye. And there are waves. Not big waves, but not the flat water of the ocean outside our condo. The water gets deeper much faster as the beach slopes quite a bit. And the sand is coarser and softer than on Ambergris Caye. There would be no riding on beach bikes here, and running in the sand would be very challenging as well. Still, the beach is wide, and unbroken by the many piers you find all along the seaside in Ambergris Caye. In Placencia, everyone docks on the back side of the peninsula, on the lagoon.
After exploring the village for awhile, we found an open-air restaurant to try for our early dinner. We were starving after eating just snacks all day. The restaurant was called "De Tatch". We had a great view and a delicious dinner of spicy cilantro/tomato snook, coconut rice, and salad. We discovered that restaurant prices in Placencia are more reasonable than in San Pedro, as are drink prices. Our rum punches were just $4 BZD each ($2 US), and this was not during happy hour. Our entrees were $28 BZD ($14 US) -- they would have been more like $40 BZD in San Pedro at an equivalent caliber restaurant.
While he was gone, I ordered a third rum punch (not the smartest thing I've ever done -- these little drinks packed a punch!) and chatted with a friendly couple at the next table. They were from Dallas and are considering retiring to Belize, so were hoping to talk to other ex-pats on this trip. I answered a few questions, and we had a few laughs. When Barry returned, the four of us chatted for awhile longer, and we gave them our card so they could check out this blog.
We had hoped to get over to Tutti Fruitti for gelato since we'd heard it was a "don't miss" while in Placencia, but it had gotten kind of late, and we were exhausted from our travels, so we hoofed it back to Casa Placencia for some much-needed shut-eye. Gelato would have to wait until the next day.