Thursday, May 24, 2012
Travel day, going against the flow. The morning (Monday, May 21) starts on Caye Caulker at the Ocean Pearl and the smell of the sea is in the air through the open window. I always request a room with no AC as I know the price of electricity on Caye Caulker. And Belize generally. It isn't merely paid in $, either. I get some of Frenchie's coffee and continue the packing I started last night. I separate everything into two piles: one to be stored for a few days in my wheeled duffel, and one to be crammed into my knapsack for a backpacking trip. I am too excited to eat the yogurt I bought and so let Frenchie know. We talk about the Mountain Pine Ridge and I urge him to take a vacation with his wife to explore that part of Belize. He seems keen on it. I have him call a (golf cart) taxi to take me to the water taxi leaving at 8:30 am for Belize City. There is also a 7 am boat but I assumed it would be full of Belize City residents going back to work after a weekend on Caulker. There are few people waiting on the dock: Maybe a dozen, perhaps 20, and little cargo: Looking north from the water taxi dock, I see the remnants of the dock on which Rhea and I were wed eight years ago: Our marriage is in much better shape! In a few minutes the water taxi approached from San Pedro and we moved up our dock to board: And waited while a few passengers disembarked: Soon we were inside and on our way. Plenty of room for everyone: It happens, but rarely: we made a stop just south of Caye Caulker at Caye Chapel to pick up a few passengers. Caye Chapel is a weird place. A luxury golf course resort on a little island that should be covered in mangroves: There is a large marina in the middle, always empty: We soon left: The Belize City harbour was quiet: I got a taxi at the water taxi terminal. He had a Mercury Grand Marquis--nice! Cushy ride for rough streets. Driver took me to the Belize City office of the car rental agency where I had reservations. Slight confusion: my vehicle was at their airport location. I did the paperwork while still there and then their driver took me to the airport where I got my vehicle: Out of the parking lot (BZ$4), around the runway to the Northern highway and turn left to go north to the Burrell Boom road. Fond memories of the Boxing Day horse race there late last year. Past the prison and to the Western highway. Quick stop at the Belize Zoo to drop off a package. They were expecting me, which was nice. I wished I had time to stay and visit the animals, at least the macaws by the entrance, but I was already running late and so left after making my apologies. I might be in hurry, but I had skipped breakfast and would have no hot meals for a few days. So of course I had to stop at Cheers! The tamale came fast, as did a coke to drink and one for the road. Continued west. I went past Georgeville and into Santa Elena. Bought about BZ$50 of groceries. Turned left up the Christo Rey road. It is in excellent shape and I made good time to San Antonio. Love that village but had no time to visit old friends. Kept going to the junction, turned right. The Moonracer gate was open and it was tempting to stop to visit, but the rain was beginning to fall and I wanted to cover miles before the road got worse: Checked in through Friday (May 25) at the Mai Gate and went on up to Blancaneaux. Raining hard now. Met my friend outside and we moved around gear in a heavy downpour. He put his things in my truck and away we went, further up into the Mountain Pine Ridge. At Augustine, I parked and signed in at the BDF (Belize Defence Force, i.e., the Army) checkpoint. They monitor who goes in and comes out of this dangerous area. Xateros, wildlife poachers, and other armed criminals from Guatemala have been a problem in the remote region for several years now. Some of the roads are pretty rough and needed do-it-yourself repair as we passed: Soon there was no road at all: and we had to proceed by boat: through an eerie landscape: We could not see the sun through the heavy clouds, but as it got darker we camped. It was raining, the hillside was steep and densely vegetated, but we hung hammocks: and even got a fire going. Sort of. A wet night, but I was tired enough to sleep soundly, far from Caye Caulker where I had awoken.