The day we rode in from the border we headed south and then west along the only real highways in the country. Belize doesn’t have many main roads, and it doesn’t need them since its such a small country. At roughly 8,900 square miles it’s about 1/8 the size of South Dakota. I measure almost all things in South Dakota terms, so please forgive me if that means nothing to you. When I’m 30 miles away from a destination and I’m tired, I think to myself it’s only as far as from Rapid City to Sturgis and I know I can manage. 7 miles is the distance from Sturgis to Whitewood, 18 miles is the distance from Sturgis to Spearfish, etc. Belize has a population of about half that of South Dakota, 325,000 people.
It takes a few hours to cross the roughly 150 miles from the northern border to the western border town of San Ignacio. We get there on a Friday night and camp at the Mana Kai campground that some friends told us about when we were in Mexico. As we ride into the campground we see 3 other bikes parked under the shade of a tree and find out it’s a Dutch/Australian family that we have heard are on the road. Lucky accident and it’s really nice to finally meet them and hear about their adventures.
Saturday dawns to a HOT market day in this small town with busloads of people coming to town to buy fresh produce for the week ahead. I’m told this is the biggest market in the country and I can believe it since it’s so busy. I wander over and pick up a few things and a cold drink because at 9:00am I am already feeling dehydrated. My best friend, Heather, and her boyfriend are flying in today from the States and I’m over the moon. They are big travelers and scuba divers, and love going new places. We had hoped to meet up in Costa Rica since they hadn’t been there before, but I haven’t made it down the road that far yet. So Belize it is, and I’m so grateful they are willing to spend their vacation and money to come back here again. They bring new inner tubes for my bike and for Brian’s and a set of spares for us to share (6 in total), as well as acetaminophen that I can’t get in Central America, some camp kitchen supplies, new shoes for me, etc. It’s like Christmas for me and the bikes.
Brian replaced all 4 of our tubes and tires in Guadalajara after several hot and hard-working hours on the concrete. I’m so lucky he takes such good care of my bike. But by the time we got to San Cristobal a couple thousand miles later my rear tire went flat. When he took it off he found that the cheap inner tubes we bought (at my insistence…yikes) aren’t the size the package and store described. They are just a little fatter than our old ones and are creasing inside the tires and starting to heat rot or dry rot a bit at the folds. My rear tire has now split because of this. So I quickly ordered new tubes for us that came just in the nick of time to catch a ride with my friend to Belize. Heather and Bruce arrive and we enjoy a couple of relaxing days catching up in San Ignacio before heading out to the coast town of Placencia.
Placencia is a small village of about 1000 people at the end of a long peninsula that rests between the Gulf of Mexico on the east side and a saltwater lagoon on the west. Crocodiles lurk in the lagoon. There are lots of home built on the 15 or so miles of the length of the peninsula, and lots of ex-pats have retired in the area. We catch glimpses of the turquoise Caribbean to our left as we ride south and when we finally settle into a little beach cabana this is the view…
Placencia is known as a very chilled-out beach town. Many locals, especially kids, are barefoot all the time. Everyone knows everyone else. Dreadlocks abound.
There is one road that comes in from the mainland and runs all the way to the end of the peninsula and it serves double duty as the only road running through each of the small villages. Our cabana’s address is “The Sidewalk” and it takes us a bit to figure out what that is. It is literally a sidewalk that runs parallel to the only road in town and all the bars, cafes and places to stay on it are only accessible by parking and walking down said sidewalk.
Heather and I saw some beautiful trees in Thailand a few years ago that our Thai tour guide, Mam, called the “Golden Shower” tree. Her pointing one out to a busload of Americans and Canadians resulted in an uproar of laughter that she didn’t understand until someone pulled her aside and explained the alternate meaning of that name to her at the next bus stop which caused her to blush at all us “naughty people”. As we check in at the Ranguana we see one out back. I ask the hotel owner what kind of tree it is and she tells me it is a Golden Shower tree and Heather and I wink with the delight of a shared memory. It’s just as beautiful as I remember.
Heather and Bruce enjoy a couple of days diving while I read trashy novels (an indulgence I’ve never afforded myself before, and not one I will likely do again – but I really enjoy for this few days) under a palapa on the beach. In the evenings we hang out and stroll over to one of the local beach cafes for grilled fish and a cerveza or blendy (my word) drink. It’s a little slice of paradise.
Some evenings we take a dip in the surf and try to avoid the jelly fish, but only Heather comes out unscathed. It’s a treat to get in some much needed best friend time. That and a book on the beach…what else could a girl ask for? Nada, I tell you…nada.
Thank you, Heather and Bruce, for making Belize un-Belizeable-y wonderful. I love you.