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Friday, June 27, 2008

Adventures in Dangriga, June 2008

The first leg of the road trip to Hopkins started on Sunday, June 22nd, 2008. Our plan was to travel to Dangriga on Sunday and then head to Hopkins on Monday. We were on the 6:30 a.m. water taxi from Caye Caulker to Belize City. It was a beautiful morning, a great day for travelling with sunshine, blue skies and light breezes. It was certainly a smooth ride, by 7:25 we were at the bus station in Belize City on the bus heading to Dangriga. Once in awhile, timing is everything. The only small item to concern us was the production the driver made to put oil in before we left. That could have been an indication of what was yet to come.

We have done most of our travelling throughout Belize on what most people call the "chicken bus". We have never seen any chickens on them. We see more of the land and definately meet some interesting people. It is stop and go while the bus stops for everyone, but we just tell ourselves that one day it might be us on the side of the road looking for a ride.
We have been on the road to Belmopan often enough that we now recognize roadside landmarks. Once we get onto the Hummingbird Highway we will be entering new territory. The bus we are on reminds us of the Sky Shuttle in Edmonton. Windshields are so cracked you can hardly see out of them. I sometimes wonder how the glass stays in place.

There were tons of cyclists on the road, we were either in a huge race or practice race. They were all over the road and at some points there seemed to be vehicles travelling with them. At one point we saw a group of cyclists and following close was a pick up truck with a camera set up on the roof of the cab. They were filming the cyclists in front of them.

Remember the oil at the beginning of the trip? Once we got into Belmopan, we didn't head directly to the bus station. We stopped first at a gas station and topped up the gas tank, or so we thought, maybe we bought more oil. Then we moved on to the bus station, where the bus was topped up with water. Only the driver seems to be concerned, so we tried to put it out of our minds.

Then we are on the Hummingbird Highway. It seems that suddenly, we are in the hills and are surrounded by a more jungle like growth than before. The road is very curvy and winds up and down and around. It reminds me of the road through the rain forest in north eastern Australia. At any moment I expect to break through the jungle and see the ocean in the distance.
There is not really alot of places between Belmopan and Dangriga. Some villages, a number of rivers to cross, National Parks, ranches and orange groves. The scent from the orange blossoms were incredible. Besides the orange groves, we saw breadfruit, bananas and mangos. We saw some beautiful orchids as well.
I think it was about Mile 11 of Hummingbird Highway when we noticed that going uphill was becoming a struggle for our bus. It was going slower and slower, and we noticed the driver was watching the gauges very carefully so as not to overheat. Going up the last couple of hills, we started leaning forward to help it get up the hill. We managed to make it to the gas station on the edge of Dangriga and filled up with water and gave the bus a bit of a rest and cooldown. We still managed to get into Dangriga well before noon.
We had only had a quick cup of coffee and watermelon before leaving this morning, so we were eager to find a restaurant and eat. That became an adventure in itself. Our original plan was to get into town and wing it. Never on a Sunday!

We walked through the town, crossing both bridges, Havana Creek and North Stann Creek River. Then we turned towards the beach, thinking we would find a restaurant, hotel, or resort where we could sit down and have breakfast/lunch. This was an error on our part as we were lugging around our overnight bag, laptop and camera and of course, there is no restaurants on the beach. On the map we had, there were tons of places marked, however, we found that most of them have either gone out of business, fallen down or just don't have kitchens. Even the hotels on the main street were not open. Most of the buildings on the beach are government buildings, schools, town council, library, and the market, which were all closed on a Sunday. The Riverside (everyone told us to go there) was closed, so we decided to walk along the river and look for a place to stay. It was getting late and we were hungry.

We saw what looked like a hotel, but it also was closed. A very nice young man came to talk to us. He said for us to go to Ruthie's, that she would have a room for us and feed us as well. It was way back on the south side of town, but it was the only game in town. We were tired and starving, so on we walked. We finally found Ruthie's place, and there was her husband, renovating the rooms that were not taken, and there was no food, because Ruthie had gone to Belmopan for the day. Back to the main street, where we found the Seashell Restaurant. Yeahhhhhh...... it was after noon (her hours are 8:00 to 12:00) but she invited us in anyways. She told us it was her last day of business (she was closing down) but we could have what was left. We had a smoothie and coffee and she told us about a place where we could stay. After our coffee and smoothie, we did indeed feel fortified and headed back across the bridges and along the river.
We never did find the place she suggested, but found a place called Jungle Huts. Yes there was room at the inn, and yes they had a lovely kitchen, but...... you have to order meals in advance and we were too late to order for that day. The owner (Phil) and his wife (Rebecca) were very nice but busy getting ready for their children's graduation party that night. We saw some delightful children, they have two pups, a wolf and some cats as well. Our room was up on the third floor, and we could see iguanas and birds right out our window.

Daughter of Phil and Rebecca

Puppies of Phil and Rebecca

Daughter keeping puppies in line by using a pie pan

Again, the Riverside Hotel was recommended, so off we trudged again. It was still closed. We found a sign that said Bonefish Hotel and Restaurant so we headed onward. Once we got there, yes it was open and yes it was a hotel, however, the restaurant was no longer there, and the bar was closed as well.

We finally gave up and got a taxi to the Pelican Beach Resort. By this time it was dinner time and we had only had a smoothie and coffee. We were ready for dinner. Dinner was grilled chicken salad, followed by fruit salad, followed by vanilla icecream with chocolate drizzled over it. Couple of margueritas to round out the meal. Then we just sat back and relaxed. Took some pictures and listened to the thunder in the distance. The sky over us was clear and blue, but we could hear thunder. While we were sitting there, a small herd (six or seven) of horses wandered through along the beach.

Here are three of the horses as they wandered through.

We got our cab driver back and headed to the Jungle Hut. The lightning started and then we were just in our room when the rain came. It was a torrential downpour with lots of thunder and lightning. The graduation party was in full swing and very very noisy. Once the rain came in earnest, the pups were afraid and they were crying and yelping. We were just about asleep when there was a knock at our door. When I opened it, there was a young man in the storm wanting us to buy tickets for a barbeque that would not be held for another week. I was amazed that a child would come to the door in the middle of a storm in an out of the way hotel and climb to the third floor to ask for money.

The next morning we woke up early and went to check out breakfast. We got coffee and then realized there was no water. Then there was water, but it was only hot water, boiling hot water coming out of the cold water tap. We decided to just pack up and go square our bill. I took some pictures of Phil's daughter and the pups. Again there was no kitchen, only for family members, and it was recommended that the Riverside Hotel would be excellent for breakfast.

After breakfast we decided to check out the Immigration Office and of course, we started out in the wrong direction. We were both positive that we had seen it on the north side of town but of course, after wandering around lost, I asked directions and a nice young man told me it was three blocks south, just over the bridge. Well, it was six blocks to the bridge and then another seven blocks over the bridge, but we did find it. We spoke to the people in the office and they were very nice. We then headed to Val's Hostel had a cold drink and waited on the porch for Debbie,who was coming from Hopkins to pick us up. We were waiting a couple of hours early and Debbie showed up a couple of hours early so it worked out perfectly. Debbie and her partner are a couple of the most wonderful people we have met here in Belize. Down to earth and fun. We ran around with them while they did their errands, went back to the Pelican Beach Resort for lunch and then we picked up a friend (Pam from the Peace Corp) at the bus station and headed off to Hopkins.

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