A Letter from a Distant and Faraway Land
I have a friend who is currently living in Honduras, and who was obliged at first moving there to renew his visa every few months by exiting and reentering the country. After one such venture several of us received this entertaining retelling of the story of his trip out and back. Reposted with permission. All photos courtesy of Grettagraphy, and taken at another time than the telling of this story.
Sit down and I will tell you the story of my life. Or at least the last week or so of it.
Monday I spent about two hours pricing different travel options to renew my visa. I almost flew to Houston for a couple days but ended up going to Belize instead. Unfortunately the ferry that goes between Puerto Cortes and Placencia, Belize goes on Monday and returns Friday. Note to self: plan trips ahead of time next time. So, with Enos in tow and next to no notice whatsoever we packed for the morning.
Tuesday Allen took Davin to the airport and then left us at the bus station, making it much later than I would have liked to get started. We caught a bus to Puerto Cortes and missed the bus to Corinto, the border town, by about 5 minutes. It was an omen. So we grabbed a taxi and tried to catch up before it got out of town. Fail. I decided on a whim to take the taxi all the way to Corinto, since it wasn't that far. I do not like to speak about how much that cost... The border crossing was uneventful, an about 30 minutes after arrival we were in a little bitty bus on the way to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.
We arrived ten minutes after the last boat had left for Belize. Aye. The adventure. Never send your enemies to Puerto Barrios. A squalid little town, where the lagoon slaps against a trashy concrete pier, and the public toilets drain directly into the smelly brown saltwater. Also nearly everyone we met was cranky or downright rude, (I think the heat has addled their brains) with the exception of the waiter in the delightfully cool air conditioned restaurant where we got shrimp al ajillo and fried fish. Because that's what you do when you're near the ocean; you eat seafood. The town cooled down about 3 degrees overnight and we retired to the overpriced hotel to spend a sleepless night, interspersed with multiple showers, as that seemed to be the only cool thing in that nightmarish place. I thank God that the humid air was mostly devoid of mosquitoes, as that would most definitely have surpassed certain nights in Mexico on the bus trip in discomfort.
Dawn brought with it the promise of a better life, as the sticky sheets were left behind at last for one more shower and dry clothes. We headed to the docks and bought our tickets. Turns out the first boat didn't leave until 10:30 (aka 11:00) but we were NOT about to miss this one so there we sat, dripping with perspiration, at the edge of the rancid water, for three hours. At last we embarked and headed out to open sea in a much-too-small-looking passenger boat aptly named 'Pichingo'. The lagoon passed smoothly enough, with the salty breeze whipping in our faces, and the white spray shooting up and underlining the green banks on either side of us.
Alas, the smoothness was not to last. As we exited the mouth of the lagoon, the waves got considerably higher, resulting in our seats gently tossing us in the air at each crest, like so much fairy dust, only to turn into mountain trolls and come thundering upon our derrieres with the end result being, however beautiful the ride may have been, in us being rather grateful when Belize eased into sight over the horizon. Punto Gorda was the sleepiest town I have ever visited. White sand beaches with no waves to speak of, cobblestone roads, one cooler with drinks in it, which by the way we walked round most of the town to find, and a few kids scrambling into school after recess made up pretty much the entirety of our experience there. Now I had seen online that the ferry leaves from Placencia at 11:00 every Friday morning. but just to be certain I asked several locals.
'Oh, no, you have to stop at Mango Creek, not far from Placencia, the ferry leaves from there.'
Well then. So we bused about three hours up the coast to Mango Creek. The bus boy came along to collect the fee.
'We're going to Mango Creek, to catch the ferry to Honduras.' Says I.
He frowned. 'But it leaves from Punto Gorda.'
Well then. In Mango Creek we went to the docks and asked about the elusive ferry. Instructed to be there at 10:00 Friday morning, and satisfied that at last we had lit on the right departure location, we found a cheap hotel and booked two nights. Happy that the travel was done, for a while at least, we traipsed off in search of the beach. The entirety of that beach could not have been more than 500 yards long. Not to mention two feet wide. And waveless. But hey, it was a place to swim. We killed time until we were both thoroughly famished, and went off in search off a restaurant. Walking down Main Street, what do you know, came an Amish man selling watermelons. That was different. A particularly appetizing picture of a burger drew us into a small restaurant next to the one and only park. These sandwiches are too cheap, we said, they must be small, we said, we better get two each, we said. We could not have been more wrong. The standard issue hamburger bun in Belize is nearly five inches square. And they seem determined to make sure there is meat hanging out on all sides. The gastric abyss dissuaded from bellowing, we sat in the park and watched a heated game of basketball. Those players were the shiniest people I have ever seen. Overheard on the bleachers: 'I do nat lak Lebron Jems. He is da uglies man I evah seen.' She has a point.
The water in the hotel could not have been a better temperature. It was Incredible.
Thursday we spent most of the day goggling, which is essentially snorkeling without the snorkel, so that was interesting. We found three conch shells, none of which I kept, since they were all slightly broken, and multiple hermit crabs. Also we got absolutely fried, but only on our backs. Which is a little bit sad. Twice a jellyfish floated by my transfixed eyes, the clear orb shimmering with purple and green. Lovely.
Friday we went to the docks at 8:00, because there was nothing else to do. The water taxi left on the hour punctually. We went to Placencia right away with the purpose of enjoying the tourists a few hours before the boat left. We purchased our tickets at the dock, the bay shining an absolutely picture perfect light blue. It is a pity that I do not have an Instagrammers brain. 'The boat leaves at 9:00' grinned the ticket master, '15 minutes'. Well then. It was just enough time to grab an iced coffee and down it on the edge of the pier. The water directly under us was swarming with jellyfish, mostly between 1 and 3 inches wide. I did spot one that was slightly larger than a cereal bowl though. Delightful. At last we loaded up and headed out. The boat seemed to be sticking to the shoreline awfully much. Guess what! Straight back to Mango Creek we did soar. Certain individuals got their credibility back.
At 11:00 we left for Honduras. In the boat were two French girls, who spoke English and Spanish, several Mexicans, a few Hondurans, Some Belizeans, American tourists with at least three different accents, and us. The diversity of cultures, not to mention accents, was intense. We left Mango Creek and sailed out the small river, banked on both sides with dense mangroves, their sturdy roots making a nearly solid wooden bank. Straight away from the coast we went, and the light blue of the bay turned into the deep, clear blue of open ocean. The dark green of mangroves became peppered with the tan of thatch roofs and the bright orange of the fake tile on the tourist laden places. Dusty gray mountains rose in the background and the scene was completed by a small line of white topped by a clear blue sky. The two and a half hour ride was uneventful for the most part, except for about halfway when we picked up a dinghy with a small outboard on it, floating about half full of water. Who knows where that came from.
The immigration official in Honduras put on his best scowly face and informed me that I can't renew my visa like that more than twice, without starting my residency, or else! He never did say what else would happen though. If the trip up was full of things being missed, then the trip down was equally full of things just being caught. We never waited more than 10 minutes on a bus. Unfortunately that also meant we had no time to eat all day. We boarded a small bus with glorious AC and lettering on the ceiling which boasted 'Suave los Asientos!' I'm glad they told me, because I would never have picked that up on my own. The bus driver from SPS to Peña Blanca seemed to be trying to beat the world record for how many people he could fit in one bus. There was scarcely room to breath, let alone move. The crushing weight of several sweaty passengers pinned us firmly to our seats. My travel weary bum mercifully went numb after the first half hour. Whenever people got off the bus the resulting space to breathe was instantly filled with methane and BO. Oxygen was a desperate scarcity. At 6:30 we at last disembarked in our home town. The feeling rushed back into my unfortunate legs. A bone deep ache settled in from my knees to my lower back and the nerves in said area were a quivering mass of strings. 17 and a half hours of travel in four days is too much. Home was a good thing. My body is weary and ready for an office job and my brain is refreshed enough for the same occupation. And I will be doing some things different next time if there is indeed a next time.