How about Placencia? “I’ve heard about nice beaches, it’s just a small town.”, Giorgia said one evening in Tulum. Not knowing she had a clear mind or was still talking nonsense from the fever she had, we looked a bit on internet to see what it is all about. And we thought it might be worth a stop and visit. We take a boat from Caye Caulker to Belize City (15 Bel$ each). Here we look for snorkel material because we won’t pay two times 70US$ for a tube and a pair of glasses! Belize City is a young city just out of kinder garden… in full puberty let’s say, as it was reconstructed again and again after various disastrous hurricanes in 1931, ’61 and the last in 2010 it was rebuild each time but strangely enough, did not improve and got darker and darker. (So different from Europe, where new means stronger, advanced, more practical, more prepared for the next disaster, more technological… new means better in general) It functions like one big ghetto with a population of 68.000 habitants. Basically mixed between Caribbean black progenies and Mayan descendants and some sporadic white men. We find our stuff and make a long ‘just look in front of you’-walk through a never-ending street with people starring at us. We can feel the looks penetrating us, people stop talking and speculate what we are doing there. Houses with paint peeling of rise over us, windows with iron bars like prisons and barbed-wired rooftops make the scene of our urban hike. A mountain of earth in the middle of the street, blocking the stream of traffic, gives the whole thing a picturesque warzone touch. Luckily there is always some reggae playing somewhere, after all… as much it might look as Mogadishu, Somalia, it still sounds as Belize. The bus station isn’t much better off, as holes in the walls indicate extractions of all copper cables by locals with economic needs. There is no official service what so ever, no rates, no timetables. The places for tickets sales are occupied by little stores selling food. Helpful people are asking us all the time where we go to and informing us about times and places.
First a bus to (surprise!!!) the capital Belmopan (14.800 habitants) and from there over Dangriga to Placencia (500 habitants), a 4 hour drive for just 40Bel$ each. We wait several hours observing the hectic organization of a ‘right on time’ bus service. We jump on the bus somebody indicates us, because there is no info on the bus indicating itineraries. At the end of the day, at 20:30hours, the darkness already falling over our shoulders, we arrive at Placencia. The receptions of the hotels/ hostels/ guesthouses are already closed from 20:00hours. (Unthinkable for Europe, knowing the last bus with tourists arrives at 20:30hours… you might gain some clients!) So we ask to somebody passing by. He brings us after a five minute walk to a caribbean style ‘guesthouse’, not beautiful, hardly clean but with beds inside. We say goodbye not without he trying to get some money out of us with their magical phrase: “show some appreciation,… I’m hungry.”
It is first in the morning; we can see Placencia and orientate us a bit. We go to the bank to change some money but 30% commission to change euros is not over the top… it is outrageous!!! For each 100€ we change we get only for 70€ Belizean $. So we make a cash withdrawal which gives a normal rate with a normal percentage, pay the room and go looking for another place to spend the night. The first we try has all the sea view rooms empty but want to charge us 60Bel$ each… not payable for us, so friendly shows us the way to a cheaper option. (Unbelievable: not just the fact they don’t try to make a deal, maybe lower the price to fill up the hotel. Offering us a room for 40Bel$ we would have stayed 3 nights, that makes 120Bel$ better than nothing having the rooms empty anyways. But they happily showed us the way to spend our money with the competitors! Again, working 7 years in hotels: unthinkable for Europe) so we arrive at our new guesthouse at the beach, 1 min walk from the seaside and 1min walk from the supermarket (which by the way are all owned by Asians!) just the perfect base. After checking some mails and updating our blog we go for a swim at the long but small beach with rough white sand.
A tree trunk is laying in the water and with our new bought glasses we can see an aquarium in front of us, as around the tree are many small beautiful tinted fishes. We find at the sea bottom countless fragments of death coral, collect them and place them near the trunk. The fishes are happily accepting the upgrade of their home while we piece by piece give them a coral garden. We have nice days passing by, walking along the sea or along the lagoon or at its best: where both come together. A remarkable place, Placencia, it’s a long small bit of land away from the mainland. We even find a small piece of reef where we can see some new species of tropical reef fishes, beautiful purple coral and a pair of elegantly jellyfishes.
Amazing are the huge barracudas just some meters away from the coastline. Hanging still, camouflaged, mouth half open with teeth sticking out creatures, threatening every moving shiny fish in the area. I enjoy myself observing them because as they move from sand parts to seaweeds, they change colours from white to green/brown camouflage. So I chase them a bit so they move from one area to the other and change colours. But of course they are too fast to chase so I lose them out of sight every time. After a while I start to notice that I just had to look behind me and there he was… half a meter away staring at me. Fun in the beginning but scary after a while. I start to get the feeling that I was the one getting hunted and that with a 1,5 meter barracuda, is like playing with fire. Later I realized I had the hostel key hanging at the string of my swim shorts… dangerous place to hang a shiny object in front of a barracuda!!!
As said: nice days pass by at this lost corner off the earth. Where sun is fine and erratic ‘cool you off’ lukewarm raindrops even better. Where English is written as it is spoken. Where wearing a watch has no sense and asking time sounds ridiculous. It is absolutely enchanting and unfortunately… unthinkable for Europe!