I just got back from my latest trip. This time I could only spend a couple of days on the island, but I spent a few days in Cayo before I went back to the USA. Here's the trip report.
I flew into Belize via Houston on Continental. For some reason, Continental always has the best price and schedule, but I always end up spending a full day to get to Belize. I was at the airport in Phoenix early, flew to Houston and sat around for a while, then scooted south to get to Belize in time for a flight to Ambergris Caye. I wish I didn't have to use a full day in transit, but that's life. There's a direct flight from Phoenix to Cancun now, so maybe there's hope for a nonstop someday.
I snagged my bags at the SPR airstrip and legged it to Changes in Lattitudes, near the Yacht Club. I've never stayed there before, but Renita had contacted me before about places that sell
One Barrel in Indiana. While we were exchanging e-mails, she invited me to stay, so I decided to try it out. The place is okay. None of my usual places were available on short notice, so it was good to try a new hotel.
I went diving the next morning with Bottom Time. They picked me up at the Yacht Club dock and we did a couple of local dives. When I got back and stowed my gear, I hiked back to town and grabbed some takeout chinese food from the joint across from the post office. I'm sure the place has a name, but I've never been able to remember it.
It was Monday night, so I went to the bar at the Holiday Hotel to watch the game. As I recall, there used to be an open air sports bar on Middle Street, but I couldn't find it. No problem, the Holiday had the game. The bar was fairly busy and I met up with the usual array of travellers and scallywags that you find in gringo pubs. A good time was had by all.
Tuesday morning I had a healthy breakfast at the hotel. Changes in Lattitude is a B&B, dontcha know. Personally, I prefer an unhealthy breakfast that features large hunks of unkosher meats, but it was not to be. Before I went out to the dock I checked in with the folks at Travellers Liquors. We were supposed to have a pow-wow with a couple of the Perdomo clan. The Perdomos own the distillery and wanted to speak with me about the future of One Barrel in the USA. The scheduling for the meeting was "sometime after the 4th", so I thought I'd see if "sometime" was going to be any time soon. It turns out that Romel, the No.1 guy, was scheduled to fly to Merida, Yucatan, the next day, so "sometime" was right away. I booked a flight on Tropic and went diving.
After diving, I packed my gear and hustled over to the airstrip for a flight to the municipal airport. While waiting, I called the distillery and told them I was on the way. I told them that I'd arrive on the 3:00 flight, just in time for our 4:00 meeting. Naturally, I had hoped that they'd send somebody to pick me up. I took a cab instead.
We had a nice little chat, after which I checked out the new tourist facility at the bottling plant. The idea is that tourists will come to see the plant and then sample the rums that Travellers makes before being bussed back to the cruise sip dock. The idea just might work.
Romel and I took off after that to pick up one of his buddies. Kenny is a local radio personality. We then went to Old Belize, a new theme park out on the Western Highway. I had a burger that wasn't half bad while Kenny and Romel filled me in on local politics. That night I stayed at the Hotel Mopan
. I was going to leave for Cayo early the next day on the chicken bus, but Romel offered to give me a lift out to the distillery in Belmopan in the morning. How could I refuse?
The next day I called Romel and he said he'd be over soon. He came over and picked me up, still lugging my dive gear. I had tried to offload the stuff at the bottling plant so that I didn't have to drag it back and forth to Cayo, where dive opportunities are limited, but Perla said "I don't know where we could put it where it would be safe". So, we loaded up and headed out of town.
On the way we picked up a bag of cracked corn for Romel's horse. He's got some land on the Western Highway where he grows fruit that's made into brandy, etc., and he's got a horse there. Horses need more than grazing for a healthy diet, hence the corn. We dropped that off and headed out to the distillery.
I'd never seen the distillery before, so this was a nice side trip. The facility is about what you'd expect: Industrial. There are vats of "beer", the fermenting mixture of molasses and water that they make into rum. There's a three column still steaming away and tanks to hold the product before it's shipped to the aging shed in Belize City. Very educational, this trip.
We wheeled out of the distillery and Romel decided to drive me to Cayo. I told him to drop me off and I'd catch the bus, but he wouldn't hear of it. So we drove. When we got to San Ignacio we stopped into a pastery shop for lunch. The stew chicken was good and the flan was killer bee. After lunch Romel dropped me off at the Trek Stop
I spent a few days here, kicking back. I wandered around Succotz and walked to the local ruins. While at Xunatunich, the aformantioned ruins, I was serenely sitting atop the pyramid el Castillo
, waiting for the best light. This waiting is something photographers do, looking for patterns of sun and clouds or just being lazy. Me, I'm lazier than a blue tick hound, so I'm always waiting for the best light. When I got up to go, I ran into a teen aged guy with an M-16. Daniel told me that he's in the army, guarding against the Guatemalans over the border. He seemed like a good kid.
I also took the bus into San Ignacio and had some good barbeque and chinese food, although not at the same time. Once I took the wrong bus back and ended up in Bullet Tree. So I had a couple of Belikins before catching a bus back into San Ignacio and getting on the right bus back to the Trek Stop. That's one of the reasons I travel solo, since I like exploring more than most people I've travelled with. Getting on the wrong bus isn't a waste of time, it's an unexpected adventure. Lots of folks don't see it that way.
Eventually I hopped a bus back to Belize City. My flight out wasn't until the next day, but I'd rather spend a night in the hotel than explore a new and untried route back into the city on the day of the flight. You never know when the bus is going to break down or some other unforseen setback is going to spoil your trip, so I went back to the Mopan a day early. That night there was a boxing match on TV and I hung out with the other tourists, checking out the fight. One guy was from Oregon and he was wishing that the bar had whiskey. I broke out a bottle of rum and we all had a good time. We ordered pizza from Pepper's and told lies. I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday night.
The next morning I walked across the Swing Bridge and emptied out my post office box. Unfortunately, there was a notice in the box that says my rent is due. It was Sunday, so I couldn't pay my rent. I'll get it paid the next time I'm in Belize. I picked up some barbeque at the stand near the bridge and legged it back to the Mopan, then took a taxi to the airport.
After checking my bag, finally offloading the dive gear that I had been dragging around, I went to see Jet at Jet's Bar. I swilled the last couple of Belikins that I'll see for a while and went back to the world.