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#429530 - 02/04/12 09:59 AM Our first trip to Placencia - travel on a budget
Marty Online   happy

We woke up at 6 am in order to catch an early water taxi into San Pedro. We were leaving on our first trip to Placencia, in southern Belize, so this was going to be a long and busy day. We would be attempting to travel "on the cheap", using ferries and buses for transport rather than flying, and carrying only backpacks.

Our morning schedule was rather tight, since we had to catch the 7:40 water taxi, get Paisley to Pampered Paws for boarding, then take an 8:30 am ferry to Belize City. With so little room for error, I was nervously hoping everything would go smoothly and there would be no unexpected delays. It started raining soon after we got up, but thankfully had tapered off right before we locked the door on our condo to head out to the dock with Paisley.


When we arrived at the bus terminal in Dangriga, we crossed our legs to avoid the $1 BZD bathroom fee. We had a 45-minute layover there before catching our next busy, so Barry walked around taking photos, and I read my book. We had brought homemade oatmeal cookies and granola bars along, so ate those in lieu of lunch.


We took the 2 pm Richie's bus to Placencia. We got better seats this time and were able to get our packs onto the above-head luggage rack since the bus was not as crowded, but with many stops to pick up folks along the way, it did get to be standing room only over time. Some of the bus stops were in incredibly remote areas; you couldn't even tell where people would be living. But a smattering of locals kept getting on and off the bus all the way south.

Once we got settled in, we walked to Placencia Village, about a half a mile from Casa Placencia. We immediately fell in love. Although there are cars and trucks around, it's not nearly as congested with vehicles or people as San Pedro. Unlike San Pedro, you can walk by vendor's stands without them calling out to you and hitting you with the hard sell. In all our time in Placencia, only one vendor approached us as we walked down the beach; in San Pedro, you can't walk down the beach or sit in a seaside open-air restaurant without vendors coming up and trying to sell you necklaces or wood carvings. And they call to us from their bicycles as we sit on our veranda eating a meal. Placencia just felt very laid-back and relaxed to us, and the stresses of the long travel day drained away.

Click here to read LOTS MORE in the rest of this excellent article and see LOTS more photos on the BeBelize Blog

#429629 - 02/05/12 08:15 AM Re: Our first trip to Placencia - travel on a budget [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Placencia street scene

We woke up to a cloudy morning and headed into Placencia village on foot. We saw lots of birds along the way, so the walk was leisurely, with many photos taken -- stay tuned for a "Birds of Placencia" post to come later. We took in more sights of the town, which was very quiet at this time of day. Wish we'd had sunshine for better photos.


hairpin turn in road with airstrip in the middle!

After lunch we turned our wheels southward and headed back towards Placencia. There were still no cars at Blue Crab Beach as we rolled by, so we weren't able to say hello to Linn -- hopefully on our next visit. The ride ended up being around fifteen miles, which is pretty long for a beach bike. Traffic was light and conditions pleasant, but I was wishing for my usual saddle by the end, since I wasn't wearing bike shorts. Owie!


After we parked the car back at Casa Placencia, we walked into town yet again, looking for the Hokey Pokey ferry dock. We planned to take this ferry on the trip back, but our map didn't seem correct as we found only a private dock with no Hokey Pokey sign, so we figured we'd ask Jacki exactly where it was. We walked around the attractive residential area around the lagoon and looked at homes and boats. Once again, I was reminded of the Florida Keys, and was struck by the fact that Placencia seemed cleaner and tidier than San Pedro.

Seaweed is an issue as on Ambergris Caye this month, but the beach is still beautiful!

We got caught in another heavy rain squall while we were safely under the overhang eating our gelato -- it absolutely POURED. But once again, the rain was short-lived, and soon we were able to walk back to Casa Placencia in the dark.

This was to be an early night since Jacki admonished us to get on the road to Red Bank by 5 am -- ouch! We are not normally creatures of the morning, but we really wanted to see the Scarlet Macaws. Barry actually had planned this trip mostly if not solely for that reason, while I was just as interested in seeing Placencia village, but I did want to see the famous birds as well.

The sidewalk running the length of the village -- not many tourists at all!

Click here to read LOTS MORE in the rest of this excellent article and see LOTS more photos on the BeBelize Blog

#429686 - 02/06/12 08:05 AM Re: Our first trip to Placencia - travel on a budget [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Our lookout post over the rainforest

As you can see from the map, to drive to Red Bank from Placencia, you have to go all the way north up the peninsula almost to Riversdale, hang a left, then drive west and south, ending up just a bit north of due west from Placencia. It would be quicker to take the Hokey Pokey ferry to Independence, then drive west, but there's no easy way to do that driving yourself.


Light at first, it soon was coming down hard. Barry and Selso had rain jackets, but I only had a water-resistant windbreaker that didn't provide a lot of protection, and my non-waterproof trail running shoes were soon soaked through as well. The narrow trail got slippery, so we were thankful for the walking sticks Selso had found for us so we didn't slip and get covered in mud. He didn't use one himself. It was a lovely mountain trail and hike through the jungle that would have been seriously fun if not for the drenching rain.


Red Bank Village huts

We finally arrived at the lookout up high after a relatively short but strenuous hike and waited for the rain to stop. Gradually it eased up, and birds started coming out. We could hear and then see quite a few interesting birds, while waiting for the elusive Scarlet Macaws. Selso said that it would be awhile before they would come out to feed after the rain. He told us that they were very noisy, so we would definitely hear them coming.


Out of the forest and towards the meadow

While we were waiting, we heard what sounded like a frog, which Selso said was a toucan. We finally spotted the Keel-Billed Toucan across the chasm below us at the top of a tree, eating and looking around. He looked like a banana periscope coming up from the tree, looking every which way. Really cool.


River below meadow

Sadly, we finally came to the decision to give up on the macaws. It just didn't look like it was going to happen this time, and we didn't want to keep our guide there all day. No other tour groups or individuals came looking for macaws while we were there that morning -- I guess the rain kept them away.


On the way out of Red Bank village, we were not in any hurry, and it was much brighter than on the way in, so we were able to take some photos. This Maya village is absolutely charming. There is also a campground that Selso gave us some brochures on, Hummingbird Paradise. His father Geronimo runs the place, and the prices are incredibly cheap. A one-time fee of $10 BZD ($5 US) gives unlimited use of the hiking trails, and camping is only $5 BZD ($2.50 US) per person per night.

Contact numbers for campground: 668-1724 or 662-8340

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this awesome blogpost on BeBelize

#429803 - 02/07/12 09:28 AM Re: Our first trip to Placencia - travel on a budget [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Cute sign!

It seems like we just got to Placencia, and it was already time to head back to Ambergris Caye. It was another early morning as the alarm rang at 5:45 am. We made coffee and ate oatmeal cookies for a quick breakfast. We had decided to go back a slightly different way, so we could experience two different ways of traveling between the same points. We would take the Hokey Pokey water taxi from the lagoon side of Placencia over to Independence and catch an express bus to Belize City there, avoiding the bus change in Dangriga and all the extra stops of the non-express bus.


Right as the boat got going, it started raining HARD. There was a large piece of plastic beside my seat that all the passengers pulled over ourselves to keep from getting soaked. Barry and I were sitting in the front row, so along with another couple, had to form boat's "windshield" by holding the plastic down in front. Because of this, we didn't get to see anything along what was presumably a very pretty boat ride. Disappointing, but yet another reason to go back for another visit! By the end of the twelve-minute boat ride I also ended up sitting in a puddle of water that leaked in, so the butt of my skirt was soaked and looked like I'd peed myself. Classy!


Bus terminal in Belmopan, the capital city of Belize

We finally got to Belize City (called "Belize" by the locals and those in the know) and grabbed a taxi to the ferry terminal for $10 BZD. It was lunchtime, and we had an hour to kill before the next ferry to San Pedro, so had a nice lunch of Belizean stew chicken, stew beans and rice, and veggies and shared a huge Michelada at one of the small eateries in the ferry terminal. Unlike in a US airport, where food prices are inflated, the restaurants in the ferry terminal are quite reasonable. Our lunches cost just $8 BZD ($4 US) each. The Michelada was a bit pricey at $10 BZD, but it was huge.


Belize City bus terminal

We thought we were going to be on the same large ferry boat back to the Caye that we came over on several days earlier, but the number of passengers waiting to board was on the small side, so we all had to pile onto a boat not much larger than a Coastal Express water taxi. If it had poured rain, we would have gotten wet as there were no more seats inside. Fortunately, there were only a few spits of light rain on the boat ride, despite the ominous looking sky.


Our little green boat back to San Pedro

Not long after arriving back at our condo in Chico Caribe, the heavens broke loose again and we got a heavy rain.  People here said it had been raining every evening as well (though not as much during the day as in Placencia).  We are still waiting for dry season to kick in!

All in all, even with the disappointing Scarlet Macaw hunt, it was a great trip, and we loved Placencia.  For those who are interested, here's a summary of our trip expenses:

Transportation (ferries, buses, taxis to/from Placencia):   $278 BZD ($139 US)
Lodging (3 nights):                                                        $392 BZD ($196 US)
All meals out:                                                               $337 BZD  ($168.50 US)
Car rental, gas, and tour guide + tip (Red Bank trip):        $290 BZD  ($145 US)
Miscellaneous (snacks):                                                 $8.50 BZD ($4.25 US)
Pampered Paws (boarding + food):                                 $100 BZD ($50 US)
TOTAL:                                                                       $1405.50 BZD  ($702.75 US)

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this awesome blogpost on BeBelize


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