My trusty wristwatch alarm started chirping at 5:45 AM. The rain hadn't let up one bit since the beginning of the night. Our river taxi was supposed to pick us up at 6 AM to take us upstream to a town called Livingston
where a ferry departs only twice a week to Belize. Assuming the heavy rainfall would hinder these plans, I left Whitney to continue dreaming, and figured I'd go check to see if anyone was in the lobby anyway. I grabbed the flashlight to light my way, as Finca Titan only taps into their diesel supply for electricity a few hours a day, and made my way toward the river.
To my surprise, a Guatemalan man in a poncho came walking up through the lobby leaving a trail of water in his path. It quickly became evident that nature is no match for a determined Guatemalan work ethic. Five minutes later, Whitney and I were packed and settling up our tab with Gaby. Most hostels we have come across, thus far, operate on a bit of a trust system. Throughout your stay, you are trusted to keep an ongoing tally of how many drinks you have taken, kayaks you have helped yourself too, meals you have ordered, etc. No credit card is needed as a deposit and no one is scrupulous of your self-reporting. It is a system that sounds impossible to mimic in the states, but is, seemingly, very practical and efficient in Central America. Realizing that our wad of Guatemalan Quetzales only totaled out to roughly $15 USD, and that Finca Titan failed to have a credit card machine, we shook hands with Gaby and she suggested we withdraw money from an ATM in Livingston
and give it to our anxious boat driver.
We enjoyed the wet, yet scenic, half hour ride to Livingston where we found an ATM conveniently located across the street from the Guatemalan immigration office. Inside, we were greeted by an amiable immigrations officer wearing a tank-top and khaki shorts. He gave us our exit stamp while being the active participant in a one-sided conversation. During our walk back to the dock to pay our officer, Whitney asked me what the officer said, and I, reluctantly, told her what I had ascertained, "small boat" and "strong seas."
We huddled under a small tarp at the dock and waited for our ferry to arrive. We quickly learned that a "ferry" in Guatemala describes anything with a motor on it. We crammed about 20 people into the 12 seater, as waves crashed over us, and pushed our way away from the dock.
Two hours later, when we pulled up to the dock at Punta Gorda
, Belize, my knuckles were white, Whitney had a permanent grin on her face, and everyone and everything was drenched. There were countless times during the ordeal that we were convinced we were about to capsize, and the canvas roof of the boat broke free and almost flew away if it weren't for a quick thinking seaman and a good bit of rope. Whitney captured some great videos of the ordeal, which she compared to the log flume ride in a water park, but "way more fun."
We passed through Belize customs with no problems, and walked down Front Street searching for a warm shower and a soft bed. After being appalled by some of the hotels pricing, $150 USD for a place I likened to a glorified Budget Inn, we noticed a handmade sign advertising Amaya's Inn as "Cheap, comfortable, and safe" rooms for rent. Considering that we desire all of the above, we inquired around the local shops until we were introduced to Victor. Victor, the owner of Amaya's Inn, is an older local man with a heart of gold. We agreed to the $15 USD per night for our private room, and Victor told us not to hesitate to ask if we needed anything. You can tell that he is the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back without the concept of reciprocity passing through his mind. We spent the rest of the day/ night acquainting ourselves with the new surroundings.
It is a nice change of pace being in a country that is so diverse, and that primarily speaks English. We discovered that the small town of Punta Gorda
is home to Indians (of Mayan ancestry), local Belize people, Caribbean islanders, East Indian, Garifunas (descendants of West Africa), German Mennonites, and a handful of American expatriates. The town is also famous for it's laid back attitude, almost to the point of laziness, exemplified by the fact that they refer to the town, locally, as PG rather than pronounce its full name. This seemed like the perfect place for us to slow our pace, and relax for a couple of days.