I woke up in Chetumal with almost a full day to kill before my water taxi to Belize. Unfortunately the weather was still rubbish. I went for a walk downtown and found people. Everywhere. Lots of people! Potential friends. Hooray! It was a Monday morning and Chetumal had come to life. It is strange for me that on a Sunday afternoon the town was deserted but it was busy on a Monday. Doesn’t anyone go to to work? I spent a while walking about the high street. I joined a Pharmacy Fiesta. Mexico is the only place I have ever visited where there is a party in the pharmacy every day. In Chetumal one of the pharmacies had a party sponsored by Coca Cola with free cans, another had a big cartoon pharmacist handing out balloons. I can’t imagine a least appropriate place to have loud music and frivolity Congratulations, you have gonorrhea!!!
I spent most of my Monday in Chetumal looking for ATMs. Bank of Scotland have started playing a new game with me called Hide All My Money. There is a certain fear that comes from being in a foreign country completely alone with no cash in your purse and an ATM card that won’t work. Every ATM I tried came up with a different error message. I have lived overseas for 8 years now. I think my bank finally noticed. Eventually, on the brink of busking, I got a big wad of cash out of one of the machines. I had a delicious Nutella and banana crÍpe made for me by a lovely man who spoke excellent English. The first conversation I had had in 2 days. When I opened my mouth to speak dust came out. I checked out of my hotel and made my way to the dock. Chetumal had been a delight. I stayed for a day and a half which was clearly a whole day too long. I’m sure Chetumal is a great place, honestly,† I think it was just the wrong place at the wrong time for me. Maybe if the weather had been better, or if I hadn’t of gone on a Sunday, or if I had had some company. Sorry for hating on you Chetumal.
I had booked a ticket for the Belize Water Taxi the day before. This turned out to be a good idea as there was no seats left and it only runs once a day. I got to the port, handed over my luggage and headed to the immigration office. Historically I don’t have very good luck with leaving and entering countries. I handed over my passport to one of the two guards. He asked me for the 300 peso fee. As I opened up my wallet he noticed my Temporary Residents Card and told me that as I was a resident of Mexico I didn’t have to pay the exit fee. Great! I just saved myself 300 pesos. The guard asked to see the card. I couldn’t get it out so I tried to show him it still in my wallet but he insisted I remove it so he could see it more clearly. I struggled with it but eventually it did come out and I† handed it over.† I held my breath while he examined my EXPIRED resident’s card. I hoped he would not notice the date. He noticed the date. He handed the card to his colleague. They started talking frantically in Spanish. I interrupted when I heard the word policia. Batting my eyelashes and playing dumb had no effect on them. “Gentleman, let me explain. This is an expired card. I left the country and came back on a tourist visa. Here are the stamps in my passport.” They were having none of it and demanded to know why I still had my card. “Jose at the airport let me keep it as a souvenir … you can ask him” (true story). They did not believe me. I started to panic a little. It was starting to look like I was going to be staying in Chetumal forever. New tactic. “OK boys, I was just trying to get out of paying the exit fee. Here is 400 pesos”. I put the money on the table. It worked. As always money talks louder than words. They had me write a note to say I understand I am no longer a resident of Mexico and that I voluntarily give up my card to them. Stampety stampety stamp stamp. I was free.
The dock began to fill up with people and luggage. I was starved for conversation and went down the line forcing each and every person to speak to me. I’m sure people look at me the way I look at screaming toddlers in the airport. They are all hoping that they wouldn’t be the unlucky one who would have to sit next to me for the journey.† The water taxi was due to leave at 3.30. At 3.40 the police showed up, not to arrest me thankfully but for the sniffer dog to check for drugs. I counted about 25 people, the same number of suitcases, numerous large boxes and one dog in a very big crate. There was twice as much stuff as apparent space on the really small boat. Surely it would require a miracle to get everything on. A miracle happened that day. Thirty minutes later, I was crammed next to an air-conditioning unit and we were on our way. The journey to San Pedro took about 2 hours. When we arrived on the island we went through immigration, “You got any fruit or meat on you honey?” “No” STAMP. Easy. I was in Belize.
When I arrived it was dark and the weather was abysmal but I knew I was going to like San Pedro. The trip had all been very last minute and I had not done any of my usual fastidious research. All I knew about San Pedro was from what Madonna told me about it.
I took a taxi to my hotel with a quick stop at an ATM. The money in Belize has the Queen on it! My Queen! It looks like money from the UK. It took me by surprise, although it shouldn’t have as Belize did belong to Britain until 1981. Sigh, why did we give away all the good places? If I was the Queen I would have kept Belize but gave away Glasgow. My hotel was only a few minutes from the dock. I managed to pick an excellent place, Pedro’s Hotel,which was also the most reasonably priced hotel I could find on an otherwise very expensive island. I had a lovely little room that looked and smelled like a ski lodge which I strangely enjoyed. I dumped my bag and headed to the hotel bar. Within one minute I was having shots of Jaeger with Pedro himself. I made some new friends including one beautiful husky dog and ate some pizza. I originally booked for one night at Pedro’s but first thing in the morning I booked in for 5 more nights. Great location, atmosphere and lovely people.
I went to bed back to my little mock chalet, excited for the next morning when I could finally see the island in daylight.