It was a lazy and grey start to the day, although it soon brightened. Cases closed (always a bit of a trauma at this stage of any holiday activity involving Monica and me!) we were to leave at 9.00. A veritably skippy time of departure after days of early mornings and allowed us time to wander along the lakeside and take in the view before getting on the bus to head off to Belize.
After our stroll it was time to get on the bus with the lovely Oscar for the last time. It was not a long run to the border, but crossing into Belize was a very different experience to entering Guatemala. Large trucks were parked and patiently waited to be called forward and men with large guns oversaw proceedings. It had taints of those border crossings on the Silk Road. No wandering ducks and clucking chickens. Belize obviously takes itself very seriously.
Formerly called British Honduras, Belize is now independent. It lies on the eastern coast of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico, the south and west by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. The official language spoken is English, but it sounded a sort of West Indian English with American overtones. Low and rich.
Our first experience of these bass tones was when we were taken to a sort of hamburger establishment quite close to our final destination. The young man who took our order had a voice from the ‘Deep South’ – probably because that is where we are!! He proved to be very efficient wherever he came from and the beer and burger went down well.
Our hotel had been changed from the centre of San Ignacio to the Cahal Pech Hotel, high on a hill out of town. The first problem was getting up the hill. We had by now been offloaded into two small mini bus type vehicles. Ours could not get up the hill. In the end the attempt was abandoned and we were taken on a sort of tacking route, around the hill until we got to the top. One could be forgiven for thinking that this might be the end of our difficulties. It wasn’t.
I am not sure why, but the sight of perhaps 30 Christian missionaries sitting in the reception area when we arrived at the hotel, I found somewhat daunting. How did we know they were missionaries? Their matching wordy tee-shirts told us so! Eyeing them a bit warily we quietly waited for room keys. When these had been distributed we found that the Cahal Pech Hotel – named after the Mayan archeological site next door – sported 3 swimming pools (a la Marbella and complete with sun beds and other pool side paraphernalia) but that most of the accommodation was in rush roofed huts cascading down the hill. Very attractive paths meandered through the gardens to these pseudo Mayan dwellings. Ours was towards the farthest reaches of the establishment.
We had nearly got there, under the supervision of a super human young man carrying both our cases, when we realised Monica had forgotten to pick up her natty pink, but by now quite heavy, ruck sack. No worries, say I, I will go back……. having negotiated the route back (heat circa 35 degrees, humidity factor highest), I retrieved said bag and trekked back to our room. On arrival M informed me that for some unknown reason our ‘hut’ had only one small bed in it. Now Monica and I have been chums for many years and have on many occasion shared a double bed, but this was little more than a single bed, it was very hot and we needed to sort out our bags. It would not do.
No worries, say I, I will go back. So back I go to reception. The long suffering Ana is still there and after a brief discussion, I am told not to worry, there is a futon in the room which can be opened up. Fine. I trek back with the news, only to realise that with the ‘futon’ opened up, there would be no floor space. Needed for opening cases and final packing. It would not do. Back I trek to reception, feeling a little less than ‘cool as a mountain stream’ and not really very interested in the fact that there might not be anything else…….. changes were going to have to be made.
Eventually a very helpful young man came with me to collect Monica, still waiting in hut one and by now very much aware that a number of our fellow travellers had two if not three beds in their huts (grrrrrrr!), and our luggage and move us to another, bigger hut even further away from reception (!). Great. This had a king sized bed in it and lots of floor space. It was inevitably reached by a number of steps. Oh good!
Feeling somewhat less irritable, I half jokingly said that perhaps a thirst quenching drink was in an order to compensate us for our trouble. ‘What sort of drink?’ Was the reply. Anything, even a coke would do……. was my response. ‘We only do rum punch as a free drink…..’. ‘That would do’ I responded through gritted teeth. Leaving with the commen that he would ‘have to confer with his manager’ , our helper departed with the parting shot that another bed would also be sent.
Monica and I sat in the recovery position for some time, swinging in our hammock, and were very surprised to see chummy back with two very large rum punches, complete with umbrellas! I felt a bit ashamed. I felt even more ashamed when a stick insect of a chap arrived at the foot of the steps to our, I have to say rather sumptuous, ‘hut’ almost eclipsed by the double mattress he was carrying! Eek! By now we had decided that a king sized bed was quite big enough and sent him away. Three hours later sheets turned up. This time the young lady insisted that we keep the blankets she had brought us (IN THIS HEAT?!?).
A few sips of rum punch and a rejuvenating snooze later, we rallied ourselves to go to visit our last Mayan Site, Cahal Pech next door. Time was getting on so we just about caught the sun going down through the trees, but we were proud of ourselves identifying features that we have seen before. Always good to feel you have learnt something!
When we arrived back at the hotel, there was an amazing sky and our missionaries had been augmented by their motorcycle fellows. Motorcycle missionaries, once again clearly labelled! Who new?!?
Our last supper was held in a Sri Lankan curry house, down n the town centre. It was a good night, with good food in the open air and lots of laughter, although it came to a rather precipitate end when it started to rain. It was then home to our rather large bed….
Tomorrow we head for home……