I was awake nice and early for some reason. I went outside to be with the peaceful calm of the beach before tons of tourists were walking around. I took some nice sunrise pictures. Then headed back to the room to pack and get Bill. We didn’t have to shower cause we’d do that in the sea later.
We took our bags with us after checking out because we had to head directly to the ferry back to Belize City. The boat was scheduled at 4 pm.
We found a small shack to have some egg and ham sandwiches for breakfast. Then met with our group for the day and Junis. There was an older Canadian couple visiting Guatemala and Belize and a young Minnesota couple on their belated honeymoon. Everyone was very friendly. The ride to the Ho Chan Marine Reserve took some time. We chitchatted and had the typical “where are you from”, “what do you do” banter. Juni would add his pearls of wisdom every once and awhile.
Soon we arrived at the first destination. There were only a few boats at anchor. A park ranger drove up to our boat and sold us our park passes. I readied my underwater camera and jumped in. Immediately we saw sharks, rays and turtles swimming around near the boat. It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. When Juni got into the water, amazingly fish and rays were swimming up to him and following him. They seemed to recognize and treat him as a part of the school. I’ve never seen fish act that way. When we tried to get close the fish would disperse, but the rays would let you get pretty close to them. Juni was holding them and passing them onto us.
We swam along the beautiful reef following Juni’s general direction. We spotted puffer fish, barracuda, lobster, eels, and plenty of colorful reef fish. The snorkeling lasted an hour i think, but I lost track of time. My camera memory card was already full, so I was definitely enjoying the sites.
We got back on the sailboat and headed to the next destination which wasn’t far. Juni explained that we would see a fisherman conch cleaning area, where fish and turtles came to eat the left overs. There was an interesting red tinted turtle aggressively devouring all the discarded shellfish and a blanket of large rays covering the floor of conch shells. I almost stepped on some as I tried to capture the scene on film.
The next stop was at the channel through the reef, where the water got really deep. Sharks have been spotted in the channel, such as hammerheads, tiger, and bull sharks. Comforting. The reef was great though and even swimming across strong currents of the shark infested channel was enjoyable. We continued to see plenty of marine life and even a small underwater ‘cave’ that Juni swam through and I quickly followed suit.
We saw some nice big groupers, trevally, and a huge spotted ray floating across the sea floor. The last stop was the best one. We all seemed to not want to get out of the water, but as we were finishing, about 10 boats arrived at the same time dumping their passengers noisily into the water. Just on time to get the hell out of there.
The other boats went for lunch, but not us! We had oranges, bananas, cookies and coffee.
We then started our slow trip back to the dock and talked about all the great things we saw. Juni then told an unbelievable story about how he came to be a member of a shark family.
“I felt the belly… and she was pregnant… so I delivered that shark baby. I was a father. For three generations those sharks swam with me every day.”
We all stared in disbelief.
“Then one day” * pause * “they were gone… A fisherman illegally fishing in the protected area, slaughtered my family.” Followed by stifled tears and several minutes of awkward silence.
“So how long does it take to get back Juni?” someone asked to break the ice.
Bill and I were quite stressed cause we had to catch our 4 pm back to the mainland. We couldn’t afford spending another night on the island, but we were told that there was another boat at 5 pm, but we still hoped to catch the 4 pm seeing how we had tickets already.
We made it just on time. We paid Juni and thanked him for a great day out. We never did get to take him up on his “have a great time or free” offer. Sprinting to the dock we saw it was quite empty. We asked the ticket sellers who said that our ferry was delayed till 5 pm. Phew! We didn’t miss it. I recommended we relax with a cold one, which is exactly what we did. As we sipped our beers we chatted with other passengers waiting for the ferry. A young couple from Cali were hanging out as well as an Indian man on the island for business. He was a distributor selling to the Asian grocers.
The ride back was uneventful, except someone forgot their luggage getting off the ferry, so we had to turn back and drop off a single bag. The speedboat was bigger than the first one we got on. Sitting up front we had some nice views of the sun setting over the horizon.
We arrived at the terminal and shared a cab with the Cali guys who were also catching a bus. We were headed locally west to San Ignacio. We found our bus after asking someone and jumped on. This was another local bus like the one we came on. We secured our seats and settled in for the ride.
The bus ride was quite terrifying, partly because we read about how we shouldn’t travel at night unless we had a death wish and partly because there was a drunk or high crazy man sitting a few seats behind us, yelling and cursing for hours. The fact that we were sleep deprived didn’t help the situation. For some reason people kept staring at Bill and I, even though I’m sure we blended in like chameleons.
Besides our fear and uneasiness, the bus ride was uneventful. We passed through the new capital of Belize, Belmopan which looked like quite a well organized town. For one, they didn’t have bars on every shop window (but we did see guards at every store, armed with at least a shotgun).
When our bus finally arrived in San Ignacio, we didn’t really want to get off, pretending it wasn’t our stop, but the ticket collector knew where we were going so we had no choice but to get off.
The ticket collector waved us off the bus, probably thinking she was doing us a great favor by remember to tell us our stop. Then again, we were probably the only ones on that trip that asked for a reminder.
We stepped off the bus feeling the weight of the glares from everyone on the street. I didn’t want to stop and look through our guidebooks, so we just walked. We made it to a main intersection and saw lights on the right side, so we headed toward the noise. There were people around and an open air bar. Tourists. Great, we were ‘safe’. We stopped at the first “hotel” which didn’t have any vacancies, so on the the next one. A raggedy older black man reeking of weed started saying something next to the entrance marked “hotel”. We ignored him and just quickly walked up the stairs. He followed and caught up with us at the top of the landing. He mumbled “can I help you?” Could this homeless person actually be running this hotel? Good lord.
“Yes, do you have any rooms available?” Not sure if he was even working there.
“Rooms? Yeeahh we got rooms.” He mumbled.
His name was Kenny G (no known relation to the musician). He led us down the hallway and took the lock off a door. The one inch wooden plank for a door swung open. We peered inside and tried to contain our disgust. It looked like a prison cell.
I asked the Kenny why his mouth was wired shut.
“Oh man, I’m hurtin’ man. My buddy called me over. I headed there to their place and they jumped us. Fuckin’ steel toe boot man. They messed me up bad. I just got these in. I’m hurtin’ bad man. Messed me up. Hurtin’ bad man.’
“Wow I’m sorry to hear that.” shifty eye look over to Bill.
Then he walked us to the shared bathroom. As the giant cockroaches scurried away, we had both determined not to use the shower.
The place was a complete dump. “We’ll take it!”
We asked about the ATM tour we heard about. He had tickets leaving early so we said we’ll get back to him. We threw our bags on our beds, locked the door (or rather put the lock onto our door) and headed down to find this restaurant recommended by Kenny G himself. We walked around and actually found this place. It was only two blocks away and was empty besides a table of youngsters. We ordered some local Belizean/Meixcan food and a beer and talked about how happy we were to have made it safely to the town. After dinner we went to buy our tickets for the cave tour the next morning. Our friend “didn’t have change” for us, so I had to check back later. After asking four times, I was finally paid back in full. The first few times I either got B$5 back or an excuse. Quality service.
We sat down at the open air bar across the street for a beer and to smoke our Cubans. We met a bunch of foreigners. There was a huge group of girls in their early twenties from California or something. Blond, young and getting totally wasted, then wandering the streets alone. Wow they were brave. They were there between 2 weeks to 3 months on a social work exchange program to help the locals. One girl mentioned they already encountered “issues” so they can’t walk in pairs or small group anymore, but didn’t go into more detail. I hope it had nothing to do with the rape that apparently happened recently.
There was a guy who was hitchhiking through Central America who almost got mugged the night before in, non other than, Belize City.
Before we knew it, it was already 2 am and we had to be up early. We said bye and called it a night.