Arrival in Placencia
Craig and Steph's Adventures in Belize
We looked at some of our digital photos of Antigua with Wim and Chantal after breakfast. They were very interested in the carpets and wanted to see what they actually looked like. Vicki and Ray were going to bring us to the airport, and we planned to leave at around 9 for our 11 o'clock flight. The drive takes almost 90 minutes so the timing should be perfect. We were just getting our stuff together when Wim ran up, saying that the flight was now at 10:30. We threw our stuff in the van, said goodbye to Wim and Chantal, and headed off to the airport with Ray at the wheel. Ray flew to get us to the airport on time. Vicki was on the cell phone with Chantal, having her call the airport to tell them that we were on our way. There was a roadblock where Ray had to show his identification to proceed. The policeman said "What's your last name?" "Snaddon" replied Ray. The policeman smiled and said with a think Caribbean accent, "I thought it said Saddam!" We arrived at the municipal airport at 10:25. It was not hard to figure out why the FAA doesn't endorse internal Belizean flights. Vicki ran into the little building and talked directly to the pilot. He agreed to wait for us. The girl behind the counter took our e-ticket printout and then handed us laminated generic boarding passes made out of red construction paper. There was no search or luggage check whatsoever. We walked out the back of the building onto the tarmac and got into the 15-seater plane. We sat right behind the pilot and had a bird's eye view of all the controls. We flew 8 minutes to Dangriga. After picking up some more passengers, the pilot looked both ways, waited for another plane to land, and then took off again.
After a 13 minute flight from Dangriga, we landed in Placencia at 11:11 am. What a tiny airport! When we first arrived we were waiting to be picked up by Adventure Life's local contact (Toadal Adventures) for transfer to the Rum Point Inn. As we arrived a few minutes early, nobody seemed to be there to collect us yet. We sat in the small waiting room and used the rest rooms. Meanwhile, the phone rang and the person behind the desk said that it was the Rum Point Inn telling us to simply take a cab over there. We didn't think much of it. We assumed that whoever was supposed to meet us was delayed or whatever. The cab loaded up our luggage and, much to our surprise, drove us a very short drive to the hotel and dropped us off. It probably would have been easier to walk, and we felt a bit silly about taking a cab at all. We checked in and were assigned cabana 1. A smiling porter took our backpacks in a wheelbarrow and started across the sand walkways winding between lovely trees and flowers. We noticed that the grounds seemed particularly quiet and the beach was unoccupied. Arriving at our cabana, we discovered it was a nice little building that looked like a Flintstones house. The walls had decorative cut outs that let in the light, but had screens over them. There was a king sized bed, a fan, a futon, etc. It was a fantastic room and we were quite pleased with everything. We relaxed in the room for a while and then headed down to get a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant. We were told that we were one of only two couples on the entire premises (the place had really emptied out after the Easter rush), so they had sent the kitchen staff home early. They apologized and told us the Rum Point Inn driver would be happy to drive us into town and drop us at a restaurant at no charge.
We asked where the driver recommended for lunch and he said "Wendy's." We laughed, thinking we must look like typical Americans if he was trying to get us to go to fast food in this quaint, sleepy Caribbean town. But Wendy's turned out to be a little local restaurant, and we happily ate there. We got nachos as an appetizer. Craig had a beef burrito and I had a beef quesadilla. I had rum punch to drink and Craig had a Belikin beer. While sitting in the restaurant, we noticed it was remarkably still outside. We saw an occasional tourist and a few locals walking the streets but it felt as though the whole town was closing, yet it was only early afternoon. We were planning on getting ice cream across the street, but we were much too full after the very tasty and rather large portions of lunch. When we went outside most of the little shops that lined the small main road appeared closed and we felt sort of out of place: as if the town really was closing down around us.
There wasn't much to see in town, so we decided to enjoy the nice walk back to the hotel, which took about an hour. On the way, we saw the police station (a small hut with a moped parked outside and a sign which said "police station"). While walking we noticed a lot of new and old houses under construction. It seemed as if a hurricane had come through not so long ago, and there was a real construction boom building newer and better homes all around. Although most of the buildings we had seen since crossing the border into Belize were built on stilts, many of these new homes were not. We thought this probably wasn't such a good idea as this whole penninsula is just above sea level and probably quite prone to flooding. A little further up the road we saw a large puddle off to the side. As we approached, it came to life and we suddenly noticed hundreds of crabs scurrying away from our walking feet. It was really wild to see so many of them in such a small area. Each crab was probably only about an inch across, but there were so many of them! Soon we approached the airport. The dirt road we were follwing intersects with the end of the runway, and there is a small sign which says "STOP Give way to landing and departing aircraft". We stood there for a moment finding this to be quite a sight and laughed at the differences between this sleepy little airport and the ones we are used to back home. It appeared the road used to cut right across the middle of the runway, but it seemed they more recently diverted it toward the end of the runway (right along the coast). We noticed that our hotel room was actually a very short walk from the end of the runway. Rather than following the road which took a longer route, we simply walked along the coast to get back to our little cabana.
We got back to the hotel and hung out in our room for a little while. We decided to visit the office to see whether anyone had left a message for us regarding when we would be picked up tomorrow. Upon arrival, we found out from Altea at the desk that there had been a big mixup. Deb from Toadal Adventures had waited at the airport for us for an hour earlier in the day. Noone at the airport could tell her that we had already arrived, or that we had taken a cab to the Rum Point Inn. Apparently noone had called the airport to tell us to take the cab, either. And noone knew who, if anyone, had paid for the cab. It was a comedy of errors and we had been completely unaware of any of it. We felt terrible that we left Deb waiting at the airport and we left all this confusion in our wake, but we had been totally oblivious. Looking back, we realized Deb was probably still waiting for us at the airport while we were driving by to go into town for our lunch. We had a nice laugh about all of this with Altea, and she made us drinks at the bar. First we had a special rum punch that was very good, but we had to be careful to avoid the headache from drinking it too quickly. After that I couldn't resist trying the pineapple Fanta. While sitting in the deserted bar we leafed through some Maya books that are part of the Rum Point Library. They have quite a few books in their library (apparently the largest private library in Placencia, which isn't really saying too much, I suspect). It was really nice looking through the books as we had learned so much about the Maya people and could understand things much better after the first hand experiences we had had. Altea told us that David from Toadal Adventures had called while we were out, and she said he would be there at 5:15 to brief us on our plans for tomorrow.
At 5:15, David showed up with two other travelers that would join us: Marlene and her son Greg. We sat on the back porch overlooking the sea. The sand flies that were completely non-existent earlier were suddenly brutal. We had a nice conversation and discussed the plans for the upcoming days. They all seemed very nice and we knew this was going to be a great few days. Previously we didn't even know others would be joining us, but we seemed to get along exceptionally well and were excited to have the company. After they left, we talked with Altea some more, had another drink at the bar, and eventually went back to the room. When we each decided to take a shower, we noticed a tiny frog had affixed itself to the shower walls. We didn't want to disturb the little guy so we actually pointed the shower head away from his chosen location. The shower stall itself was quite interesting because down near our feet was another one of those holes in the wall with a screen preventing bugs (although not the tiny frog apparently) from entering. But it did allow the water to splash out. I imagine this design works quite well when the sea floods the grounds. The water simply rolls in and back out of the buildings, leaving a small mess but little actual damage. We got things prepared for the morning and went to bed at around 9:30.