Thursday, December 06, 2012


Belize and Back; The Legal Way

Kayaks at Paradise Resort Placentia, Belize
We're back in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala from our little 4-day jaunt to Belize to reset our 90-day tourist visas. Unlike the bonkers fugative John McAfee, we did stop at the immigration offices of both countries to have our visas stamped in and out of our passports. I guess that's why WE haven't been arrested here in Guatemala like he has. Of course the Rio here was all abuzz with sightings of this character. There's not much other drama to talk about so this was good chisme (pronounced cheeze-may = gossip).

Our trip took most of the day as there is no direct route to get from here to Belize. We consider just getting there as part of the adventure. In the early morning, we rode the launcha (fiberglass boat) from Mario's Marina here a mile upriver and were dropped off at the a dock in the little town of Rio Dulce. From there we picked up a collectivo (public van) for a ride to an intersection with another road to pick up yet another collectivo ($3 US each person for the 50 mile trip). Unfortunately, because  we were traveling during the morning go-to-work rush, these vans were more than over loaded with passengers - like 26 folks in a 14 passenger van. Jonesy ended up standing, bent over at the waist hovered over a couple of women for almost an hour. I "got" to sit on a little ledge holding my legs up so I wouldn't knock the people whose bodies were fully hanging out of the side door. They stood on the running board and hung onto the "oh-shit" bar conveniently installed in the headliner for their safety.
Jonesy at sea for the wet and wild ride to Belize

We gleefully disembarked the van in Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean coast and walked the 1/2 mile to the immigration office. As we dodged potholes and puddles we unkinked our joints and stretched our cramped muscles. The check-out process was pleasant and we got our passport stamps needed to prove that we left Guatemala before our previous visa expired. After a short walk to the pier and a half hour wait, we boarded the launcha - a larger fiberglass open speedboat - for the trip across the sea to Belize ($25 per person for the 35 mile, 1 1/2 hour trip). Dang. Just as we left a squall came up and we had big swells, breaking waves and rain for most of the trip. The boat company provided plastic tarps to hide under.

James Bus Line Belize
The check-in process in Punta Gorda, Belize was fast and uneventful (stamp #2 achieved proving that we really did go to another country). Unfortunately our boat had arrived later than usual and we had just missed the bus for the ride to Independence, Belize. The next bus was not for 2 hours. But wait! A kind shop owner phoned the bus driver and he stopped down the road and waited for us! We hustled along and climbed aboard. Gotta love small communities.

The bus trip was wonderful! The bus itself is an old Blue Bird, likely a used school bus. The road was smooth, and with open windows we enjoyed a balmy breeze as we traveled inland through the Toledo district of Belize ($4.50 per person for a 60 mile ride). We passed through beautiful jungles, savannahs, pine forests, and villages. Passengers got on and off all  along the way and passed cargo to the driver for delivery down the road.

Jonesy does the Hokey Pokey 
Too soon we arrived in the small town of Independence and had to leave the bus behind. As we didn't know how far it was to our next destination, we accepted a taxi ride ($3) to the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi docks. It was only about a quarter of a mile. Oh well, I guess we must have looked old and feeble to the driver or he needed the money. We certainly didn't look like tourists. I know this because the gal who sold us the tickets for the water taxi ride told us we didn't. She gave us the "local" price of $3 US per person and not the posted/tourist price of $5 per person to Placencia.

Hokey Pokey to Placencia Belize
Thankfully, the rain had stopped here and the sun was out for our fast trip through the mangroves to Placentia, our final destination. The small islands covered in mangroves inhibited any waves so  the water was smooth making the ride comfortable. It's been a long time since we were out in the coast waters and we both had big smiles on our faces.

Quickly we arrived in the little beach resort town of Placencia! Funky! This is one of the many places that fellow cruisers have told us about where they stop to provision for groceries and enjoy the occasional restaurant meal. Now we can understand why. It is a little slice of paradise.

Even though the grocery stores on this sand spit are rough around the edges, we found lots to like. There are freezers full of chicken and shelf stable products that we haven't found in Guatemala such as plain ole corn meal. I bought some for me and some to share with a cruiser friend back at Mario's Marina. Southern folks just gotta have their cornbread!

We walked down the beach until we found the Paradise Resort which had come recommended to us.  Good timing on our part, we arrived on the last day of the off-season rates so we got to enjoy the facilities for $59 US per night. Vacationers will think we are crazy, but we spent the first evening tucked into our room watching various movies on the many movie channels on the TV. For us, this is a real treat!
Placencia beach Belize
Excellent coffee with Helene, Placencia Belize

So what to do during our mandatory 72-hour stay outside of Guatemala? How about walking along the beach escorted by the friendly local dogs. In the mornings, the winds are calm so there are no waves. The afternoon winds kicked up the waves later so that this same beach wasn't "walkable" except up on dry sand.

No worries. By then we were already esconced on the veradna of a small coffee vendor - Helene. The smell of freshly baked cinnomon rolls was intoxicating. If I didn't have to live gluten-free I would have indulged, but it was just coffee - excellent coffee - for me. We spent a long leisurely time here listening to Helene share with us her life adventures in Belize.

Oh, and I knit. Lots and lots of sock knitting took place as we were on a leisurely pace. I finished a simple pair of rather big socks for the kids in Kazakhstan in yarn donated by Leanne M. from knitting camp. The yarn is Trekking (XXL).

Big socks
Monster Socks
Next up I started a pair of Monster Socks with this same yarn and some little odd balls of leftovers (also donated by Leanne). These are still a work in progress for the kids.

I'm working 2 rounds of 1x1 stranded color knitting between each change of yarns. This adds a little bit of visual interest without affecting the stretchiness of the finished sock.

No Diving Allowed Socks
And finally it is December and I can share with you the No Diving Allowed socks that I test knit for Linda Pahdoco and the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo group. This fun slip-stitch design is the Dec/Jan sock for the group where the pattern is free for members. I love how the slip stitches toned down this wild self-patterning Trekking (XXL) yarn. Can you believe that the patterning did not repeat at all for a whole sock? That makes it way too difficult to try and make a matchy-match pair so I had to go with a fraternal twin pair for these socks. Again, the yarn had been donated by Leanne so these socks will be sent with the next batch to Kazakhstan with the Motherless Child Foundation.

Monster Socks
Inside out - ugh...yarn ends to darn
What? More socks? Yep. I finally finished darning in all the many, many little ends of yarn for these colorful monster socks made from leftover yarns. No, I'm not the only cruiser in Guatemala  who knits socks for the kids in the orphanages of Kazakhstan. There are more and here's a photo for proof!

Jackie and Jan knit for the kids in Kazakhstan
Last week, before Jackie (s/v Lively Lady) took off to sail north to Mexico, we got together at the Catamaran resort with Jan the mitten knitter (s/v Jocks Lodge). Jackie has knit many thick warm socks using worsted weight yarn held together with a sock yarn. Jan has been churning out thick mittens. I share some of my stash, plus some yarns that were donated to me and these wonderful ladies create warm woolies. Not only did we have a lovely afternoon by the pool, but we may have also enticed a couple of more knitters to join us!
Whoooo hooooo!

Love the socks!
Belize looked great!
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