Placencia, Southern Belize
Leaving Orange Walk, we drove south. The highway cuts over to the sea and the Hummingbird highway looked like a great route. Well, apparently a lot of “major” roads in Belize are still unpaved. It was well graded, albeit a little washboardy.
The country is tiny in comparison to Mexico. You could drive the entire country in a day. The time from Orange Walk to Hopkins, just up the road from Placencia, couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours.
At the turn for the dirt highway we picked up a hitcher. Nice guy. He works at the manatee place that’s by Gales Point.
The road cuts directly through orchard country. On either side of the road for miles and miles are all manner of citrus orchards. Our buddy suggested we pull over and help ourselves to the bounty which he promised no one had a problem with. OK, don’t tell us twice! So we picked a dozen or so oranges for us, and some for him, and moved on down the road. Mmm. Fresh oranges.
Speaking on that, Belize sells HG Orange Juice. It’s amazing. Make sure to buy lots of OJ.
Our book told us that Hopkins, pop 1200, had some good Garifuna food, and we searched it out at Iris’. Instead we got some rice and beans and stewed chicken, typical Central American food. But it was good, no complaints here.
We’d also heard about the Belizean cashew wine, and went looking for some. At the Asian mart we found it, and took our prize to the beach. It’s a lot like a port – thick, sweet, and tastes nothing like the cashew nut.
Belize has a very prevalent Asian store owner population. In fact they are mostly owned by Asians. In general, the black Belizeans appear just plain lazy. This isn’t some racist rant, but that just appears to be “island culture”, which some people love and embrace, and to which others say, “Get it together! Come on!” Either way, if you’re buying something, it’s probably from an Asian down there.
Down at the beach we met Ras Tony, a rasta living there in Hopkins. Shared our wine with him, and heard all about the campground that he wants to open there on the beach. As he puts it, he wants to make it a spiritual, rasta-ish, whatever-ish campground.
“I put the wordsong upon the air, and the people will find me.”
Rastas are full of shit, as you’ll learn. But it’s colorful, and we bought it. If he’s serious, best of luck to him, but in reality he was probably squatting. He’s got an interesting history. Belizean by birth. Crack dealer back in New York by profession. Now rasta, probably by deportation. Who knows…
We decided another bottle of the wine would be good for Placencia, and Tony introduced us to the woman that runs the Yugata restaurant and makes cashew wine from her cashew tree in the front yard. If you’re curious, there’s a pic of the tree in the photos.
She drew us a bottle of cashew wine, and we thanked her, apologizing for waking her up. Island culture, dude.
Ras Tony hemmed and hawed about how he would like to go to Placencia, if it was possible. “I’d go with you all, if it was the right time… You know mon.” This was Tony fishing. To some Texas boys, we heard, “sounds cool, but I’ve got things to do.” What he was saying was, “Please invite me so I don’t have to ask.” Be aware of the underlying question, motive, etc in Central America. It’s hard to pick it out sometimes based on language differences and intonation differences. Finally we said something along the lines of, “That’s too bad you can’t come down there, man…” And he responded with a, “Well, I’ve been waiting for you all to invite me.”
It was a tender moment. A very humble and nice man didn’t want to be rude, and was fishing. He was good with the nuance. It was like the brother that wanted to go fishing. They won’t flat out ask, you’ve just got to be paying attention.
So ol’ Ras Tony jumped in with us and we made some tracks down the road to Placencia, pop 800, which is about 20 miles or so down a peninsula. The road is unpaved, rutted, dusty, and no fun.
Ras means “prince” in the dialect. If you’re a rasta that’s you’re moniker. We rolled into town, dusty and drunk. Tony was calling out to everyone.
Yes, king-man! What’s up my brother. Mmmm, hello, queen! Yes, queen!
Hard to find a place, and finally rolled up to Deb and Dave’s Last Resort. Cool place. Dave’s a local, Deb is white. We came to find this is common, and we’ll come back to the theme later. At any rate it as a group of four simple cabanas behind their home. Recommended. Dave’s on the tourism board. In a town of 800 that has four main family lines, I guess if you’re anyone you’re the head of something.
This town is far superior to the others we’ve been to. The locals are friendly, the tourists are friendly, and it’s beautiful. No burning trash wafting through the air. We decided to stay a week, and the forced-slowing of our pace has been sublime. Oriented with Tony’s info, we hit the village.
It’s a small and wonderful place. There’s the beach, four or five bars, and you see everyone repeatedly, which is nice. Met a lot of Texans as well. From Houston, it’s only a 2 hour flight, which was news to me.
There are three main bars: The Barefoot bar is on the beach front, right near where we’re staying. It’s a fun and relaxed place, open air, small little bar and lots of seating to spread out. Yoli’s is down near the harbor, on the water, great breeze, and lots of ex-pats hang out there. Met some great ones. Sugar Reef is the farthest from our place, but a great time. The scene moves around a lot – you’ll have a drink here, then over there, then back again later in the evening.
That first or second night we met Brian and Debbie, a young couple from Houston. They told us all about Ranguana Caye, which they’d been out to the day before. It’s basically the closest caye (island) with something on it. It can’t be more than 2 acres. There are a few cabanas that are stupid expensive, a little beach, and a little shack that sells you booze and will cook your catch.
So we went out to it the next morning.
Ranguana Caye, Belize
Of course, we had a problem. Where is this place? We hit the marina, found some sailors and checked out their charts. Got some GPS numbers, and felt good. Then we got outfitted with rum, ice, OJ, speargun, and gas. Let’s go!
If you plan to navigate by GPS coordinates, this is very, very important. They change based on where you are in the world. On our GPS, you have to change something or another to let the unit know that you’re going to enter coordinates from a Central America map, not a US map.
I don’t understand it; I just know that we over-shot the island by 10 miles. We ended up past the barrier reef, in open ocean. 30 miles offshore. Yes, the rollers got big. Yes, it got a little scary. Yes, we were sober. No, you shouldn’t even consider doing that.
On the way out we’d seen a tiny island so we turned around, and decided we’d see if we couldn’t find some fish near it. Check out the video. It’s tiny.
It’s also Ranguana Caye.
“Man, we saw y’all buzz by here, wondered what the hell y’all were doing in that tiny boat going out there!”
Yeah. Thanks. We’re idiots. Let’s have a drink.
The water was amazing. Spectacular. As good as Key Largo, Florida.
Saw some good fish. There’s a lot of bone fish out there, but the wind was too killer for any fly fishing.
Ben chased down and shot snapper with the spear gun. We had it cooked right there, around $5.
Finally someone mentioned that we might want to consider getting back. As the sun would set in 2 hours, if we didn’t get after it we’d be getting back after dark. And that’s, um, dangerous.
“You guys have a radio?” Heck no. We’ve got GPS! Yeah, smart.