Life seems far more interesting when you step beyond your comfort zone — when you’re doing crazy shit, and feel like at any moment you might freak out. That sums up this adventure so far. I have no idea what each day’s gonna bring, but I’m lovin’ every second of it.
I didn’t share any of my game-plan last post, so let me fill you in on the agenda, if you could call it that…
I found a contact in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, who is running two sailboats and needs crew. I checked best prices for flights to get to near my destination, and found that flying into Belize was by far the best deal, almost a joke – a hundred and seventy bucks, taxes in. Sweet! I’ve paid bigger bar tabs than that. A nine hour bus ride from Belize City to Rio Dulce was only another 50 bucks. Perfect.
That was the extent of my planning. I figured upon arrival, I would roll through customs, walk the streets a bit, and scope out a cheap hostel to stay at. Maybe stay a week or so before heading to Guatemala.
I arrived in Belize after my fun with George Bush International, and prepared to make plans after passing through customs. That’s when I learned my first fuck-up about winging things. Apparently when you fill out your declaration form in this country and answer the question of which hotel you’ll be staying at with “I dunno,” they get a little pissy. I thoroughly checked out Belize’s entry requirements right from their main government source, and it didn’t say shit about having a place to stay.
So after lining up for 40 minutes to get to a bitter woman behind a glass partition, she informed me that no reservation meant no entry. She told me to go find the office I walked past earlier and sort out my shit before I talked to her again.
That deflated me somewhat — almost felt like being in Houston again. I found the office, and some other kid was in there trying to sweet talk the guy into letting him come into the country despite his sketchy plans, while another new plane arrived and the corridors filled with a hundred new people I’d have to line up behind to try the process again. Sigh.
The kid got sidetracked eventually after pleading his sob story from every different angle, and left the office to make phone calls to his peeps, putting me face to face with the warden. That’s when my piss-poor planning turned out to be the wisest move I made. First of all, he hooked my laptop up to the internet, which was on a secret link that I couldn’t have accessed to scope out a hostel after walking through customs, and then he became my personal tour guide. Not only did he start pulling visuals of each area in the country I should consider hanging my hat, he began making phone calls to check lodging availability while haggling for better prices than the ones listed. He told me the best way to jump on the local bus instead of being gouged with taxi fairs, and gave me much needed advice to skirt the shittier areas of the city. Fucking sweet.
I eventually decided to stay on one of the islands, which involved a ride in a water taxi. I got through customs and made my way into the madness. Belize City doesn’t have much charm in terms of architecture or layout. It’s fairly utilitarian. I wouldn’t put in on anyone’s “must see” list.
I thought Quebec drivers were bad, but they have nothing on the citizens of Belize. It feels good being back in the Wild West — no seatbelts, no helmets, no signals, no lanes, not much attention placed on signage, just a free-for-all of getting where you want to go in the shortest amount of time. Awesome.
The ferry to the island was packed full — an hour to Caye Caulker, and no place to stick my head out like a happy puppy riding life’s highway. But the time flew by nonetheless. Without routine as a master, it’s easy to stay focused in the now.
After wandering the small island clueless of where my hostel was, passing it several times, I eventually arrived to discover Rosie fucked up my reservation. She directed me to another place that was full, and they directed me to another that was full. Sigh. I finally found a spot with one bed left called Pause — their clever play on words, as it was overrun with cats. But what could be more perfect after playing cat-sitter with my parents the last month? Purr-fect.
The island is pretty cool, but it’s really just a tourist resort. Not the type of place I want to spend a week at. I decided after 2 days to sort out a ride to Guatemala. Life on the water was calling me. I packed my shit and booked passage to Flores, with a connecting bus to Rio Dulce.
Crossing the border was fairly effortless. After paying a $30 exit fee, go figure, I was in new territory — now a world that spoke Spanish, filling me with regret for not spending more time engaged in linguistic studies.
Freaking out again. The fly-by-night, shit-hole bus service that brought me to Flores seemed about ready to cast me by the wayside for my connecting bus, but I eventually made my way to a terminal where one of the locals paid off another local to put me on a coach that pumped out the AC as if the outside world were adjacent to the sun. I wasn’t sure why any Guatemalan would own a winter coat, but I made the connection quickly enough after the 4-hour ride.
Arriving at 11 pm in Rio Dulce, with a sketchy plan of where to go, I paid a cabby 5 bucks to get to the marina, which was closed.
The people I was to meet were anchored somewhere in the harbour, and wanted me to signal them with a flashlight for pick-up. Jesus. I found my way to the end of a dock that I gained access to by walking through someone’s kitchen and subsequent alley. Standing at the end of a large pier in the dark, I blinked my torch.
Holy fuck, a light flashed back! 10 minutes later, some dude from England showed up paddling a kayak towing a dinghy. Apparently he lost the card draw for who was to pick up the new guy. I jumped aboard, and headed to “Friendship,” the name of the catamaran.
After a brief introduction to the clowns aboard, I was paddled over to their second boat which was to become my home — a derelict piece of shit monohull that I would shortly be in charge of despite my lack of expertise.
After a beautiful sleep on the water, the morning arrived with a game-plan to sail both boats under the bridge spanning the river to find to a spot closer to town to buy supplies.
Despite my request to be familiarized with the hunk of shit boat I was supposed to captain, I was told to put the sails on and get going. Uhh, okay.
I don’t know shit about raising an anchor. I don’t know shit about sailing directly into the wind, and I don’t know shit about fighting a heavy current while towing two dinghies that make a sailboat feel like it just pounded a bottle of tequila.
But I pulled this one out of my ass, I’m proud to say. I let instinct kick in. Despite many fuckups getting started, mentoring a crew of three with no sailing experience, working with tattered sails and broken winches, we made it to our new destination.
Fuck, I love the water.
My internet is spotty, so I’ll continue in another post. I need to feel this dynamic out a little more before I commit to two months with these idiots. I kinda hoped for a situation where the “captain” was eager to teach, but I’m beginning to think that might not be the case.
We’ll see where the wind blows.
Chat later, dear diary…