Having verified the logistics of the trip the day before, Aaron and I were set to walk to the bus station in Hopkins' main intersection at 8:30 a.m. Unfortunately, we awoke to pouring rain at 6 a.m. At 8 a.m., it was still coming down at a steady pace. Resigned to the fact that we would need to take a cab to the station, I went to ask Gary, the owner of All Seasons Guest House where we were staying, how we might go about hiring one.
Before I could finish my question, Gary offered to drive us. I gratefully accepted, and off we went to the bus stop. Around 9:30, we boarded an old retired Bluebird school bus from the U.S. (purchased in Clackamas, Oregon according to the sticker up front). The seats were definitely smaller than I recalled from my school years, and one of them was a sweaty, uncomfortable fit for Aaron, his guitar, our army duffel backpack, me, and my backpack. Many stops were made for passengers to hop on and off as we cruised south. One of them had her phone playing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" on repeat. Sigh...
Just over an hour later, we had completed a mostly-uneventful 40-mile trip to Placencia. The cost: $6 U.S. total ($3 each). Not bad!
The village of Placencia is located at the southern end of the Placencia Peninsula. Our initial reaction when we disembarked was that although the number of inhabitants was almost identical to that of Hopkins, Placencia was a very different place. This is a popular resort and vacation destination, and it shows, with its shop and restaurant-lined streets and large, brightly colored beach houses. It seems to be a bit more Key West than Belize - there's even a bar called the Pickled Parrot.
The prime method of transportation in Placencia is by foot, and much of the village is only accessible by a network of sidewalks. If we had driven to the town, we would have had to park blocks away at a lot, as the house where we are staying is back several "blocks" of these pathways. In fact, Placencia appears in the Guinness Book of World Records as home to the narrowest street in the world, the north-south Placencia Sidewalk.
Similar to our time in Hopkins, we didn't fork over the cash for any tours or trinkets. We spent most of our time walking the sidewalks and village road. Nearly every day, we visited a village fruit and vegetable stand, and sometimes we went more than once. We enjoyed having a kitchen in our place, and cooked almost all meals ourselves. For the most part, these concoctions consisted of beans, rice, fruits, and vegetables. There aren't a whole lot of other options here, even if you spent the ridiculous amounts being charged for imported food... most of that is just processed junk anyway. A package of Oreos will set you back around $8 US, and chances are, they're stale.
Our apartment was located right on the beach, with a beautiful view of the ever-changing Caribbean water. We saw it appear every color from bright green to brown to silver. We saw it look still as a mirror and produce huge crashing waves. It's the rainy season, and there were certainly a few strong storms. For the most part, though, the unsavory weather was limited to the hours when we were asleep, with beautiful blue skies during the days.
Placencia has a beach near its pier, and we spent quite a few days lounging down there enjoying the water, which is calmer in that area. We even saw dolphins there one day. There were always plenty of children about - mostly local - and watching them was quite entertaining. It's obvious that these kids have grown up as comfortable in water as they are on land. They play together with great joy, and I only once saw one of them upset. He got his foot caught in the dock climbing up from the water, and it scared him. His friends all stopped to help and Aaron stepped in and helped lift him to untangle his limb. In no time, he was running down the pier and leaping into the water again.
Unfortunately, I had a bit of a setback in Placencia when I came down with strep last Friday. I had noticed the telltale white spots on my tonsils the evening before, so I headed down to the Community Health Center at 8 a.m. to address the issue. Belize has socialized medicine, and I was told it should only cost me a donation to be seen there... however, the doctor wasn't working that day.
Not wanting to wait until Monday, or potentially who knows when, I sought out a private doctor who services the area and was able to score an appointment for the afternoon. I had to take a cab, as Dr. Alexis was located just outside the village, but it only cost me US $5 each way. Dr. Alexis, who is originally from Varadero Beach in Cuba (where I actually visited in 2001), provided a very thorough exam. He appeared to be running all facets of the office solo, managing patient flow, answering calls, running tests, and dispensing medications. He saw me promptly at my appointment time and shook his head when he looked in my mouth. I had the ick.
I don't currently have health insurance, and I've said that I'm probably better off (barring a major illness or catastrophe) here in Belize than in the U.S. I was not proven wrong in this interaction. Dr. Alexis performed an exam, a minor lab test, dispensed two prescription medications to me, and sent me on my way for a total of US $70. I think we all know that would have been far pricier at home.
Feeling puny has definitely had a bit of an impact on my level of activity over the last week, but Placencia has been a great place to recuperate and prepare for more adventures. Nearly mended, I'm looking forward to moving on to Punta Gorda tomorrow, departing on the Hokey Pokey water taxi at 10 a.m.