Published: October 16th 2011October 10th 2011
The somewhat inconvenient thing about living in Guatemala is that every 90 days my visa expires. So that meant that I had to leave the country for 72 hours and then come back in to renew my visa. Therefore, I had to suffer through spending 72 hours on the southern Belizean beaches of Placencia. It was amazing! It was a long journey from the mountainous highlands of Coban to the Placencia Peninsula. Two buses, a boat, another bus, another boat, a short hike, a hitched ride, and a day and a half later I arrived on the pristine white sand, palm lined beach.
I wandered around the small town, population 900, and it was readily apparent that this was their off season. Several restaurants and bars were closed for the season or to complete renovations while the crowds are away. I was beyond hungry after a long day of traveling and finally found an open restaurant tucked in the trees, just off of the main road. I joined a few other people sitting at the bar relaxing and enjoying the comfortable evening air. As it turns out I had just steeped into the center of the peninsula’s expat community. Many
of the people I met had been living in Placencia for years. The two sisters who owned the restaurant just celebrated their eighteenth year in business. Another guy owns the coffee shop down the street and one of the women runs a guesthouse on the North end of town.
We talked and ate, and ate and talked for hours. They were all very curious about my life in Guatemala and the work that I am doing here. They brought out the photo album and showed me the aftermath of Hurricane Iris, which devastated Placencia ten years ago to the day. Then as things were winding down and the sister’s were getting ready to close up shop, they invited me to join them at another local hang out. We moved up the beach and met even more people enjoying some music. Compared to the bustling of Coban, Placencia had a very fun laidback atmosphere. It was very interesting to hear everyone’s story. Where they are from, how long they have been here, where they were before this, what brought them here? It makes for a very diverse and eclectic crowd.
The next morning as I walked down the path
to the beach I passed the couple who had given me directions the day before and the boy in the golf cart that gave me a ride, and one of the people I had met in the restaurant the night before. Let’s just say it is a small, small town. There is the main street which runs parallel to the main path both running down the peninsula. I followed the path, which is in the Guinness book of world records as the smallest street, however, the locals told me that it was widened years ago so that two people could pass. Close to the end of the path I cut over to the main road to visit the coffee shop for a morning wake up. I climbed the stairs to the tree house style coffee shop and sat on the deck enjoying my coffee with some people that I had met the previous night and some new faces as well. Next I headed off to the beach and spent the whole morning and early afternoon swimming, sleeping, reading, and swimming. The water was crystal clear, the beaches were sandy, and the bright blue sky was dotted with puffy white clouds
of every shape and size.
On Saturday afternoon I rejoined some of the people that I met the day before to take a drive up the peninsula to attend a party for one of the locals who just returned to town. There were kids playing in the pool, music up on the deck of a bungalow, people throwing a football on the beach, and several others lounging on chairs catching up with each other. I met more people, local musicians, other restaurant owners, and lifetime expats. After a few hours we started back toward the main town to revisit the restaurant that we were at the night before because they were also having a local band. The woman that I met the night before, Ally who owned the guesthouse, knew just about everybody in town. There were several parties in town so as we went down the main street we had to stop in this place to talk to so and so, and the we had to stop in at that place to say hi to someone else. By this time I had met about half the people in the town. We had a great time sharing stories and
Otherwise known as the smallest main street in the world
dancing the night away.
The next morning I woke up early and could tell, by the faint light out my window, that there was going to be an incredible sunrise. I grabbed my bag and headed for the beach. I sat there alone in the stillness of morning watching the sunrise and the colors dance upon the sky and skate along the calm waters of the bay. Eel rays glided along the waters edge and schools of fish darted this way and that. And just as I thought that it couldn’t possible get any better two dolphins jumped out of the water, arching above the surface. Three dolphins moved across the bay in front of me. They would disappear for a minute or two and then would burst out of the water and slap their tails in play. Then as soon as they had appeared they were gone. It really doesn’t get much better than this.
I went for a quick breakfast and then was back on the beach as soon as possible. Again I swam and read, and slept, and swam. I thought about renting a kayak to explore the bay a bit more but instead I
found a long flattish piece of driftwood. So I hopped on and paddled surf style around the bay watching the fish and plant life below through the crystal clear waters as I passed by on the surface. I whiled away the morning and then returned to my hostel to get ready. The day before the sisters, who owned the restaurant, invited me to come over for their friends and family Canadian Thanksgiving celebration. It was an amazing meal full of the traditional works; turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and all topped off with a lovely cobbler.
While the traveling on either side of this trip was not exactly the most enjoyable process, I think that the town and the people of Placencia more than made up for it. I had a great time taking a few days to relax and enjoy the beach and the company. Oh yeah, and I got my new visa stamped into my passport on my way back into Guatemala. Mission complete!
There are more photos below