Belize!!!!! :) San Pedro & Caye Caulker :D

Published: January 24th 2012
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We arrive at the ferry port having pissed off the taxi driver who tried to rip us off but we gave what we were willing to give and not a penny more. We get to the ferry tetminal to be informed we have to pay port fees, and departure tax. Departure tax was always included in your flight but just our luck the rules changed for 2012, 3 days before our flight so off we march to the bank to pay 300 pesos so we are allowed to leave mexico. At the bank I see everyone get out their mexican visa... And I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I open my passport and can see clear as day the visa card I was so careful to keep safe which was definitely there just 2 days ago.. Was now most definitely not there. A wave of panic hits me and I start to feel light headed as I remember nagging Stef to keep his safe othereise they wont let you leave Mexico. We tell the guys in front of us who are well travelled and speak fluent spanish, me kidding myself they will say its not a problem and people lose them all the time... well i was partly right.. they were well travelled and on cue told me a story of their friend who lost theres in Cancun and were questioned at immigration but were given a stamp and all was good... but the looks on their faces and their suggestion that maybe it would be a good idea to just pop into immigration before we go for lunch just to check all of us are cool... tells a very different story. We get to immigration and the guy with us tries to make a bit of a joke with the immigration guy, I sense he feels the need to try and get him on his good side. However then they start yabbering away in Spanish, me only picking up the odd word thinking why the hell do I always stop Spanish when I'm just getting good. I hear the words immigration, police and 600 pesos. Then the immigration guy shakes his head to me and in perfect english says I really hope for your sake you find it. The looks of pure pity I get from the guys as they start to explain I have to take a taxi to the police station queue up to be questioned and write a statement, then take a taxi to the embassy with the police documents and see what they say, and then take a taxi to the bank and pay 600 pesos penalty charge. It's obvious that ain't the kind of James bond mission that can be accomplished within 2 hours in order for me to be back in time for the boat. More mission impossible style - I've waited hours in UK police station to do a statement so can only imagine how much longer of a process it would be in Mexico, and let's not even get started on turning up at the embassy without an appointment.. we all know how that story goes. My heart sinks as I realise our quick getaway for a few days to the Caribbean islands off Belize for total chill out time are being swapped for days spent in a part of Mexico where in a half hour cab journey not one non Mexican could we spot- and the town looked very much like a Mexican Tooting (as I live and work there yes I am entitled to say that!) it didn't strike me as the kinda place tourists stay for a few days, even lonely planet only mentions it's existence as a way to get to Belize.

We make our way back to the boat place to see if our tickets can be changed for another day. I explain the situation to them and again all they can say is I really really hope that you find it. I have no faith it will miraciously appear in my bag as it was in a compartment in a passport cover which was in a folder (all of which had been thoroughly checked) when a miracle does happen and I open my bag to find the visa just chilling there. Well I have never been so releaved! I do like Mexico... but having already been nearly stuck in Mexico last time I visited I really didn't feel for a reoccurence.

Walking up the pier we see what I'd class as a small boat.... and a large group of people gathered around and an even larger amount of luggage. My heart sinks. Then arrives an army truck with guys in their full camouflage uniform complete with rifles and sniffer dogs. They line all our luggage up and let the dogs lose. They are given the go ahead and start loading the luggage into the front of the boat. I watch in silence becoming more concerned about how the hell this boat is going to stay afloat. Then a massive wheely cart overflowing with luggage comes along, I dont pay it much attention assuming it is for the boat in front of ours. They stop pushing it when they get to our boat and the dogs jump on sniffing each and every peice of luggage. Then we are commanded to line up all our hand luggage and again the dogs get to work. And just as we're all joking that no-one would be stupid enough to put drugs in their bags you'd just hide it on you, sure enough we are all summoned to stand in line behind our bags and we are all sniffed too! Once given the all clear the rest of the baggage is loaded and I see our boat descend to further depth in the water. More and more people get on the boat and i can feel my unease grow.

My nerves jump start 10 times over as they start the engine and I feel the rear of the boat sink into the water as the front lifts out of the water. The first 10 minutes my heart is quite litterally in my mouth and Stef's fingers and thigh quite literally being squeezed to within an inch of their life. Everytime the front half of the boat smacks the water with such power it makes such a slam the Smurf movie they have put on to distract us is drowned out (bad choice of words perhaps). I finally understand the sheer terror that those scared of flying feel, that total sense of loss of control almost to the point of acceptance that you're probaby going to die. Yet I love flying, it can be horrendous turbulence, strange sounds and I'm blissfully happy and assured I will get where I'm going in one piece. I have complete trust with the pilot and the plane itself from the second I sit down. What makes this fear of boats even stranger is I'm a water baby and if the worst actually happened I would have no issues about having to swim for hours in the middle of the ocean. In fact I'd be in my element as I seem to have never ending stamina when it comes to swimming so realistically me drowning would be a ridicously unlikely senario. Add to that the fact I've taken over night ferries to ireland since I was in my Mum's tummy and my fear is even more irrational. After a while you have to let blind faith take over- I didn't understand why this boat could carry such an insane amount of weight and have this jerky loud slamming motion but it worked and that would just have to be good enough for now. Soon the being thrown back and forwards and loud slams are actually sending me to sleep! Most of you know I can sleep anywhere anytime and I think this story will go with my curling up in between two speakers and going to sleep story!

We dock in San Pedro and the first thing we see is a baby and a dog on the roof of a small boat that's at sea. We start walking towards the hostel taking in the laid back vibe of the place, complete with beach shacks and stalls selling creole cuisine. A rasta approaches us asking if we want a taxi, by which he means golf cart, to our hostel. We tell him we're walking and he asks where we're heading to, mildly amused at us with our massive back packs, rucsacks on front and me with snorkel in hand. When we tell him our destination he tells us the guy driving the gold cart that's talking to his mate is the owner of the hostel and will take us. We start making excuses thinking this is just another tourist trap, but then I clock the beautiful white puppy... when I say puppy i mean a big big puppy on the back seat of the golf cart and the guys English accent we realise that for once luck may be on our side and it might really be the owner. Sure enough it is and we are on our way to the hostel for free, me sharing my seat with the dog. Turns out the guy lives on Lavender Hill back home (that's Clapham for those that ain't familiar with the area), supports arsenal and so first place he takes us is to his bar for free shots of jagermeister. For a girl that aint a fan of shots (unless their flavoured vodka or taste so good you forget what you're drinking) I've become quite used to downing shots randomly in the day.

That evening we go to the bar to play some games of pool (me losing naturally) and have some rum punch and then go to have some quiet time by the pool. Within 5 minutes we have 10 people sharing our sunbeds and a bottle of spiced rum. During the day we shared the beach with only a few other people and a few energetic dogs that like to come out of the sea dripping wet and bound over you leaving you covered in sea water, dog salivia and a generous sprinkling of sand. Days have also consisted of yummy calorific breakfasts on the beach in little thatched huts, Stef training the locals on the beach and me being the hotographer.

Today I had the most amazing experience of my life- took a snorkelling trip to shark ray alley and the second largest reef in the world. When we anchored in shark ray alley we look im the water to see sharks all around the boat. I sit there utterly mesmorised having never seen sharks before. Then the driver tells us that we should jump in the ocean the second he starts feeding the sharks as they won't hang around for long. I just stare at him bewildered - my 1st thought- shit I didn't realise they'd be so big, my 2nd thought- hell no I'm not getting in there. Yes I knew the trip included swimming with sharks, and yes I'd decided I wanted to go, and yes I'd got this far... But suddenly the thought of jumping into shark infested waters just seemed an insane thing to do. I turned round to see everyone was already in the water. I jump in before my nerves kick in. Soon enough I'm holding a 5 foot shark and swimming while cradling it to my body. The sharks body was so muscular and the skin so leathery, yet when I held the sting rays it was such a wierd texture really slippery. Watched huge sea turtles eating on the sea bed, lobsters, fed dead fish to fish that were shimmering purple, turquoise, and gold. I was amazed how living in the same habitat as sharks and massive rays, are tiny red and white striped shrimp, hiding away under coral and stones on the ocean floor.

Swimming in the choppy ocean for 2 hours with my head firmly in the water at all times chilling with all the sea creatures I thought would scare me really made me want to start diving again and definately made me get my confidence back. Not sure how that will sit when attempting to live on a budget.....

Caye caulker- what can I say... Tiny village consisting of little stalls serving Caribbean food, beachfront bars, hammocks, palm trees, shit loadsa young travellers drinking and swimming. Pure bliss, never felt to completely chilled out. We were so chilled out in fact that we decided a little lay down on our posh hotel bed was in order, after all everywhere there are signs telling you to go slow... Not too sure how people could go any slower! We wake just after 10pm thinking fuck we've way overslept but figuring we'll get out just as it's lively and pumping. Well lively and pumping it was not. We walked around this now ghost town completely at a loss as to where all the up for it travellers we'd met earlier were. Not even any food stalls were open. Even the hostels were dead. I actually considered the possibility of there being a 10pm curfew enforced that we weren't privy too. Eventually we came across a bar on the beach and pop in to see if they're still serving food. We get jumped on by these two married gay guys that we'd been hanging out with earlier. And suddenly frozen margiratas and rum sodas are in front of us and we're swinging on the rope swing seats with all the drunkards. Just as we're getting into the swing of things lol we get kicked out, the signs all say they are open and serving till everyones happy- so I guess we all seemed a bit too happy, though how anyone could be anything other than happy on this island is baffling even for a therapist! We get back to see the two double beds, a shower with hot and cold water and real flyffly towels! Well I never ever thought I'd appreciate those 3 things so much! A lot of the hostels have only had cold water (everyday I get in the shower with the aim of washing my hair and most days I just can't put my head under, dreads here we come!) we've generally had 2 single beds, and as for towels... those traveller quick dry, small pack things are the bane of my life (well that and departure tax!) they're uncomfortable, don't dry you and not having a seperate one for my hair just isn't cool. So a ridicoulsly hot shower, fluffy warm cosy towels (oh yea even one for my hair- what a treat!) and big beds was as good as the crazy night out we had planned! I say to Stef that a hotel for a night every few weeks may be worth the investment for the sake of my sanity. Bring on the beachside apartment in Rio!!! 😊 😊 😊 In the morning we visit a little stall for our breakfast, me a burrito and him pancakes, and eat it on the secluded beach thinking we could really get used to this way if life... in fact who am I kidding.... we already are... let's just say a few property leaflets have ended up in our possession! A condo on the beachfront surrounded by palmtrees and Bob Marley tunes for less than a flat in tooting... Well if you insist 😉

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