February 8-12, 2004
When we decided to go to San Ignacio we thought it would be our last stop in Belize; from there we would go the eleven miles to Guatemala and then off to Tikal, or at least as close as we could find a hotel. But at the Hi-Et Hotel we spoke with several people who really liked Placencia, a beach resort. As Jan had read the good things Lonely Planet had to say about it and as we had spoken in Belmopan to Bob Forest, who runs a bed and breakfast in Placencia and had tried to convince us that it was so lovely that we shouldn't miss it, at the last moment we decided to make a visit to Placencia.
We drove back over the Western Highway (there is only one paved road in the west) to Belmopan and turned south on the Hummingbird Highway (there are many hummingbirds but only two paved roads going south in Belize). Along the way we passed the Blue Hole, apparently a giant cenote good for swimming, but as we had a light rain (a welcome relief from the general heat) we weren't too interested in swimming there.
When we were over the mountains and almost to the town of Dangringa, ie almost to the Carribean, we began to encounter orange tree orchards and then the orange harvest. Here and there along the road we saw large trucks filled with oranges, reminding us of similar sights in peninsular Florida.
Two or maybe three times we passed juice concentrate plants. Crushed oranges have such an interesting and unique smell, a combination of rich sweetness and pungent acidity. As we neared each plant this fine smell could have alerted us to the plants even if we had had our eyes closed and had not seen the many trucks carrying tons of oranges each.
Belize is a small country and Placencia was only 120 miles away. That still took us about three hours, pretty poor by freeway standards, but much better than our general average in Mexico. The last 23 miles really slowed us down. It was all dirt,and much of that washboard.
At the end of our twenty three miles of dirt road there was a paved stretch of about a mile that went, as we would find later in a walk, to the end of the pennisula. This was Placencia town.
Having arrived, we had the usual problem of finding a place to stay. We'd eliminated Bob's place because we knew it was out of our budget. Instead we choose the best bet from Lonely Planet and tried to find it. While doing so a lady at the side of the two lane road guessed what we were up to and called out to us where to park for our sought hotel — a patch of grass and sand. We did and walked form the road toward the ocean looking. We found it, and it was booked up — a rather unusual occurence for us. So we walked along the concrete pathway that was halfway between the road and ocean and tried each place successively.
And that is how we found the Cozy Corner Hotel, unlisted by Lonely Planet, but quite satisfactory to us. The only thing between it and the beach was its own open air restaurant. From our room we could see the beach between a couple of cabanas that belonged to another hotel. We thought it would be nice to be in one, but later learned from another couple that they were cheaper and dirtier than our place.
Once checked in, we decided to explore Placencia, what little there was of it. With sunset nearing we walked the concrete path to its end, thereby discovering where several restaurants were, a laundry, two small markets, and the pier at the "end of the world."
Our original thought was to spend only two nights in Placencia, but it took us that long to get down to the water. We couldn't leave without actually swimming, so we extended a night. And then we swam and liked it and extended a night. And then we sat on the beach and enjoyed the water vicariously and got burned. Stupid!
We finally decided we had enought of the beach and were rested enought to see a few more Mayan sites. On a cloud covered day we loaded the car, set out over the washboard twenty-three miles, made our way back west past the pungent orange crushing installations, noticed again banana plantations with the banana bunches covered in blue plastic (to protect them from birds, we suppose), north past the unvisited Blue Hole and several other national parks (in Belize everything but the smallest village square seems to be called a national park), and got ourselves back to San Ignacio to have lunch and a final indulgence in good Chinese food at Maxims. And then it was off to Guatemala's Tikal.