Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Long day getting from Placencia to Livingston
Our exit from Belize was determined and possibly more rushed than it needed to be. We probably should’ve asked for some extra local advice because we got up and left earlier than we needed to. We took a 7.45am Hokey Pokey water taxi from Placencia to Independence which cost BZD$10 (US$5) each for a 15 minute trip. This saves a very lengthy bus connection of several hours and costs more. Note; take the 10am water taxi and connect with the bus to Punta Gorda to save on long waiting times. Independence is a small little town which doesn’t seem to have much character. Lonely Planet doesn’t rate it anymore than a transit point. I honestly felt a little uncomfortable walking around the town taking a few photos of the many Pawn Shops. I guess that’s what happens when you have an hour to wait until the bus arrives.
The bus did turn up as scheduled and it sure was luxury. Think of an older run down Greyhound bus with comfy reclining seats and the miracle of air conditioning. All this luxury for an “express bus” of 1.5 hours to Punta Gorda and a cost of BZD$11 (US$5.50) each. Only downside was the tragic diva rock music the driver clearly had a passion for. It was entertaining at least.
We arrived into Punta Gorda with the best part of 2 hours to wait until our boat for Livingston would depart. This is where we should have taken the 10am water taxi from Placencia instead and avoided some waiting time. We did get recommended an amazing place for lunch called Joycelyn’s Cuisine. The place is located right next to the Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory right on the water front. Rodora had her mind set on Fish & Chips. We came close with a whole fried fish, rice, beans and salad. We both agree this was an amazing meal for BZD$9 (US$4.50) including a bottle of coke.
The water taxi leaves at 1pm for a 45 minute trip across the ocean to Livingston, Guatemala. Cost is BZD$60 (US$30) per person plus the Belize tourist exit fee of BZD$37.50 (US$18.75) per person. The little boat might get beaten up on rough sea days. It holds roughly 15 passengers. We were lucky to have a warm, sunny and calm day.
Arriving into Livingston in the mid-afternoon, it was hot and sticky. Be sure to walk up the main road less than 5 minutes and check into the immigration office for your passport stamps. I guess this might cause problems if you forget and then were trying to exit the country. I get the feeling that Guatemala isn’t too bothered with border control.
Where to stay?
Having read through our Lonely Planet, my plan was to stay at a place called Hotel California. I bet you’re singing the words to the song already. The price was right at 80Q ($10) a night for a private double with private bathroom. Sadly, the place felt a little bit more like a prison with big heavy bars on the windows and no view to speak of. We also needed internet so we could figure out our onward travels, which wasn’t available at this hotel. We walked back down the street and tried a number of places. By this point in time we were both tired, hot and cranky.
This is that lightning moment that Rodora came up with a brilliant suggestion for our future destinations. We would find a café or restaurant, put all our gear down and one of us would go find some accommodation for both of us. This would also stop the “touts” who follow you around and generally just get very annoying trying to get you a place.
In the end we ended up at the Iguana Hostel. Beautiful and unique looking place. Some great travellers to get ideas from. Very helpful and friendly staff. Only downside; the bar keeps ticking along with loud music until 1am or later in the night meaning sleep is a very low priority for some. I guess it was more to do with a few nights of bad sleep, lots of travelling and early mornings.
This town of nearly 20,000 people is a pretty unique place. It’s a common traveller stop due to its location at the end of a common river cruise from Rio Dulce. The town itself has no road access to the rest of the country, but still has a high portion of crazy cars and drivers along with motorcycles and scooters. This town also has a high proportion of Garifuna people. These are people typical of this coastal area that come from African Slaves mixed with Caribbean people in the 17th century.
One little unique place we found that I don’t remember seeing on our trip up until now is a communal laundry. See the photo here where you can see there’s about 12 communal wash stations in a semi-covered area. Each day we walked past we found people there doing laundry. Quite possible that they were also washing themselves there also.
We also found in the area as we walked around a group of kids riding down a hill on soda crates. As soon as they saw the camera they started posing. Looked like great fun that I was nearly tempted to try and join in on.
We found a delicious snack of Fish Empanadas being sold by a woman about a 2 minute walk from our hostel. At only 2Q ($0.25) each, they were a steal. We seriously contemplated having a dinner just of these one night. She was even really happy to pose for a photo as she set about making one.
Day walk to The Seven Alters (Los Siete Altares)
We debated whether to do the river cruise or even some kayaking on the river. Cost for the cruise was 180Q ($22.50) each return and the kayaking was about 100Q ($12.50) each. We both decided we would go for a walk and find a beach and take it easy to leave some time to plan our next steps. This plan didn’t exactly work out though. I think we expected some nicer beaches or didn’t go the way we should have. Either way, we overshot our beach and ended up on a journey to the Seven Alters. This was an optional day tour by boat and in distance it was 5km each way of walking and around 1.5-2hours of time each way. We met some others along the way who were doing the same thing, so we didn’t feel completely alone.
Upon final arrival at the entrance; we paid the 20Q ($2.50) per person fee and continued onwards. This place is compared to Semuc Champey, but obviously being much smaller and not as picturesque. There were very few people when we were there. I think I counted less than 20 in total in the whole hour or two we stayed. The pathway along is not very clear. It turned out that the best route was to walk along the wet rocks on the side to get to the final large pool. We didn’t realise this and took what we thought was the appropriate side path and following nearby voices. This turned into a moment of panic as we both found ourselves in some sort of ants nest. These guys sure did pack a sting that let them know they were on you. Luckily this was at the end point, so we both jumped in the cool water for some relief.
The place itself is quite beautiful. You could definitely spend a few hours in the cool rainforest escaping the daytime heat. The water appeared very clean and fresh and as I said, it was very quiet and not crowded at all. Personally, I think I’d recommend the boat trip for convenience, especially if you want an easy day.
We did also walk all the way back and this brought about another flip flop casualty. Yep, not the ideal footwear for such a trip. As I said, we hadn’t expected to go this far. It was too much stress for the Mexican flip flops to handle. It was probably ideal timing though as this town has a lot of tall people. This meant I could actually find flip flops that almost properly fit; about half a size too small. Bargain price of 38Q ($4.75) for what must be fake Quicksilver flip flops.
On the way back we found a group of kids with a piñata tied up on a rope crossing the street. A couple of the kids had some big sticks and we were expecting it to pop open almost immediately.
Long day from Livingston to La Ceiba
We used Livingston as a jumping point to get into Honduras. We debated over whether we should do Copan Ruins first or second. We were and still are getting mixed stories on how safe or unsafe Honduras currently is. Our Spanish is good enough to get us by with local transport, but it wouldn’t be much fun. Our route to Roatan would’ve taken at least four different bus changes in cities we didn’t know and places that were rumoured to be not particularly safe. San Pedro Sula was one of those cities and currently ranks as the murder capital of the world due to many problems with drug cartels and other issues. We’d been told that taking local transport could have been as much as half the price of the shuttle but would’ve taken longer and possibly meant an overnight stay in La Ceiba where the Ferries go in and out to the islands of Roatan and Utila.
We chose the shuttle option for the less stressed option which cost US$50 per person plus 35Q ($4.30) each for the ferry from Livingston to Puerto Barrios. The day fairly smoothly, with a land border crossing into country number 27 visited for me. We had quite a number of military/police checkpoints as we continued our journey. Certainly more checkpoints than we’d seen in our previous countries. We arrived at the Ferry terminal somewhere around 2pm to purchase our tickets and wait for the 4.30pm departure.
More on the Ferry and arrival in Honduras in the next post.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/