Placencia, Belize, 2009
Placencia is a village in southern Belize. It is a place we visited when we were cruising in 2006, and found delightful. It is still a nice place to visit, but the growth and changes occurring there detract somewhat from the charm we remembered. Still, we liked it enough that we are planning to visit again this year, some time before the 2010 hurricane season kicks in.
We arrived in Placencia on Wednesday, the 23rd of December. We had been in Belize for a while but had been anchored in Blue Ground Range in a small atoll where we could be tucked in away from weather. The first thing we did when we got into the Placencia area was to go to Big Creek to check into the country. We anchored the boat in the inlet, and rode the dinghy over to a bank where we clambered up a muddy hill and tied off to a rickety pole. Not very impressive, but it was all that was available. We walked to the Customs office where we found a cab driver who offered to take us on the rounds required to check in for $25 Belize, all stops. This included finding someone with immigrations authority, which turned out to be the police since the actual immigration official was not around. Then it was back to Customs, and finally over to BAHA, the Belize Agricultural and Health Administration, where we paid fees including an entrance permit for Puss ‘n Boots. These requirements being fulfilled, we went back to the boat and proceeded on Placencia Harbor, and anchored there. It was late afternoon, and we were ready to get off the boat for a bit, so we went to The Purple Space Monkey restaurant and had hamburgers and shrimp for dinner. Great stuff! Then it was back to the boat for the night. We were happy and relaxed, and serenaded by music from The Placencia Yacht Club that has set up at the edge of the harbor. The music got to be a bit of a burden as night after night it went on, loudly, from sunset until about midnight. There were lots of karaoke singers who definitely needed to keep their day jobs.
A little side story is that, when we walked down the dock to go into Placencia, Brenda, who is a marvelously cheerful and friendly local who sets up her tables and grill at the end of the dock, welcomed us with open arms. She remembered us from our last trip, and was very excited that we were back at just this moment in time. It seems as if they might be needing a Santa Claus for the Children’s Christmas parade the next day, and she thought Jim would be the perfect candidate. We got all excited about it, but it didn’t work out as others had already found a local for the job. As it turned out, we worked so hard the next day, we simply watched the parade from the boat because we were too tired to go ashore and participate in the festivities, even though we had been so graciously invited.
Our first full official day in Belize was spent catching up on many of the things that had gone without attention while we were anchored out in Blue Ground Range. We needed to get on the Internet, get groceries, and get laundry done. We got going around 0730, so we could get started on the day.
We got our two laptops packed away in a computer bag, got the laundry ready to go, and gathered the canvas bags in which to carry groceries back to the boat. Then we got the dinghy in the water. It was not very difficult as the night before we had lifted the dinghy with the motor still on it. We had locked the motor to the dinghy, and locked the dinghy to the dinghy davits. We have started this policy because, while we were anchored in Blue Ground Range, we heard reports about two dinghies being stolen from cruisers anchored at Turneffe Reef, and one dinghy stolen in the Drowned Cays, just off Belize City. These thefts were all in the same night. Not a good omen for cruisers in Belize.
We got everything loaded into the dinghy, and headed for the fuel dock. We loaded the computers, laundry, etc. into our fold-up cart, and hauled it to Paul's place, a little restaurant and laundry called The Boson’s Chair. We could do most of our chores there. We had a breakfast of bagels and fried eggs, with coffee for me and Diet Coke for Kitty. We left our laundry at Paul's along with our laptops. He is well regarded, and we felt our things would be safe there.
We then went around the corner to the ATM at the Bank of Belize to get cash, and walked up the road to Wallen's supermarket where we purchased most of the groceries we needed. On the way back to Paul's, we stopped at a fresh vegetable stand that was set up across from the Purple Space Monkey restaurant. Here we got lots of good fresh fruit and veggies. Our last stop was at the Chinese grocery store that is near the fuel dock. Then we went back to Paul's place where Kitty started doing the laundry. He has two sets of good washers and dryers, and charges $8 BZ/load for both wash and dry. While doing the laundry, we got onto the Internet to download email, and started answering some of it. Since it was Christmas Eve, Paul planned to close early, so, as soon as the laundry was finished, we went on our way. In the meantime, Jim took a break from computing to go to the Tourism Office to pay for offloading our trash. They were already closed, so he had to go back on Sunday or Monday. He also walked down to John The Bakerman's place, and was delighted to find him still open. He bought some great cinnamon bons for our next breakfast.
We thought about going round to the Purple Space Monkey again, but were getting hot and tired, so headed toward the dock instead. Much to our pleasure, Brenda was still there, cooking away, so we purchased two Jerk Chicken dinners, complete with rice and beans, and small coconut cakes. We also purchased some coconut macaroons that we fondly remembered from our last visit. Finally, it was into the dinghy, back to the boat, and a nice respite with the delicious chicken dinner.
Christmas Day was a quiet affair for us. Jim prepared a delicious roasted chicken, with stuffing, and we had macaroons for dessert. We called the kids from the Iridium satellite phone, and got to talk to each of them. Then we settled in to relax and read for the rest of the day.
While at anchor the next day, a beautiful custom boat named “Lorena” anchored nearby. We were smitten with the boat, and tickled to see that her homeport was Galveston, Texas. We waved our hellos, but didn’t actually meet them until several days later. When were in town doing a bit more grocery shopping, we met Jim, Lori, and their guest. We had a nice visit, and made plans to go over to Lorena that night for a movie aboard. We had a nice visit there, with great snacks, and we watched “The Reader”, a DVD that we had brought from the States. This point is made because we were planning on watching a DVD that we had purchased from a street vendor in Placencia, but it turned out to be a copy of a computer download, complete with stops and starts, and was unwatchable.
On Sunday, December 27th, we developed the problem with the generator, which made us decide to get on down to the Rio right away where we could fix it. We made plans to check out of Belize the next day, and get started on the trip.
On Monday, December 28th, we took the Hokey Pokey water taxi to Mango Creek, planning to take a cab into Independence and Big Creek to do our checking out. However, once we had arrived at the Mango Creek dock, and talked to a cab driver, we found out that everything was closed for Boxing Day. The holiday had occurred over the weekend, but the official day off was Monday. The owner of the Hokey Pokey service was on the dock playing music from a pretty sophisticated sound system. He happened to be playing some really good Jamaican music that we really liked, so we asked him if we could buy a copy. He promised to have one made for us to pick up the next day, when we would be coming back, again, to try to check out.
On Tuesday, December 29th, we arrived back in Mango Creek, collected the CD from our new friend, and found the cab driving waiting, as promised. He took us to the Immigration office were we had a rather disappointing experience. When the woman asked us when we were going to pull up anchor and leave the country, we told her it would be at 0600 the next morning. She made some notes and went on with the check out procedures. When the fees were due, she had charged us an extra $50 as a “late boarding” fee. When we asked why, she said that it was because we weren’t checking out between the hours of 0800-1200 and 1300-1700. We said, no problem, we’ll leave at 0800. But she told us it was too late, she had already filled out the document and we would have to pay the fee. Frankly, we felt that this was an all out rip-off, especially since no one would be coming to board us anyway. It left us a bit displeased with Belize, and, having heard similar stories from other cruisers, we are now considering that Belize is not being ultra-friendly to cruisers, at least from a financial perspective.
We took the Hokey Pokey back to Placencia, and headed toward the dock. On the way, we stopped at the Grill ‘n Go, a cute trailer-housed food stand with tables out front. We had excellent Creole chicken and rice lunches, and visited with a local who was there to celebrate his birthday. We picked up a few last grocery items on our way to the dock, and were also able to get two more Jerk Chicken plates for dinner from Brenda … but alas, she was out of macaroons.
On Wednesday, December 30, we upped anchor, and headed towards the Rio. We were anxious to get there before the holiday weekend started, so we traveled all the way to Cabos Tres Puntas rather than doing a couple of overnight anchors along the way. It was a great trip, and really wonderful to see sights along the way. We were almost “home”.