Monday, July 27, 2015

A Dangerous Stroll in Central America

We naively didn’t care that we were in the sixth most violent country in the world. We are adventurers. We walked cautiously along the deserted strip of uninhabited homes and empty lots, littered with garbage and untended foliage. We weren’t wearing shoes. Hence the caution. It was hot. Hence the decision to walk in the back door of a seedy dive bar. The locals eyed us curiously, wondering where the hell we came from and how soon until we’d vacate their territory.

We downed our drinks from dirty glasses and moved on, watching our backs.  We ended up at another bar, this one nicer but very small – just eight stools and a few unoccupied tables. We met two locals there; one of them covered in menacing tattoos and wearing what looked like a gang symbol on his hat.

The next thing we knew, we were locked in the back seat of their truck and brought over to their duplex in the outskirts of the village. Their dogs barked furiously at us and we were warned to stay away from the vicious one that will bite at any time. These locals held us there until a guy named Chino was ready to see us.

Chino immediately asked us for our money. We handed over what we had and waited to see what would happen next. The local guy with the ink and gang hat held a grappling hook in front of us with a wicked smile. Chino approved and said it wasn’t as good a weapon as his but that it would do for the grisly task at hand.

The next thing we knew, we were herded onto a small speedboat and eventually docked at a private island inhabited by an associate of Chinos and his three wild dogs, one of which was covered in fresh battle wounds.

We sat there looking around us, wondering how we got to where we were.  It was crazy.  Crazy awesome.

We were in Belize. The we is me and one of my favorite people in the world.


We had been walking along the coast on Maya Beach, about ten miles north of Placencia, a sleepy village anchoring the peninsula. This is a quiet part of the coastal country and not many people were around (it was also kind of off-season for tourists). The first bar (Mango’s) was indeed a dive but had a fantastic view of the Caribbean Sea.


The next bar was actually the next day, but I like to make writer’s embellishments to add color and interest to stories. And although it was indeed small, it was a pretty swanky sweet place – a tiki bar on the beach (Turtle Inn owned by Francis Ford Coppola).


It was at the nice bar where we met Rick and Candy. They had just moved to Placencia a few weeks earlier. Rick has a bunch of cool tattoos and was wearing an Oakland Raiders visor.  They were raving about a great snorkeling trip they had taken with their next door neighbor Francis (no relation to Coppola) who prefers to go by the name Chino.


So the next day, Rick picked us up from the Maya Beach Hotel (this is a whole other story – awesome hotel and restaurant owned by great friends) and brought us back to his sweet little pad that is right on the beach in Placencia. Candy greeted us and they gave us a tour of the house while their tiny little lap dogs yapped and hopped around us.

Chino pulled up in his boat right on the beach in front of Rick and Candy’s and we went snorkeling around two awesome reefs in water clear as day. While we snorkeled, Chino was spearfishing and caught a bunch of lobster, crab, a hogfish and a barracuda.  Rick was able to use his newly homemade grappling hook to nab a crab as well.




We then went to a private island where Chino cleaned the fish and cooked it all in one tin over charcoal for about twenty minutes. And then we feasted.  It was heaven.






As we filled our bellies with lobster, crab and fish that had been swimming in the sea less than an hour earlier, we looked around us and wondered how the heck we got to where we were. Who is this Chino dude with his mad spearfishing abilities and great snorkeling tour? How lucky are we to have met Rick and Candy on our random beach walk along the coast (keep the spare room ready for us!)?



It was crazy awesome to be in the sixth most violent country in the world and being captured by the locals. We will be back.