I have learned this, at least, by my experiments; that if one advances confidently in the directions of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. – Henry David Thoreau
Awaking with the knowledge of leaving for San Ignacio and a day of new adventures and experiences, I spring to life, where I reluctantly step into the shower. Let me explain, the bathroom at Bellas is far below the standard of even the dingiest motel on Colfax, but as any true backpacker will tell you, these places tend to be gems, and often the hygienic cleanliness is replaced by the people that are drawn to them. The view from the shower however is priceless, immediately your eyes are drawn to the open ocean as enormous palm trees grow on each side, creating a natural picture perfect frame, the rickety old dock with wooden planks that have been warped by the weather over the years stretch fifty feet from the land, and a small shoreline is visible as the water is held back by the white sand.
Stepping out of a cold shower that has now become the norm–many I can guarantee will be the pleasure of making the acquaintance of my skin over the months to come–I reenter the room in an encircled form of chaos as both Tim and Char take part in the fine art of seeking out every inch of space in their packs. It’s just after 10am and we begin our rounds of goodbyes to the new friends we are leaving behind before we step out into the hot Caribbean sun and make our way to the dock. Just after making the turn towards the shoreline off of Front Street I look up to see that the water taxis has just arrived, and, for the first time begin walking with a pace that has a motive. The rest of our group begins to follow suit since it will be more than an hour before the next boat to Belize City returns. We quickly take the remaining seats scattered throughout the crowd and despite the noise of the powerful engines, it is a silent ride back allowing me to reminisce over the past six days on the island.
Once everyone has retrieved their backpacks we stand for a few moments debating the walk in the hot sun through crowded city streets for the main bus terminal as taxi drivers try to convince us otherwise. Ignoring them for the first few moments as prices and distance are inserted in to our semi-private conversation, we eventually decide that the less than $2 BZD ($1) per person is worth the ten-minute ride. The only indication that this is a bus terminal is the few buses you can barely see beyond the chain link fence in the back. If I had not known any better I would have guessed this was a condemned building full of squatters, my American ignorance shows itself, reminding me yet again that I am in Central America and the island life that caters to tourists is now behind me. We are traveling with, and as the locals do on overcrowded chicken buses. The first thing each of us does is scan the disfigured hot room for a booth that has an open window to purchase our bus tickets. Using our reasons of deduction, we assume that it must be beyond the door at the end of the room where we can see throngs of people standing on a mixture of a concrete slab and dirt with the traditional sheet metal overhead acting as a roof.
There appears to be no one selling tickets and soon remember back to the information of our guidebooks, just jump aboard and as the bus begins heading in the direction you pray is correct, someone will move down the aisle collecting cash. In the crowd, I turn and ask the elderly gentleman standing next to me which bus will be departing to San Ignacio even though there is no bus to point out. He tells me Gate 1. I thank him and relay this information on to our group. Within ten minutes two buses arrive and all semblance of order is thrown to the wind–people begin scrambling for seats. The best illustration I can provide, however sexist you may take it, is the scene of the huge annual bridal gown sale in New York City, where you see women acting like animals pushing and shoving with zero regard for the person next to them. Yes, that is what this is like among all of the passengers–young, old, women, children, and yes, even myself and the members of our group, as we fight our way towards the front of the bus. Amid the insanity, I hear Tim yell out to run to the back and as I do I see the large yellow door being flung open. I cannot express how much adrenaline pumps through you as you try and climb through the back of school bus with a 40 lb backpack strapped to you as people are pushing you from behind. Thankfully I was not alone in this first experience as Tim is there to extend his hand and pull me up just before I feel the weight of gravity working against me, picturing myself as a turtle ready to land on my back. Whew, I take the second to the last seat opposite side of the driver and place my pack on the seat next to me.
Completely winded by the frantic chaos, I look over at Eva and David who are sitting several seats up, Tim just a few seats behind them, and Char who is directly across from me, one by one we make eye contact and as we do large smiles telepathically congratulate one another as we all breathe a large sigh of relief. Scanning the bus, I quickly notice three other people from our hostel, two guys and a girl from Britain, they left one of their packs in the aisle thinking it would be safe since they have the last seat, but soon realize every piece of space is a precious commodity and so I offer to place their bag alongside my pack next to me. They welcome this offer and just as I pick it up another item quickly finds the same floor space. Before long the rumbling old engine of the bus starts up and we are winding through the narrow streets of Belize City.
I find myself sharing a room with Tim and Char on what has to be known as one of the squeakiest beds I have ever heard or felt. I think if a mouse farted on it the springs would begin bouncing around. This was almost the same issue regarding the beds in Caye Caulker, except I actually feared for my life in the rickety old wooden bunk beds we slept on. Char was above me and every time she would turn over in her sleep or sit up in bed it sounded like there was ten people in a mosh pit. The moveable wooden slates brought zero comfort to any assurance of survival if even one moved ever so slightly. Sevens days of travel thus far and I know the sleeping arrangements will be stories within themselves through this great journey.