If someone asked me what I was going to be doing my first week on this trip, I would not have told them I would be jumping off of a dirt bike, running into the jungle, then bounding across a river, so I could take shelter under the wing of an overgrown plane crash inside an active jaguar preserve to wait out a passing rain storm.
I’m not saying that I’m basically Indiana Jones, but if you were to say that, I wouldn’t correct you.
It has been a wonderful, and trying, first week. My bag, containing all the things I meticulously chose to bring on this trip, didn’t arrive in Belize City at the same time I did. It actually didn’t make it for another two days. As stressful as it was at first, sometimes you just have to accept when things are out of your control. The t-shirt I was wearing got a little ripe, but eventually my bag made it back to me with everything accounted for and intact.
The hostel I had been staying at since Tuesday was a pretty standard backpackers oasis, with people from everywhere coming and going everyday, plenty of hammocks and (my favorite) free coffee in the mornings.
Hopkins village was very small, with all dirt roads, but right on the beach. To get down there I took a three-hour ride on a decommissioned school bus that probably went out of service about the time I started taking the bus to school. The thing handled quite well as we barreled down the winding, one-lane highway — considering half the seats didn’t seem to be bolted down.
Interestingly, most of the buses here that are used for public transport come from the U.S. via Mexico after we take them out of service.
I took the bus down with really nice German couple who have been making their way up from Panama. The second night we were there, we went on a nighttime river tour hoping to spot a few crocodiles and catch a glimpse of some florescent plankton. Both were kind of a bust but we did see some glowing eyes in the brush along the bank. The moon was also out, glowing and just about full.
Randomly enough, the person I probably spent the most time with down there was from Bainbridge Island, WA. We even had a few loose connections to some of the same people. On my third day, I followed his example and rented a dirt bike for the next two. We definitely ripped up some jungle trails and were able to track down some surreal scenery. We even caught the Seahawks game, and with the local brew (Belikin) costing next to nothing, it wasn’t completely painful to watch.
Before coming back for the Hawks’ game, I set out on the bike again, this time by myself (insert jaguar, plane crash, jungle experience). I got in some intense hiking and caught some of the most spectacular views of my life. Because of the intense rain, the mostly dirt roads had gotten a little dicey, but I was thankfully able to keep things rubber-side-down the whole time.
And when I say intense rain, I mean hellacious downpours that feel like they’ll never end. These made the worst days I ever experienced in Washington feel like a mild drizzle. And being on the top bunk, with my face three feet from the underside of the tin roof, it made for a noisy wake up — around 2 a.m. — like clockwork.
I made it to San Ignacio last night (again by enchanted bus ride). I plan to stay here for a few days, then make my way into Guatemala. Met some terrific people last night, and got my first warm shower of the trip (woo!). Through recommendations from locals and other travelers, I’ve targeted a handful of promising destinations for my next few stops (standby for stories about hitchhiking, camping and Mayan ruins).
Some of the other travelers I’ve come across so far have been doing this consistently anywhere from four months to four years!
Since coming down here, I’ve already gone through the emotional swings of wanting to catch the first flight home to plotting ways to live down here forever. But I guess that’s kind of been the point all along. I just keep reminding myself that right on the other side of the quietest, loneliest moments, the ones filled with huge amounts of doubt, is where the magic happens — where you can be happy by just being you.
It’s also quite freeing to watch many of the things I was once so concerned with, and that caused me so mush stress, slip way into the back of my mind. It’s also quite heartening to find myself in a place where I no longer miss so many of the comforts I did in the beginning.
Well, that’s it for now, I’ll check in again soon. Be awesome and take care of one another!