11.12.2007 - 13.12.2007
In Placencia we desembarked the Raggamuffin boat and checked into the Yellow House guesthouse. The original idea was that of going back to Caye Caulker in the boat, sailing all night, however due to the condition of the boat, we decided to stay in Placencia and then take a bus all the way up north again. The first impression of Placencia was not great and we felt quite unsure about whether to stay or not, actually, but the thought of 12 hours at sea appealed to us even less, so we set off looking for a nice place and found it. The room was $25 a night, on the high end for us but very reasonable for Belize. It was quiet, secure and really comfy, and we soon found a newly open place called Purple Monkey where they had wi-fi and decent food. So we ended up spending most of our time there, given that it was raining more often than not and the beach was a no-go area. Placencia is meant to have the best beaches in Belize...my god!!! Ok, it had been raining and there was a bit of wind etc, but that beach was really bad, covered in algae and murky as hell.
Anyways, we stayed a couple of nights and then we set off to Mexico. We were not really sad to leave Belize, all considered. I personally always thought of Belize as a really nice place, expensive and beautiful and with the most stunning coral reef, but this is not what we experienced, apart from the expensive part!!!! The change in the standard of living when we came in from Guatemala was very visible - the houses were nice and pretty, Caribbean style with bright colours, drying laundry nicely hung up in line on actual laundry lines - in Guatemala and many other countries we have visited people tend to hang their washing on the bushes and rocks surrounding their houses, for some strange reason. So the laundry was very promising. Then we got to Belize City and we got a shock! Houses falling apart everywhere, filthy waters, in fact much much worse than Georgetown. Georgetown in Guyana was a gem in comparison, though at the time I perceived it as dirty and messy. Hadn't seen Belize City yet! Caye Caulker was ok, though it had no beaches, and then Placencia, which was supposed to be the beach place and it wasn't. Maybe it was the weather, maybe they took us to the wrong snorkelling spots, maybe we should have dived, maybe we only saw a couple of places and the most touristy and expensive, maybe we missed the nice jungle because we already had seen a lot of animals elsewhere - not sure, but we were not impressed. Overall it was ok and Gregory enjoyed it more than I did, but I would say that we are not in a rush to go back to Belize again.
These are a couple of pics of Placencia and its pretty painted houses
This was a meter-long barracuda, they call barracudas the 'dogs of the sea', look at those teeth!
We departed Belize from Placencia on a 14 hour, 3 bus jaunt up the road to Mexico. We decided to visit the picturesque village of Mahahual on the Yucatán Peninsula which, according to the lonely planet, is less touristy than say Cancun. Mahahual is described as the Caribean Mexico with lovely sandy beaches, where many of the big cruisers frequent with loads of tourists due to its beautiful coral reefs (extending from Belize) and turquoise waters.
That was until 4 months ago, when Hurricane Dean visited the village.
When we arrived 8 o'clock at night looking for a place to stay, we got the the idea that there was lots of construction going on, but did not think much of it at the time. There were giant artificial sand dunes on the way into town and many signs in Spanish that said "men working - sorry for the disturbance” but, when we got off the bus in the dark, we did not really get a sense of what was happening. In the morning now, when we walked up on the roof of our hotel to meet the morning sun and looked out, in the distance all we could see was destruction of the mangroves with bits of houses and cars in between it!! You did think that the locals were doing a bad job of keeping the area tidy until you heard what happened.
Hurricane Dean visited the village at force 5.5, with 300 kph winds for a couple of hours back in August. Fortunately, the locals were given 5 days notice and all vacated the area before the hurricane hit, so no-one was killed, but the wind and the subsequent sea action eroded 2 meters of coastline and killed the mangroves for miles around a good half a kilometer in and all the sand from the local area and beaches disappeared. The local workmen were collecting the sand from the neighbourhood and were stocking it in the sand dunes in order to rebuild the beach. The government is restoring the aqueducts, electricity and power infrastructure, but the locals ( 8000) are responsible for all the rest. What you can see in village is the people that made enough money from tourism in the past re-constructing their businesses, and the people with little money and no insurance against disaster, living in tents or makeshift debris from the aftermath.
4 months on, the locals seemed to quite leisurly accept what has happened to them and are trying to rebuild a better Mahahual than before and count themselves lucky. In the local newspapers at the moment there is talk of the possibility of Hurricane Olga (late in the season) visiting in 4 days time , but is unlikely. We are moving up the road to Tulum, which was not affected by the hurricane in any way. Tulum will be the new base for a few days in order to visit a couple of places in Mexico.
In Mahahual we stayed in “El Profe” hotel, which is in the centre of town and the cheapest at $27 a night. There is another finished place in town at the moment, Posada Pachamama, which is slightly more expensive at $36 a night and very nice and down to the fine details. Other than that, at the moment in the current rebuilding you will have to walk pretty far (1 to 3km) to look at the rest of the open other places. Curiously, we took a taxi down the road and saw a sign for the Luna de Plata that said 'open', except that there was nothing standing apart from the sign!!!!
The peace and tranquity that is Mahahual
The view inland, turning 180 degrees...
Destruction 2 - view from our hotel