VISIT TO BELIZE (part 2 of 2)
Last month we talked about my visit to San Pedro in northern Belize. This time around I'm on my way to Placencia, about 65 miles south of Belize City. The locals directed me to arrive for my 9:00 flight about 10 minutes before take-off which is plenty of time in this location, but not what I would generally recommend. I was the last person to board and when it appeared that the plane was full, I was directed to sit in the co-pilot's seat. After a few awkward moments trying to sort out the 5 point safety belt, we were off to what I thought was to be Belize City Municipal Airport.
The visibility from the cockpit was great and I realized fairly quickly that we were heading back to Belize City International. Ok no big deal, small airline, sombody needed to get off or on, whatever - it was a quick stop and we were off again. When the "Municipal Strip" came into view about 5 minutes later, I have to admit that my nerves did tense up a bit. This airport makes Beef Island on Tortola look like JFK in New York! We set down and bumped our way along to the 'terminal'. Fifty or so minutes later we were off again and headed south. About 10 minutes later I could clearly see that we had turned about 270 degrees and were now headed back towards Belize City International. "Ok no big deal, small airline, sombody needed to get off or on, whatever - it was a quick stop and we were off again."
The views from the plane were beautiful, with the reef out the port side, and the mainland and western mountains off the starboard. About 15 minutes later we are making an approach to another small landing strip, which I was informed was Dangriga, about 40 miles north of Placencia. "Ok no big deal, small airline, sombody needed to get off or on, whatever - it was a quick stop and we were off again." Five minutes later and we were landing again at a brand new private strip, which I was told belongs to the Kanantik Reef and Jungle Resort. "OK no big deal, small airline"...never mind...anyway one guy got off. We took off for the last time and landed in Placencia a few minutes later. Like all the airports except Belize International, Placencia is not large, but has a reasonably smooth runway and a small terminal building. There didn't seem to be any check-in as far as I could tell, so when a nice smiley cabby said that he had been sent by TMM to collect me, I was off again.
The ride into town only takes about ten minutes and after a short trip down a narrow dirt road, we pulled up to a small dock on a canal. TMM's base is actually on an island so you have to cross the narrow canal in a dinghy or their large skiff. A quick wave and one of TMM's employees came across to get me.
The facility is attractive, with the office located on the first floor of an impressive octagonal building. TMM has their own condos, which are nice little cottage style units, right on the dock. Steve, the manager, and Richard from reservations welcomed me and then took me down to my room at the end of the pier to get settled in. The rooms are simple but very clean and comfortable and at that point, the air conditioning felt mighty good. After getting unpacked and resting for a few minutes it was time to get to work. TMM lent me a dinghy so I could go back and forth, so I headed out to inspect The Moorings' operation, about a ten minute walk toward town.
See the rest of my photographs.
The Moorings' facility is pleasant, with signs to direct you where to go, a nice office area located at the South Waters resort, and a big 'T' shaped pier in front. They have a fairly large fleet in Belize, as demand has continued to grow during the couple of years they have been there. This includes a good selection of their 38 to 47 foot cats plus the Beneteau 403/393 3 cabin mono hulls. Kevin Brown, the base manager, gave me the tour and showed me around the boats, which looked fine. Maria from The South Waters Resort let me see the rooms and both the luxury suites and cabanas looked quite nice. Next door is Merlene's Restaurant, a fun place to eat with a grass hut bar and eating area overhanging the water. Yulee, I think her name was, runs the bar and the atmosphere and food are great.
The town of Placencia is very small and I think I would actually call it a village or maybe even a hamlet. It has several restaurants and shops, a gas station or two and a few food stores. Wallen's Market is the biggest and although fairly well stocked the day I was there, this can change depending on the day of the week. Both TMM and The Moorings recommend you provision through them and I think I would have to agree that this is a good idea. You might be ok on your own, but you just never know. Kind of reminds one of the BVI 25 years ago, when fresh produce came in on Thursdays and was gone the next day. By the time I had done a tour of the boats and town, both the sun and my energy were getting pretty low, so I headed back to my room for a little rest before dinner.
Later, I headed out for dinner and being a creature of habit, it was back to Merlene's, which I wasn't sorry for. The breeze was nice and the food great. The guy next to me at the bar was from one of the next towns over from our office here in Maine. Small world.
The next day was spent inspecting TMM's fleet, many of which were getting ready for their next charters. The boats were in nice shape and it gave me a chance to see their varied fleet of Belize 43's, each one being a little different. I have never been a huge fan of the Fontaine-Pajot boats, but for some reason I do like these Belize 43's. The "Vagabond" is the queen of the fleet with loads of equipment including DVD/VCR with plasma TV, electric winches, electric fridge and freezer, radar/plotter, and of course air conditioning and a genset. Her bimini is specially built for her owner and doesn't cover the helm area, so bring a big hat! These boats are big enough to have good sized cabins and heads and some have the bow bunks, with access from either inside the boat or on deck.
With most of the day and all of my energy gone, I retired for the day and got ready for my flight out in the morning. Those flights were uneventful and I returned home to Boston where I got off the plane to find the same temperature I left in Belize. Funny place this New England. My only regret is that I didn't get any sailing in, but I guess I have to save something for next time. Bon Voyage!
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