December 15: Tobacco Caye: A “Trip”
The plan after my night at the lodge with Capt. Frank, Sgt.
Alejandro and the drunk (a Saturday) was that we would meet on
the street in front of my house at 7:30 am for our day trip to
Tobacco Caye. Now there was a time in my life when I could do
it all on five hours of sleep, but those days are past. Still, I
was up and ready. I figured part of the day would be hanging
out on the beach somewhere and I could rest then. Little did
Alejandro arrived at 7:15 am with two old guys I’d never seen
before, but they were apparently an integral part of the expedition.
I gave them $10 for my share of the gas money and $10 for lunch
provisions and they took off. Then I was told that we wouldn’t
be going until 9:00 because whoever we were going to see on Tobacco
Caye was actually in Silk Grass Village (up the road a piece)
visiting his wife(?) and for some reason we couldn’t go until
he was back.
So I packed up all the essentials (sunscreen, bug juice, hat,
water, food bars, sunglasses, suit, towel, book) and we walked
out to the beach to wait. The boat, I was told, was anchored
up river out of sight, but it would come by after our host got
finished and we would clamor aboard somehow. The channel itself
(I guess it’s over a bar even at this depth) is only about five
feet, you can wade across the river at the mouth and the beach
has a long shallow slope out into the ocean. (Well, I wouldn’t
wade the river because as modern as the sanitary system is for
this part of the world, it’s not THAT good and I’m sure the water
is teeming with bad, bad bacteria). I did not understand why
we were waiting because I was assured that we were NOT going
on the same boat with our host, but told again, that we couldn’t
go until after he did.
So we sat around and talked and I read my book and Alejandro
swam a bit. HIS idea of essentials was sunglasses, a swim suit
and a T-shirt he “borrowed” from me. About 9:45 Alejandro
pointed out that a lot of tourists were being loaded on boats
up the river a ways and this was a good sign because they were
also going to Tobacco Caye, apparently to stay at the uncle’s
place (I think the same one with the wife in Silk Grass Village,
but maybe not. Everyone seems to be Alejandro’s “uncle.”).
Anyway our boat was not one of them, it was a bit bigger. After
all three boats of tourists left, Alejandro went to check again
(wade the river, walk up river on the opposite shore around the
bend, reappear 20 minutes later). Came back and said we were
going at 10:30.
At 11:30 he went to check again (I guess I sent him to check
again). At 12:30 when he had not reappeared I went home. I had
to pee, I was hungry, I’d already had plenty of sun for the day,
it was time for a nap and I was starting to feel a little foolish.
Five hours seemed long enough to wait, even for Belize time.
Actually I had a pretty good time sitting on the beach and
watching the kids play, the pelicans fish, etc. I never did see
Capt. Frank that day, I never saw our boat or lunch or alas,
my T-shirt again. Somewhere about mid-morning Alejandro declared
himself to be not simpatico with Belizean girls and madly in
love with me, never mind that he’s younger than my oldest son.
So I think there never was a boat trip (although I really trusted
Capt. Frank) or when it got to be morning the boat wasn’t available
and Alejandro just couldn’t figure out how to tell me without
bruising his ego.
But my neighbors tell me he has come by a few times while
I’m at work and told them that he couldn’t find me when he came
back to take me out to the caye and he’s very anxious to get
in touch with me. I’m pretty sure his leave is over this Friday
and he expects to get posted to the Western Border for two months,
so likely I don’t have to worry about it any more. It wasn’t
exactly a Shirley Valentine kind of day, but it had its own kind
Earlier on Saturday a different kind of Belizean experience.
I was trundling home from the market with my weekly things (4
bananas, 2 papayas, 4 eggs, an onion, a piece of broccoli, a
few green beans, etc.) when a guy walked up to me and said, “You’re
Paget, right? I’ve come all the way into town today just to meet
you.” His name is Mike and he has an organic farm about
25 miles up the Hummingbird Highway, just in the foothills of
the Maya Mountains and is originally from Hermiston (Oregon, for
you out-of-staters)! Moved here about 25 years ago with three little
children when his wife ran off and left him and has been trying
to duplicate the Hermiston watermelon in Belize ever since as
far as I can tell. Kids are all grown and back in Oregon, but
he’s still here and interested in talking about “home.”
Seems like a nice enough guy and it’s amazing how much more relaxing
it is to talk to someone where you’re pretty confident of your
In retrospect, that encounter may have given me the comfort
level to hang in there with Alejandro hoping that it wasn’t all
smoke and mirrors. But I bet he doesn’t own the house he showed
me either. Signing off, a little less trusting, but still enchanted