The third trip we took while in Belize was going south. We had a hotel room at the BellaMaya Resort in Placencia that we’d tried unsuccessfully to cancel so we decided to use it for a few of the days we were away. In Belize in order to go south, you have to first go west (along the Western Highway) to Belmopan then double back by driving the 56 mile Hummingbird Highway in order to finally head south on the Southern Highway.
Since we’d already driven the trip to Belmopan several times there wasn’t much that was interesting to see on that stretch of the drive. The Hummingbird Highway, however, was a different story. The road, while still a single lane paved highway with parts that had clearly been affected by the recent flooding, went through the most beautiful parts of Belize that we’d seen. Going through rolling hills and higher mountains, there were lots of small, poor villages but there were also areas filled with orange groves, banana trees, and the flowers and brooks in the rain forest. The air smelled rich and moist as you move into that part of the drive. As a whole this part of the drive was a pleasure.
After Dangriga, we finally got on the Southern Highway, which except for a few views of the Maya Mountains, is pretty unremarkable. Bridges were a little iffy and one had been washed out entirely and replaced by some large wooden planks. We drove on that until the turnoff for Placencia near Riversdale. There we entered a red dirt road that was full of ruts, washboard patterns, and large stones to drive the next 25 miles. We were able to go about 8 to 10 miles an hour, seeing almost nothing but shrubbery and red dirt puddles along most of the way. Toward the end of the trip, we began to see water on both sides of us, often within a few feet of the road. Every once in a while we’d also hit some patches of white beach near hotel or home constructions that were being done, though we wondered if the beach had been imported since so much of the land around it was red mud.The resort itself seemed such a contrast from the area around it. Stretching from the lagoon on one side of the peninsula to the Caribbean Sea on the other, the grounds were well kept and it looked beautiful from the road. We checked in and were led across the street to a second floor apartment—two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, dining area, and living room with a balcony near the pool looking out over the beach and water. There weren’t very many people there, so we were a bit puzzled, but we thought it would be a wonderful way to relax and spend a few days. We quickly changed to our swim suits and went to the pool, stopping at the bar for a drink and something to eat. And then it began to rain. The red dirt roads turned to mud. We quickly discovered that, despite the wonderful kitchen, there was nowhere nearby to buy food to prepare in it. The gift store didn’t even have snacks, much less real food. The Jacuzzi in our apartment didn’t work. There were no curtains on some windows and several others had curtains that didn’t cover the entire window so the light came in early in the morning. We decided to relax by sitting on the deck in the rain, only to discover that the beach (which looked like it had been trucked in since there was red dirt on either side of it where the resort ended) was filled with sand fleas and mosquitoes. We waded through the red mud to eat meals at the hotel restaurant, the only place to get food now that the red dirt had become sticky muddy goop that was pretty impossible to drive on. Even breakfast was mediocre. We tried to watch TV, only to discover that sitting on the couch made me itch and TV programs were hard to hear because of the echoing from the high ceilinged room By the second day we’d discovered that the snack bar at the pool, which was open despite the continuing rain, was the only way to get semi-decent food, so we lived on pizza and quesadillas from it. By then, however, we were covered with bug bites.
Two days after checking in, once the rain had let up, we headed back to Belize City. We stopped along the way at the Maya Centre, buying some small pieces of jewelry for Becca from the Maya Centre’s Women’s Group (where 10% of the sale goes to the group and the other 90% goes to the individual artist who made the piece). We also drove through a bit of the Cockscomb Basic Wildlife Sanctuary, though we’d already been in the car for a long time getting back through the muddy red dirt that stretched from Placencia to Riversdale, we still had a long way to go to get to Belize City, and we were low on gas (which isn’t as easy to find as one might expect) so we only spent a short while there. By the time we got back to Belize City and the Radisson, we were more than ready for dinner and a quiet New Year’s Eve before heading to the airport the next morning.