Who knew they liked Americans so much in Central America? They even set up a special travel status just for us: the CA-4. Now that’s a bit of southern hospitality.
Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua participate in an agreement called the CA-4 (Central America – 4) that allows U.S. citizens to travel freely between the four countries for ninety days. We entered Guatemala at the end of February, extended our visas in mid-May for an additional ninety days by going to Guatemala City, filling out a short application form and paying a fee, and finally, had to leave the country for seventy-two hours in August to renew our visas and continue our travels into Honduras and Nicaragua. We decided to exit Guatemala via Livingston, a funky little town on the Caribbean coast accessible only by boat.
Livingston is a small port city, with a population of roughly 17,000 souls, inhabited by
the Garifuna (descendants of 17th century shipwrecked African slaves and indigenous Carib), Q’cqchi’ Mayan and Guatemaltecans. Spanish is still the predominant language but Garifuna, English and Mayan are heard regularly. The cuisine is distinctly different from the rest of Guatemala with a tasty selection of seafood and coconut based dishes. We walked up the short main street, Calle Principal, which included a very steep hill from the little marina, wandered about a few side streets where we encountered a sow and piglet, chickens and goats and …that was it. We’d seen the town.
We took our passports to the immigration office, received our exit stamps and, early Tuesday morning we boarded a launch for a ride across deep blue water sparkling in the sunlight to the port city of Punta Gorda, Belize. After receiving our visa entry stamps, we caught a local bus for a two-hour ride to Independence, also called Mango Creek by the locals, and finally boarded a water taxi for the fifteen minute ride to Placencia. It was a long day waiting and riding upon various forms of transport, hauling our backpacks and suitcases around and about, but it went surprisingly smooth and people were smiling, friendly and very helpful.
Placencia peninsula is sixteen miles long and very narrow with the Placencia lagoon on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other; as we walked about Placencia Village we could catch glimpses of both the lagoon and the sea. The village was founded by pirates and is a mixture of expats, creoles, Garifuna and Mayan Belizeans all speaking several variations of English, the official language of Belize, a former British colony. The spoken English varied from a very proper British accent to a thick, melodic Caribbean patois that we had to strain hard to understand. Added into this mix was the background talk from the tourists we met (German, Israeli, French, Canadian, etc.).
Because it was low season, we found a charming room with a kitchenette and porch complete with a hammock on the beach and a view of the Caribbean for a discounted price. There we spent our three-day exile gazing out at the Caribbean, occasionally swimming, laying in the sun, swinging in the hammock and reading (and did I mention sweating buckets in the thick humidity?). This was a pleasant and leisurely respite before we had to reverse our trip back to Livingston and then begin the next leg of our journey to the Bay Islands of Honduras.
By Richard and Anita, August, 2013