We were scheduled to leave Blancaneaux on Tuesday, Valentines Day, and did just that after breakfast, a short walk and an hour or so by the pool. Honestly it was, like the delicious Belizean chocolate, a little bitter sweet because I think we had all grown fond of Johnny, Pedro, Gilbert, Cesar and the rest of the extremely friendly resort staff. At least I had. We bid adieu to our expert guide, Gilberto the previous afternoon and we were now greeted by another smiling gentleman who would take us the Copolla’s sister resort, The Turtle Inn, 3 hours away in the seaside city of Placencia. He mentioned his given name (which we couldn’t pronounce) then, with the quickness of someone having been through the exercise more than once, told us to call him Virgil, so we did.
Within the trip’s first 15 minutes we learned Virgil was a farmer by trade, making a few extra bucks, working freelance in the tourism industry between crop rotations. We also found out that our driver was a direct descendant of the Mayan natives that occupied much of what is now Belize for thousands of years. He was quite proud of his heritage and told us so on more than a few occasions. During one genealogy lesson Virgil explained that his grandparents still made offerings to the Mayan gods before certain meals or ahead of planting corn or tomatoes. “But,” he assured us “human sacrifices” were no longer part of the routine. “It’s against the law now,” he said with a straight face. Reassured by, and comforted in, that knowledge the four of us settled in for our three hour tour.
Belize has a diverse topography. At times it looked like Florida, other times Colorado and occasionally I was reminded of the Northern Nevada of my youth . The closer we got to Placencia the more I saw the southeastern United States out my window and my wife agreed saying, “this could be anywhere.” Soon enough we saw the water. Lagoon and mangroves on one side, the interior main channel that led to the barrier reef ,that led to the Caribbean Sea out the other. After the ride, this one almost exclusively over paved roads, we arrived at The Turtle Inn and were greeted by, Martin, the General Manager and more smiling faces. The Turtle Inn’s casitas looked a lot like the structures at Blancaneaux but the location couldn’t have been more different. Sand, sun and palm trees replaced jungle, rocks, pine trees and a rushing river. We were reminded of our snorkeling excursion (set for the next day) and told which restaurants and bars were open and which amenities (kayaks, paddleboards, games, bikes) were at our disposal. The town of Placencia was less that 15 minutes, by bicycle, away; twice as long if we walked and, of course, a shuttle was always available. In town, they said, we would find bars, restaurants and the best gelato in Central America. Then we were shown to our accommodations.
Starfish Cottage was both quaint and captivating, despite being more ready than not for a modest updating. The personal pool with four lounge chairs, as well as two separate, set for four, dining areas at which to enjoy an Oceanside meal or beverage more than made up for a well worn shower knob or a not quite cold enough fridge.
There are many types of people in this world and I know intimately of two; those who love the beach and those that do not. I know this because I am of one kind and my wife’s parents, the wonderful Bob and Susan Green, are of the other. In case you’re wondering, my amazing wife is somewhere in the spectrum in between.
There are now two periods of time when I get caught up on my fiction reading. The first, and favorite, is on an airplane, while it is flying from one destination to the next. The other time I sink my teeth into a book is when my wife and in laws are sinking their toes into a lake, sea, ocean or pool. I know how to swim (kind of) I just don’t. I also don’t bathe, I shower. There are things in the water with sharper teeth, quicker reflexes and better instincts than me. I saw Jaws when I was on the verge of exiting teenhood and the memory of that film is as vivid as ever. It’s all I can do to get in the water in the first place and I prefer to be out before I get all the way wet. So while they take a dip, I dive into the next thing on my reading list.
On this trip that happened to be Michael Chabon’s newest, Moonglow. I had given it to myself as a Christmas gift and had only managed a few chapters thanks to two short flights. The flame of the story burned slowly for me at first but I was hopeful the fire that ignited inside so many of the tomes written by my favorite authors would combust along the way. It didn’t. A third of the way in I just wanted it to be over so I set my cruise control on “powering through” and that’s what I did. I detest not finishing a book once I start it ( I feel the author deserves that much at least ) and sometimes I end up pleasantly surprised when a book turns a corner. Even though Moonglow was well written and there were sections of chapters and complete chapters that I enjoyed the book, as a whole never made the turn. I loved Wonder Boys, Summerland, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Gentlemen of the Road. Not that Chabon cares but I hope his next book will captivate me like those did.
That was a digression, I know but the fact is the rest of the day was spent enjoying the sun. Then we had a drink (mine was a delicious concoction called a Rum Pegu) and a delicious dinner. I enjoyed it like it might be my last because part of my mind thought it might be. You see the next day we were jumping in a boat and heading straight out to sea, to the barrier reef.
And that, my friends, is tomorrow’s tale.