Belize, which is roughly the size of Massachusetts, appears to be very manageable when traveling. Somehow the beauty of the vast jungles and marshlands and the calm of the barrier reef swallow up the remoteness.
There are only three highways in Belize. The Northern Highway, which stretches from the Mexico border to Belize City, The Western Highway unites Belize City to St. Ignacio (and the Guatemalan Border) and the Hummingbird Highway. The Hummingbird Highway stretches from Belmopan to Dangriga, where it morphs into the Southern Highway and runs all the way to Porta Gorda.
Paul and I began our journey back to Los Angeles in Hopkins, about 20-30 miles south of Dangriga. The road in Hopkins used to be paved but floods have washed away the majority of the pavement and left huge potholes in its wake. It takes us almost twenty minutes to drive the six miles to the Southern Highway. Another twenty minutes along the two lane highway (all the highways are two lanes) finds us in Dangriga.
Oswald, our driver from the Almond Beach/Jaguar Reef, turns off the paved highway into a neighborhood of shacks and dirt roads. The airport is hidden on the edge of the town. With no clear street signs, you have to know where you are going in order to find it.
The poverty of this neighborhood was heart wrenching. Stilt raised wooden homes with thin worn white cotton curtains blowing in the breeze. Holes where the planks have rotted away, offering little protection from the whims of nature. Some houses so small, they appeared to have only one room, the cooking area and tables gathered close by outside. Women, listless in the heat, sat heavily on cheap plastic chairs on slanting porches. Chin in hand, they watch wordless, as we drive by, their eyes following our vehicle.
Our twelve seat Mayan Airplane was full so Paul gets the prized “co-pilot” spot up front. The runway, barely paved was mostly rock in some places, but we rise with little effort. The flight is seventeen minutes long and takes us over the reef, following the coastline. After Dangriga falls from sight, there is nothing but water and marshlands. Not a person in sight. It’s a reminder that this little nation has only 300,000 residents (not counting the influx of 4,000-6,000 visitors when the cruise ships are docked at Belize City). It is just one of the many reasons to love this country.
The rest of our trip home is uneventful. We are upgraded to First Class from Belize City to Houston but our flight from Houston to Los Angeles is packed. Fourteen hours after leaving the resort in Hopkins, I am back in my condo in Los Angeles, curled up on my couch with my kitties.