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Meredith’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 13 Dec 2006

Location: Hopkins and Placencia, Belize

MapTester Pot Paints

London is brick-grey, Rome is terracotta, Istanbul is turkish red. Most places in Belize are tester-pot painted: Tangerine dreams, hibiscous pink, cerulean blue, turqoise palm heart. When the petulant clouds finally stopped bucketing tears, we needed sunglasses all day. After the torrential rain of Crooked Tree the postcards now matched the scene before us.

The colour covers many things. Houses are tinsey winsey higgledepiggledey balancing on stilts (above snakes and ants) and leaning on coconuts. A hurricane would flatten many coastal villages. Iris and Mitch already did. Belizians have become resourceful with two-by-four and are very resilient.

Working for a living

Tourists escape the 9-5 in Belize. Belizians work 5-9. One night in Hopkins, a Garifuna village on the coast, we dined with Therese in her back yard kitchen. Therese has 8 kids so wakes at 4am, washes, mashes and soaks cassava and works all day the cooks for travellers like us. After school swarms of uniformed girls biked round puddles to sell banana cake for 25pence, tiny tots in at bus stations squeeze out a living and themselves on buses crammed with thirsty travellers. Often veges are delivered twice a week on the vege struck, water is delivered door to door and any mother will ring hands and rent lines to wash dirty-from-nothing clothes. Days later in Caye Caulker we meet Louise our Cabana manager who teaches airobics in sweltering heat and cleans our cabana. I perfect doing nothing as if a fine art.

www.tippletree.com

Coconut Throwing

Two ends of the beach. Two cabana managers. A north south divide. The arty chaotic skinny new york southern end seemed jealous of the businesslike yet relaxed successful north. Stay a day and you hear the sales pitch. Stay a week and you hear the village whispers. Signs were torn down apparently.

By Placencia, I'm well adjusted to the hard work of doing nothing: stretching, coffee, drugs and banana cake following by wandering, reading, swimming and drinks at the barefoot bar.

But the coconuts came. One thrown by a local girl in sent a stern message to her boyfriend about messing with tourist girls. We laughed at the soap opera unfolding on the beach until a few days later one of our group was caught up in the local scene and narrowly missed a coconut herself. I wish i'd had a cocunut arsenal to hand for the drunken James-Bond-I-am-Jesus-would-you-like-to-buy the-monkey- in-my-truck. It was time to leave paradise. So we flew on a mosquito sized plane with a top gun pilot over the swamps and beaches and out to the sparkling coral cayes.