Lying back on a lounger in Caye Caulker I glibly commented that it could be hard to leave here. No truer a word said.
Two stunning days of Caribbean sunshine (and the one over cast but hot day) & the odd Cuba Libre & we were totally revitalised. We spent a day snorkelling around coral reef and saw some truly ugly/impressive things. First destination our toothless Rasta captain Ninja (a six pack sporting sinewy Iggy Pop type with dreads & plaits & earrings - a bit Pirates of the Caribbean really - who could've been anywhere from 35 to 70) pointed out a giant ray and an eel through the brave, if somewhat foolish method, of diving down and prodding them until they responded. Right back at him. Good to watch from the surface until said eel headed up to our level. See the gringos swim!!
2nd stop - shark alley. Reluctant to get out the boat until Ninja told me nurse sharks don't have teeth (why would I doubt him), we jumped out & he started hurling bits of fish guts into the water to ensure we got our money's worth. Laughing his weed-filled head off from the safety of the boat, I reevaluated my trust levels in this man.
Sting Rays are very ugly things! Look constantly pissed off and have no qualms about swimming 15 inches away from people waving their stingy tails around. I spent 20 minutes squealing through my snorkel tube and thinking 'Did Steve Irwin's death teach us nothing?' (Other than no man should wear shorts that short). It was almost a welcome distraction when someone shouted 'shark' and we all swam towards the sighting. I say all. I hovered behind an American man I'd sized up as being sufficiently large/slow to distract a shark long enough for me to get back to the boat. Chris had no such game plan so came face to face with a 8fter.
Back in the boat and headed to our final spot - coral garden. Just pretty stuff here - big shoals of bright fish, purple plants & lots of conch (conches? Dunno). Other than the giant ray swimming around the boat ladder it was a nice relaxing float.
Time to pack up & head to Honduras- plan was get the 6am boat back to Belize City, then the once a week ferry to Honduras (5hrs), catch a bus to murder central (San Pedro del Sula - wiki it!) where a fella was meeting us to whisk us away to a safe hostel, and deliver us to the bus station the next morning to get the Ticabus (long distance throughout CA) straight down to Nicaragua. Not an ideal route but almost impossible to get through Honduras without going through San Pedro & as the bus was a 5am start, an overnight had to be done. 30 hours door to door including the night in a comfy bed.
Reality was :
6am boat to the city. All good.
10.15 the 9am ferry to Honduras called the port to say it couldn't be arsed stopping in Belize & was going straight through to Honduras from Mexico.
Jumped on a bus back to Flores in Guatemala (6 hours ish), booked ourselves onto the overnight bus back to Guatemala City (10 hours), got there & taxi'd across town to try & find the one bus a day that went to Nicaragua without spending a night in El Salvedor (a close 2nd to San Pedro for crime). Got to the bus office with 25 mins to spare & joined a queue only to find that it was pre-booked & full. We loitered & thankfully someone called Jennifer failed to turn up. Bundled on board with minutes to go we promptly fell asleep for the first leg of the journey.
Arriving in El Salvedor 5 hours later, we had to swap buses & check in for the next leg. This involved putting our backpacks on a new bus which then promptly drove away & handing our passports to a woman who then disappeared to a locked office. How the locals laughed at our stressed faces. Chill they said - it's not like it's your world possessions you've just handed over in a country you have no record of being in.
30 minutes of nervous laughter with 3 Swiss fellas in the same situ, it all reappeared & we set off again.
Next stop the Honduran border - stayed on the coach while 4 uniformed fellas walked up the aisles assessing our faces for signs of something (nefarious activities/culpability for bribes?), stamped our papers & let us through.
Only another few hours (3 ish? Time bore no meaning by this point) to the Nicaraguan border where we had to decamp & take our bags to be searched. Search meant lightly prodded by an old fella who'd been up too long too so was over without incident quite quickly.
All aboard the happy bus (by this time quite smelly bus) to get to the capital Managua. A fairly horrid city with an advice warning of staying in your hotel at night. Arriving at 2.30 am with no hotel booked we slept on chairs in the bus office (behind locked doors, under the watchful eye of a bored security guard) until 5.15 when we got a cab & headed to the market/bus station for the first chicken bus out of there.
$1 paid, 3 hours of potholes & no suspension later & we got to Leon (west of managua). We were so tired we both slept on the chicken bus which is remarkable considering they're built for people at least a foot smaller than us, and we had our packs on our knees. Chris woke up to find a small boy perched on the edge of his seat, holding a chicken. Just to prove the namesake is right.
hostel found, cold shower had, breakfast (rice & beans) eaten & we crashed out in hammocks. 51 hours & 5 countries end to end.
Nicaragua - you better be bloody worth it!