Last week I happened to be talking with a friend who was kind enough to offer genuine feedback about my last blog posts.
My friend said, “They need to be more personal. There needs to be more of ‘you’ in them and less of the stuff that we can find on Google.” That’s when I shared a not-so-glamorous story from our Belize trip. My friend said, “Now that’s the kind of thing you SHOULD write about!”
So here is “The kind of thing I should write about”:
Our First Night in San Pedro.
My husband and I landed in Belize on April 1, 2017. We flew United, and had a nearly perfect flight down. There was no turbulence, no delays, and thankfully no one was dragged from the plane bloodied and beaten.
We arrived mid-afternoon at the airport in Belize City. We grabbed our luggage, and hustled through customs. As we were walking over to the Tropic Air terminal for the final leg of our journey we were greeted by a friendly, tall Belizean man who was anxious to help with our bags. He loaded our luggage onto his cart, brought it all of 20 feet through a set of double doors, where he gave them to a girl waiting at the counter. Naturally we tipped this man, he did roll the bags 20 whole feet. First lesson learned: Never surrender to the first “friendly” face that greets you in a third world country.
The Next Bunch of Lessons (too many to count):
When our flight number was called, 8 other passengers and us were herded through a set of external doors. We walked as a group across the tarmac passing new looking aircraft to our waiting plane. (It was like being on a field trip, our teacher in the lead, turning around often checking to make sure every student was accounted for and had their buddy).
Our plane comparatively was a small aging bucket of bolts. It was about 90 degrees in Belize City that day, and there was no air conditioning. I was thinking that this must have been what Indiana Jones felt like while getting ready to fly over the desert in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (I’m sure Indy didn’t need air conditioning.) We sat on the tarmac in the heat for nearly 30 minutes before finally taking off. (Reality set in when we became airborne. There really was going to be no air conditioning on this flight.)
We got to San Pedro at about 4:30 PM. The town was adorable, there were golf carts flying about, the roads were dusty, and the center of town reminded me of a tiny little Times Square with a flashing marquee advertising tourist attractions and local businesses. We grabbed a cab to our hotel. I’d booked a budget hotel, so we knew not to have high expectations.
We were promised their best ‘beach’ room. It was on the first floor and was closest to the water. I’d spoken with the owner earlier that week and he told me I’d need to buy him a drink with all of the trouble he’d gone through to reserve it for me. (Oh, for Pete’s sake!)
When we arrived at the hotel, the first thing I noticed was the little shack that was serving as the hotel lobby. It reminded me of a wooden shed or pool house. This bothered me but I’d decided to keep an open mind. We were welcomed to the resort by a pretty young college girl working at the counter. (Things were looking up. Surely any girl this cute would only work in a nice hotel. She didn’t fit my ratty motel stereotype.) She explained pool hours, the availability of the restaurant, how to get towels from the front desk, etc. As we were escorted to our room, we were greeted by a wall of pungent odor. It was the smell of rotting seaweed, and other marine life. The girl said the smell was from the piles of seaweed on the beach which came in every year around this time (Easter). No problem, I was still hopeful and kept an open mind. We’ll be out and about anyway, I thought.
We arrived at the room and after dropping our bags off, went to eat at the beach cabana bar. There was no escaping the pungent smell. No matter where we sat, stood, walked, or ran there was no escaping the odor. At that point my husband and I were thinking the same thing, but were just waiting for the other to say it first. We wanted out of there.
Hotel policy stated there were no refunds and neither of us felt like negotiating our way out of this one. As we unpacked we each downplayed the smell. Although there were many clever towel animals placed strategically about the room, there was no avoiding the fact that we’d (I’d) booked ourselves a dump. There were no dressers or closets, only shelves and a pole to hang clothes on. There was no phone and we noticed a coffee maker but cruelly, no coffee. The mattress was like one I’d slept on at sleep-away camp as a kid, one step above a cot.
We went to the grocery store that night, got a few things for the week and went to bed around 10:00 pm, hot and exhausted.
Sometime during the night, we heard a shriek. Not just any shriek, but a shriek unlike anything I’d ever heard in my life. The sound cut through the night like a machete. It was disturbing, and I remember wondering if it was a giant lizard, a rodent or an un-dead ancient Mayan? Since large spiders and scorpions don’t shriek I felt better and was hoping it was just a Mayan ghost. (Hey, no judgment! You never hear stories about anyone checking into the emergency room after being attacked by a ghost.) We went back to sleep.
Not sure how many hours went by and we heard it again. This time my husband jumped out of bed and said, ” Geeze! It sounds like it was right over my head!” He got up and looked around for what “it” could be and didn’t find anything. He came back to bed. At the first sign of light we knew morning had come and simultaneously flew out of bed. Without any concept of time we put on our footwear and bolted out of that room.
Heading down the beach we were determined to find another hotel. It didn’t matter if we couldn’t get our money back, we were moving.
We were surprised to find that the odor we’d experienced seemed to be isolated to that one area. Although the other hotels along our walk had lots of seaweed to contend with, they didn’t have that ODOR. We checked out nearly every place along the way in search of somewhere else to stay.
When we got to the Sunbreeze Suites I knew we were home! I’m not sure if I thought it was so amazing because our last hotel was so dreadful, or if it really was that nice, but I fell in love with it. Even better, they had a one-bedroom suite directly on the beach and next to the pool for only $181/night! I gleefully gave them my credit card.
On the walk back, Mike and I were concocting all kinds of reasons we could use to get out of our contract. “My wife has a gag reflex” or “My wife has a seaweed allergy”. Anything to get us the heck out of that first place and our money returned. We hashed out our plan and started plotting for the contingencies. Contingencies as in all of the different things we’d say on TripAdvisor if we couldn’t make this work.
When we got back to our room I started packing up our stuff. Mike was off to the front desk to begin the negotiation.
My husband was back in no time flat. He had a smile on his face and I knew victory was at hand. We were out of our contract with a full refund for the remainder of the week and they comped us the meal we’d had there on our first day. The owner was a perfect gentleman and a gracious host. We wish him well in dealing with the seaweed/odor/screaming Mayan ghost problem.
(We never did find out the source of that shrieking on our first night. Based on my youtube searches for wildlife in Belize it may have been a Barn Owl sitting at our window. It also may have been a Scarlet Macaw but those are pretty rare. There is still that Mayan ghost theory, just say’n.)
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