Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back in the tropics

It’s 4:00 am, still dark. The temperature is barely above freezing and there is a heavy, drizzly rain falling. An icy wind blows the rain in gusts against me and my fellow bus passengers as we stand exposed under a high roof at the Nogales border crossing. I am on my way north, to Tucson, to catch a series of flights that will bring me to Belize City tomorrow afternoon.

Arriving in Tucson, I am the first one off the bus, but by the time I find my damn luggage ticket the only taxi is full. The desk clerk tells me he has called a guy to take me where I want to go, or he can order me a real taxi. I accept the bogus cab ride because I don’t know how long my cash will take me. So we bump and grind our way across Tucson in an old beater with a broken side view mirror (a previous near-miss, I gather), pocked windshield, broken seatbelt, and scraps of fabric hanging from the ceiling. It saves me ten bucks and I arrive safely so all is well.

My good friend Sonnie and her daughter Liz collect my international mail, and feed and house me when I come to town. Liz loaned me her car so I could make a few last-minute purchases. Thanks, Liz. I leave at 5:25, so I don’t get to say goodbye. Thanks, Sonnie.

It is still dark and pouring rain in Tucson as I ride to the airport. Earlier tonight the winds were so bad they closed the Phoenix airport (there were tornado warnings all over the state) but this morning the air is calm and by the time we take off, the sky is starting to clear. Check-in and security go smoothly and I have time to spare before my first of three flights. My only concern about timing will happen when I get to Belize City. If they search my bags, I will probably miss my flight to Dangriga. As it turns out they only ask me a few questions and let me go. I get to the departure lounge with plenty of time to spare: five whole minutes.

I love flying in these Cessna Caravans. You never see a fifteen-passenger single-prop plane anymore. The view of the coast is spectacular: out the port window you see the sea below and the islands that huddle behind the barrier reef. Out the starboard window is the swampy coastal plain, a broad, flat expanse of savannah, dotted with lakes and marshes. The coast itself is a long line of sand, with the submerged sandbars visible through the clear water. I watch for manatees along the line of seagrass that parallels the shore just beyond the last sandbar, but all I see are the remaining hulks of a couple of wrecked ships.

At the airport in Dangriga, I meet Sue and Aaron, a Philly couple who are going to Glover’s Reef. We all pile into the Island Expeditions Toyota Hi-Lux, and in no time I am back in the “Clubhouse” exhausted and sweating.

To all my friends in San Carlos, take care, have a good rest of the winter, and I’ll see you in May. More to come soon.