The plan was to head to Belize city, meet my friend Dorothy at the bus station (she was flying in for a week) then take a series of buses to Hopkins in Southern Belize.
This was to be our first time taking a public bus in Belize and I was not all that excited about it. Public buses in Belize are old American school buses, and from what I’d heard, there is no such thing as “full”.
50 feet from the bus stop we watched a packed bus pull over, let off a few people, then continue on. The people who were denied from the bus slumped back to the waiting area. I struck up a conversation with a handsome young American named Aaron who was trying to get to Belize city to make an 11 AM flight. At this point it was almost 8 AM and Belize city is 2-3 hours by bus plus a cab ride to the airport. His timing was a bit off. I could see he was starting to get (rightfully) concerned and I wanted to ensure we made it to the bus station before Dorothy so we discussed alternatives. A cab to the airport is usually around 120 US which was out of my price range. But, I suggested he ask the cab driver across the street how much it would be. He returned with a smile and reported that the driver would only charge 75 US dollars to get us to the airport.
25 bucks for a private car to the airport? 25 bucks to not have to squeeze onto a rickety bus and hold on for dear life as it hurtles down windy roads? Sold.
We hopped into the cab and after a stop at the drivers’ house to give his granddaughter money for school, we were on our way. Our driver Austin was about 70 years old and such a sweet, endearing man. He talked on and on about his granddaughter and his life growing up in Belize. Many times he seemed a bit confused and we weren’t sure if he even knew how to get to the airport. Aaron remarked that he was “the Belizean Magoo”.
Eventually, despite our doubts, we rolled up to the airport and dropped off Aaron. During the drive, Austin had very kindly offered to wait at the airport to pick up Dorothy then drop us off at the bus station. After some discussion about our destination, he then offered to just take us directly to Hopkins for 60 extra bucks. I immediately agreed.
Earlier in the month I had priced shuttles to Hopkins and it was 60 dollars per person. This guy was offering to wait an hour at the airport then take us straight to our hotel for 1/3rd of the price. And the best part is we wouldn’t have to spend 5-6 hours on a series of public buses.
The universe was looking on us extremely favorably that day.
So we picked up/surprised Dorothy, squealed with excitement for a few minutes, searched for Jill who is inexplicably always disappearing then headed to Hopkins.
Austin informed us that the quickest route would be an unpaved road that he hadn’t driven on in 7 years. Oh. Okay. As we turned into the road in his sedan, large rocks immediately began pelting the bottom of the car. Thwack! Thud!
We actually felt them ricocheting beneath our feet. This road wasnt fit for a humvee let alone a Hyundai Elantra. Dorothy and I looked at each other with a mixture of amusement and concern then casually began asking him about his tire maintenance routine.
We were on that road for 38 miles during which time we saw exactly one other vehicle- a Mack truck.
38 miles, going 30 miles per hour, just waiting for a tire to blow out on one of the countless mini-boulders and for us to be stranded on the side of a dusty empty road in the sweltering Belizean sun with the Belizean Mr Magoo.
Thankfully that never happened. Austin navigated that road like a boss and 2.5 hours later we arrived at our hotel in Hopkins, hours before we would have arrived by bus.
Traveling isn’t always glamorous, or easy. But on days like that when everything comes together like it was written in the stars – those are the days that make it all worthwhile.