Final Leg – Chicken Bus’ing and Going Home
We arrive in Dangriga in no time at all (at 10:15, when we had expected a 45 minute ride), and at Phillip’s request, we stop at the Garifuna Drum Memorial to take pictures before getting to the main bus terminal.
Our bus is already there, they tell us, and we walk through the main terminal (where there is the same time schedule that they had taken a photo of a month before–hand written on sheets of paper on a board) to the recycled school bus, painted across in red, white and green.
You had to get us on a chicken bus, eh Phil, I say.
Yep, he says jovially, and he helps Cyn and I load our bags up through the emergency exit in the back.
There are still children selling food and drinks on the bus, so I buy an orange juice as Phillip runs inside to buy himself and Sarah some plantain chips and burritos.
10 minutes later, another young boy, no older than 8, boards the bus selling plantain chips.
No thanks, I say when he comes by. But then Cynthia and I look at each other. Do we want some? Okay, yea, I say, and I hand the boy a Belize dollar. The chips are thin and salted to perfection. We chomp through the bag while playing Mario on her Nintendo DS.
The ride through the countryside takes a good 2.5 hours but it is scenic and beautiful, with the Maya mountains adorning the view from the left side of the bus. I sit in the bus seat in front of Cynthia, intermittently snapping pictures and sleeping against the window.
Right before we reach Belmopan, I awake, still curled in a half shell, to find another boy sitting at the edge of my bus seat.
Scoot over, Cynthia hisses. More people got on.
In Belmopan, I duck back into Cynthia’s seat. And good thing because when the bus reloads, it is completely packed, so much so that a man has to sit on top of luggage in the last row. I guess by some standards that really isn’t completely packed because the aisle isn’t filled with standing passengers and people aren’t hanging out the back.
I sleep again until I am rudely awakened in Belize City but men who are hanging out of the emergency exit.
Airport? Airport, they yell. Who is going to the airport.
Groggily, I say that I am, and they tell me that this is the stop I need to get off at, searching for my bags along the way.
I am rather confused, but I decide to heed these people and hop off the bus with Cyn, saying a hasty and unexpected goodbye to Phillip and Sarah. Rick had left in Dangriga to find a boat to the atolls close by.
How much for the taxi, I ask.
Scanning around, I see that I am moderately screwed. The driver had explained that this was the best place to get to airport because it was right at the edge of town and the airport is about 8 km outside of town. However, because we were in a random location, there were no other cabs around to provide much leverage in bargaining a price.
Can you do it for less, I ask, pulling out my Lonely Planet, as if I could find some evidence that he was screwing me. I’m really too groggy to care.
I can take 5 Belize off the price, he tells me, but that’s it. Gas is expensive. It’s like 10 dollars a gallon, man.
I look at Cynthia. We really don’t have much of a choice. In usual fashion, she shrugs, so I say okay and the taxi man grabs our bags.
When we settle in, I pull out my LP which reads that taxis should cost $3 a person from downtown to/from the airport. I assume that it means 6 Belize per person, and even then, we have completely gotten screwed because on top of everything else, the cabbie had been honest about one thing: we were starting from a point much closer to the airport.
Learning from Phillip’s principal not to tip above a bartered price, I pay the cabbie his 45 dollars.
Cynthia, who suddenly realized on the bus that her passport wasn’t in her small purse, stops outside to unzip her suitcase and check for her passport. She is confident at first that it will appear, first in her skirt pocket, then in the pocket of her jeans, but when it is nowhere to be found, her face falls. Shit, she says.
Well, I think normally they at least allow you on the return leg of a trip, I say. Let’s see what we can do. Dammit, almost flawless.
The AA counter is surprisingly accommodating, and after paying $15 for the airport wifi, we manage to pull up a photo of Cynthia’s passport on my computer. They take note of the numbers and get her a boarding pass, even stopping to put us together in an exit row.
We pay our $39 exit tax and move swiftly through security. My mother had warned me that going through security would take forever, and so far so good.
That unfortunately left us a massive amount of time to shop at the duty free shops, and I went slightly ape shit, buying up as much $9 liquor as I could carry back with me. Add in a shirt, some hot sauce, and I soon had to buy a large Belize-emblazoned bag to carry my displaced belongings after I would have to check the liquor into my suitcase when flying domestically.
The hour and a half flight from Belize passes without issue and Cyn and I look through photos from the weeks past.
In Miami customs, Cyn is stopped at immigration for what seems like hours. I wait downstairs with our collective luggage alongside a woman who’s Cuban husband has been held up as well.
He’s a Canadian citizen,, she says, but he’s proud and travels with his Cuban passport. I told him to travel with his Canadian passport. Now look what happens.
When Cyn comes out, the airport is flooded with a massive number of international flights and the customs line wraps around the baggage carousels.
Let’s go to the bathrooms first, I say. Famous last words, because Cynthia gets so excited about her phone calls and emails, that she tips over my suitcase.
Crash! The whole thing goes down and the next thing I know, I see creamy fluid flooding my Belize bag onto the floor.
Fuck, a bottle broke, I say, and I am massively irritated. I want to punch something. And now everything is gooey and sticky with the cream of rum that I had been dying to drink. I want to scream.
We walk out of the bathroom in silence and push through the crowd of people waiting to make it through customs.
With the many failed efforts to re-schedule my itinerary, I finally give into the sad reality that I will be flying to Tennessee and waiting in Nashville airport until my 6 a.m. flight to Chicago.
Cyn and I manage to squeeze in our first Starbucks coffee at Miami, and then I depart for security. To my (pleasant) surprise, there is a Cuban restaurant right adjacent to my departure gate. Sweet ass, I think, one final order of chicken and rice!
However, when I arrive in Nashville, I am surprised and pleased to find that I am looking directly at a lounge of leather chairs filled with 15 or so travelers looking as though they’ve settled in for the night.
I approach the police officer standing in front of the glass windows surrounding the lounge.
What’s all this? I ask
Are you here for the night?
Yea, I think so. Have a flight to Chicago in 5 hours.
Then you can stay here. Feel free to arrange the couches how you like.
Sweeeeet ass, I think to myself.
A woman, flying to Dallas, offers me a blanket. I turn on my computer to find that Boingo is still free for the holidays thanks to Google. I am happy.