Today marks one month until we leave Belize. We couldn’t leave without devoting at least a few posts to the community that’s been our home for the past 11 months.
Eleven months in and I’m realizing I haven’t really written much about the area we’ve been living in all this time. Seems like it happens wherever I live, and I inevitably come to discover months or years later that I really didn’t take many pictures or write much about my actual home.
I suppose the foreign always seems more exotic than the familiar, not to mention that there are so many photogenic places worth photographing in Belize. That’s not to say that Punta Gorda (or PG) isn’t one of them, but it’s just one of those things — when I go into town (or walk around Forest Home, for that matter), I’m focused on buying groceries, filling up drinking water, dodging village buses, topping up phone credit — rather than snapping photos of things around me.
On offer here is a collection of the few photographs I have snapped over the past several months of our adoptive community. I’ve got one more month to add to the collection — and intend to — but for now, here’s essentially what I’ve got so far.
November was a special time in PG, offering us a unique opportunity to experience Garifuna and Southern Belize culture during Garifuna Settlement Week. One of the — if not THE — most festive times of year, not just for Garinagu celebrating their rich culture, but for everyone participating in the events, which included the sunrise reenactment of the arrival of the Garinagu (pictured above), Battle of the Drums and other festivities.
Belize is a melting pot of cultures, but no other place in Belize can boast the level of diversity as the Deep South (i.e. Toledo District/ PG). PG is where Caribbean Kreol meets Central American Spanish; Traditional Mayan harp playing runs head-on into Garifuna drumming; European Mennonite dairy products mingle with East Indian dahl roti on the dinner table. In the PG market, you can get fresh, handmade Mayan tortillas at one stall, fresh, young coconut a few stalls down, and Indian curry powder at a stall in between.
PG’s Central Park (above) is often the place to be on Saturday, either for chicken, rice and beans, music or just people watching. The recently painted clock tower is the undisputed focal point of central PG with its distinctive shape and large, colorful mural. Rumor has it, you can get someone to take you up to the top, if you know the right people…
One of the main draws of PG is its location on the sea. While perhaps not as idyllic as Placencia’s white sands beach, PG’s shore has its own funky appeal. On hot days, locals (and visitors) can be seen swimming off any number of docks in town.
PG is only 15-20 miles across Amatique Bay from Livingston, Guatemala, which can be seen from town on a clear day (above), which doesn’t occur very often.
PG gets more rainfall (by far) than anywhere else in the country — 187.7 inches! (4,767mm) in 2013. By contrast, Seattle received 32.6 inches of rainfall in 2013. In all fairness, 2013 was a particularly dry year for Seattle, which typically gets about 37 inches of rainfall.
The main pier in town (above/below) will eat your flip flops right off your feet if you’re not careful (due to the wide gaps between boards). April is the heart of Dry Season, which is reflected in the aqua marine color of the water (most of the year, it’s a deep brown due to heavy rains and the runoff from the areas five streams).
A Piece of Chicken (the restaurant atop A Piece of Ground guesthouse) (above) may be the best place in town to watch the sun set. In the distance, Cerro Hill features prominently in the landscape. PoC also whips up one heck of a tasty chicken burger at very reasonable prices.
Lori and the rest of the Hillside Rehab team put on a Water Wellness class in PG, Belize style — in da sea in April. The sea is very shallow in PG out to about a couple hundred yards off shore, though it can get quite choppy in the afternoon during certain times of the year.
May brought the annual Toledo Chocolate Festival, featuring cacao products from around the district and the country, including Belikin Beer Chocolate Stout, locally made cacao wine, and of course, a variety of Mayan chocolate! Toledo is known for its cacao production.
Lastly, waiting at the PG immigration (point of entry) pier for a boat to Guatemala with my parents visiting from the U.S. PG is a key jumping off point for visiting Guatemala. It’s the end of the road both literally and figuratively in Belize. Although Guatemala dominates Belize’s western and southern borders, there is only one official land crossing several hours north of PG. The other option is to take a boat from PG to Puerto Barrios or Livingston. The boats are small open skiffs and the seas can get rough, but the crossing makes PG feel just a bit less isolated than it otherwise would be…sitting at the end of a long and lonely stretch of highway in the southern reaches of an already somewhat obscure country.