Belize was a highway hugging nation. After crossing through the Mexican border at Chetumal the bus slowly rumbled deeper into the country via the northern highway which doubled as main streets and suburban avenues for every town, village or single house municipality along the way. It was now night, but even in the darkness locals loitered outside the buildings and houses devoid of anything to pass the time with. Elderly couples sat on their porches or stoops watching the evening traffic pass by. Youths huddled in groups sharing cigarettes and children ran amongst them, chasing balls, cats, chickens, dogs or each other. Basically anything that moved away from them.
If ever a city embodied the contrast of Central America’s past and possible future it is Panama City, Panama. Stand in the middle of the Avenue Balboa – the main throughway hugging the water of Bahia de Panama – and look right; you see the colonial past of Casco Viejo. Look left and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Dubai, with a multitude of high rise buildings shooting skywards at a rapid rate as retired Americans and foreign investors move in.
While aesthetically pleasing Tulum was a quiet town bereft of stimulation during the day. After a lack of culture and recreation beyond drinking in Cancun it was decided that a fishing trip would suffice as an acceptable activity before heading back to the bottle. It was a perfect idea; several hours on the sea, reel in a few barracudas and feed the entire hostel that night.
(excerpt from The Chicken Bus Run, coming soon).
Puerto Viejo was back on the Caribbean coast. Where the jungle grew over the placid beaches and Rastafarians sold Rasta hats and marijuana from road side tables. It was like Bluefields if it had been expecting visitors. There was none of the impatience of the Latino areas. No beggars, no road rage, no Disney sticker sets or USB sticks or other items you didn’t want being thrust in your face. Nobody was wearing a suit or a uniform.
I knew nothing about Central America before I went there. There were two countries I had never even heard of, one I only knew because they had qualified for the World Cup and another famous for a canal and nothing else. It’s a neglected and ignored place, a tiny bridge between two continents that’s been ravaged and pillaged by wars and natural disasters in equal measure.
There are two small islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua called Big CornIsland and Little Corn Island. Neither are shaped like corn, and corn is not noticably abundant whilst there, but one is definitely bigger than the other, so at least in one aspect the name works.
Cancun is disgusting. It is America’s prostitute. Its high rise hotels and nightclubs is a smearing of make-up on a once naturally beautiful face. Americans fly in: they throw money at it; use it; and leave, giving it just enough time to reapply some lipstick and spread its legs for the next wave of cashed-up tourists.