“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Granny’s youngest sister and your great Aunt Martha relayed messages back and forth all day so we could sort out the massive change in plans. She even helped reserve a room with free shuttle service in Houston at the Red Roof Inn. Though they were surprised to see the hotel had gray shingles, Granny and Grumpy managed to get a good sleep before the next leg of their journey began.
Plan B would pick up from Step 8 but instead of catching the 10am express shuttle, they would land at 11:15am, blast through customs and take a taxi in time to catch the 1pm express shuttle, putting them in El Remate just three hours later than Plan A. This took an insane amount of coordinating with help from great aunt Martha but we were happy with Plan B. We managed to find an immaculate two bedroom house to rent for just $20 per day and spent the day preparing for Granny and Grumpy’s arrival. We checked the flight status online and seeing that flight 1407 from Houston was five minutes early, we felt good about their ability to make the 1pm express bus. Granny was going to email us from the travel agency before they boarded the bus and when I logged in, my chin hit the floor when I saw the top email subject line reading, “OUR LUGGAGE WAS LEFT IN HOUSTON!”
The previous night I managed to Skype call Grumpy in their hotel room at the Red Roof Inn with gray shingles and I instructed him to triple check to make sure their luggage was not still sitting in Houston when they left. The United Airlines clerk assured him over and over that their luggage was destined for Belize. I guess he needed to specify when. Turns out that their luggage traveled to Belize the night before then returned to Houston because Granny and Grumpy were not there to retrieve it. So now, Granny and Grumpy were in Belize and their luggage was back in Houston.
While on the plane, Granny made friends with a nice lady named Carlotta, but after Granny tried Casandra, Cartollo and Carlioto, the nice lady said, “Just call me C.” C offered to drive Granny and Grumpy from the airport to the bus terminal so they could avoid the $25 taxi fee and ensure that they arrived on time to catch the express bus. But now that they had to wait FIVE hours for their luggage to arrive in Belize, they had to say goodbye to C and hello to Plan C. When we saw that email, we felt so bad for Granny and Grumpy since they were starting their trip with so much unnecessary stress.
Plan C was much more difficult to arrange since messages were relayed through great aunt Martha every hour or so. I thought it would be best to go back to Plan A but just move the whole thing one day later, but Granny proved her travel savvy with a gentle voice and pure reason. The airline attendant apologized for losing their luggage and ensured that they would deliver it to their hotel anywhere in Belize. Did I just hear anywhere, Granny thought? “So what if we are on the border of Guatemala?” The attendant agreed that they would deliver the luggage there. Her plan to take a taxi to the border and then wait for their luggage to arrive was squashed when she realized the four hour trip would cost $160US. This was not financially justifiable when the express bus was only $25 each. Then she had another idea and returned to the attendant, “If the vehicle driving our luggage to us at the border is empty, could we not just hitch a ride with our luggage to the border?” This made sense and was also environmentally friendly. After some finagling and applying sophisticated attorney-esque laws of deduction, Granny and Grumpy managed to hitch a ride with their luggage that was going to meet them at the border. Total cost? $0.
Now 4:30pm, Granny and Grumpy jumped into the cab with all of their luggage, but before heading West across the entire country, they had to first drop another couple off on the opposite side of Belize City and then a mystery package to some shady person in some shady neighborhood. Granny and Grumpy peered out the window, soaking up the rugged but colorful former capital, marveling at the extremes of the ramshackle streets. From putrid canals and grungy slums to grand colonial homes and seaside luxury yachts, they found it difficult to look away. Vehicles weaved in and out at high speeds, ignoring traffic lights, with never more than a few feet between bumpers. By the time they emerged from Belize’s only urban jungle, the sun had set so the Western Highway past the glow of headlights would remain a mystery until their return trip. One thing they couldn’t miss were the massive speed bumps spaced every few kilometers, forcing the driver to speed up, slam the breaks, crawl over the bump, then slam on the gas again.
About three hours in, the driver pulled over for a pit stop and inhaled a cigarette. Grateful for the free cross country ride, Granny asked if she could buy him a pop from the roadside tienda. When he expressed his preference for beer, Granny wondered if providing your driver with alcohol was a smart idea. The entire bottle of beer went down without his lips leaving the bottle and when he saw the reactions on their faces, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “thirsty!” Not sure if that was enough of a tip, Granny also gave him a pack of cigarettes. Alcohol and cigarettes, the perfect currency in prison. Maybe Granny thought the mysterious deliveries would catch up with him one day.
Granny shouted Maxim’s Palace as they approached the dusty border town of Benque Viejo to remind the driver of their hotel. Sounding more like a peeler bar than a hotel, Granny and Grumpy were unsure of what to expect from a local recommendation but they were not about to get out in the pitch black and begin dragging their luggage around town looking for a hotel with a less risque name. Granny and Grumpy had to squeeze by a drooling German Shepherd to get to their room but something even more scary was staring them in the face. Three flights of nearly vertical stairs. Granny’s eyes opened wide and she sighed, “WHAT? We’re going up there?” After waiting five and a half hours in Toronto, flying three hours to Houston, waking early the next day to fly three hours to Belize, waiting five and a half hours more for their luggage, then driving four hours across the country, the staircase looked like Mount Everest in a snow storm, and like climbers at altitude, they began the slow and cumbersome ascent. The luggage, packed with 4kg of all-natural peanut butter, 2kg of trail mix and 1kg of raisins, crashed down hard on each stair until one wheel snapped, then slowly and mockingly rolled back to the bottom.
Granny was in desperate need to empty her bladder and didn’t realize the closet sized door in their room led to the bathroom. Before the owner could leave, Granny asked for the washroom. Speaking only Spanish, the lady replied, “no washroom.” “Can I use your washroom?” Granny pleaded as her bladder, weakened by three pregnancies, was about to burst. “No washroom…tomorrow,” the lady replied. Grumpy realized that she was thinking laundry and not bathroom so he looked at the hotel owner and said, “pee pee” while hopping on the spot. The lady opened the closet door and Granny sidestepped in.
Mentally and physically exhausted, Granny and Grumpy ate a handful of wheel busting trail mix, flopped onto the plush mattresses, laughed as they recalled the series of calamities that brought them to Maxim’s Palace, and hoped to find their son at the border the next morning as planned. But then they thought, maybe we should just stop making plans.