stamped without the slightest hassle andrnwithout paying one cent. This is so therncop can be done with us and take hisrnBrazilian friend (with whom he nowrncommunicates with ease) home to meetrnhis futebol-crazed children.rnMy first unpleasant surprise uponrnreaching Belize is the large number ofrnpeople inquiring whether they can get arnseat on our boat for its return journey.rnThere are clearly more takers than therernare seats. Will I be able to get a boatrnback? It might be difficult. My secondrnunpleasant surprise is the cost of things.rnYou get two Belizian dollars per U.S. dollarrn(Belizian money looks almost identicalrnto Canadian money, complete withrnQueen Elizabeth). You can’t touch arncheap hotel room without a bath for lessrnthan $8 U.S. (or $16 Belizian). Thernsame thing would cost a buck and a halfrnin Honduras. A hamburger costs $2.50rnU.S. A soda costs a dollar! My third unpleasantrnsurprise is that no one evenrnwants to look at the wad of Honduranrnlempiras I have in my pocket. I cannotrnchange the money anywhere.rnI knock about town. The people inrnDangriga are predominantly black,rnthough a few folks hail from other formerrnBritish colonies (Pakistan, Singapore,rnMalaysia, etc.). The English theyrnspeak is an interesting mixture of thernvery proper English spoken by educatedrnCrown Colony residents and creole-rnCaribbean slang. Generous doses ofrnCockney and Irish accents can be detected.rnVery understandable, but veryrndifferent.rnMany of Dangriga’s residents arern”Garifunas” (gah-RIFF-oo-nahs), anrnethnic group scattered along thernCaribbean coast of Belize and Honduras.rnThe ancestors of today’s Garifunas werernblack slaves who escaped from plantationsrnon the island of St. Vincent and intermarriedrnwith local Carib Indians. Itrntook nearly a century for the British tornpacify them. They were eventually relocatedrnto the nearby island of Roatan,rnwhere some of their descendants still reside.rnHowever, large numbers of Garifunasrnmigrated to the mainland by canoernin the mid-1800’s and established communitiesrnin Belize and Honduras. Largernnumbers of these people are gatheredrnthis evening along the banks of StannrnCreek, where they wildly dance to musicrnmade on traditional drums and conchshellrnhorns.rnThe earth has an intense reddish clayrncolor, which gives the dirt streets ofrnDangriga an interesting hue. Everythingrnis built on wooden stilts, and nothing isrnpaved. Yet the town is quite clean andrnmost buildings are recently painted,rnlending a well-scrubbed charm to thernotherwise dilapidated, weather-beatenrnappearance of the place.rnI return to my hotel room and thinkrnthings over. I clearly don’t have enoughrnU.S. money to last in Belize for long.rnEven if I could change my Honduranrnmoney it wouldn’t go far. What to do?rnI decide to head south the followingrnmorning to Punta Gorda, where there isrna ferry connection to Puerto Barrios,rnGuatemala. I know from experiencernthat I can change my Honduran moneyrnin Puerto Barrios. I also know myrnmoney will go much farther inrnGuatemala. So I’m up early the nextrnmorning.rnThe bus trip to Punta Gorda is fivernhours long (in a used American schoolrnbus). The cost is an astonishing $5rnU.S.—a similar ride in Honduras orrnGuatemala would cost about 50 to 80rncents. But I have to say that it is a stunningrnride. The dense jungle, the hues ofrngreen, and the assortment of birds are incredible.rnThe road is also incredible—anrnincredible mess. It is alternately dustyrnand muddy. Every inch of it is bumpy. 1rnreach Punta Gorda and find that the hotelrnand restaurant situation is prettyrnbleak. The town itself isn’t much morernthan a jungle outpost—the last bit ofrncivilization along the bumpy, dusty,rnmuddy trail. But no problem. I’m out ofrnhere on the next afternoon’s ferry, or sornI think.rnThe next day, I and several others waitrnfor the ferry to come from Guatemala.rnAnd we wait. And wait. And wait somernmore. You begin to understand why thernSpanish verb esperar means both to waitrnand to hope. Waiting and hoping. Waitingrnand hoping. Waiting and hoping.rnThe ferry never comes. It is Friday, thern24th of December. The ferrymen havernapparently taken the day off, though nornone seems to know for sure. Will nextrnTuesday’s ferry come? “Maybe, maybernnot” is the answer. Do I even havernenough money to last until Tuesday? Arnsense of panic sinks in. I’m going to runrnout of money in this country!rnThe following day I hop aboardrna Christmas Day bus to Belize City.rnSurely I will find someone there who willrnchange my lempiras into Belizian dollars.rnAnd surely I will find a way out ofrnBelize. After five hours on the road, Irnonce again find myself in Dangriga. Thernbus has a short layover, so I stroll a halfrnblock to the Stann Creek dock, and lornand behold a fellow with his hair all donernup in dred locks approaches me and says,rn”You be looking fo’ a boat to PuertornCortes, Mistah?” He knows a guy tryingrnto fill a boat to leave that day. It is 2:00rnin the afternoon. I get my bag off of thernbus and go with him.rnYes, indeed! This guy has two boats.rnHe and his brother are going to Cortes.rnAnd yes, they will take me along. Whenrndo we leave? “Media horn”—in 30 minutes.rnThere’s about 25 of us. We eachrnfork over $70 Belizian dollars, or an astonishingrnprice of $35 U.S. It leaves mernwith three measly Belizian dollars (and arnuseless wad of Honduran lempiras) inrnmy pocket. But what a stroke of luck!rnWe also hand over our passports. Thenrnthe waiting begins. The time ticks by.rnThe brothers return at about 3:00 andrnsay “el mar es tan bravo”—the sea is toornfierce. One looks at me, moves his handrnup and down, and says “choppy.” Theyrnreturn at 4:00 and inform us that werncan’t wait for the sea to calm down. Wernmust leave now. Any objections? Therernare none.rnWe climb into two open rowboats,rneach about 28 feet in length. Both haverntwo 40 horsepower Yamaha outboard enginesrnon the back. We head down StannrnCreek to the sea, and most of the guys—rnincluding me—must jump overboard tornpush the boats over the sand bar at thernmouth of the creek. We get going, soakingrnwet, and the water is very rough. Wernare going far faster than the boat I tookrncoming here. The waves are also farrnlarger. The combination of the two createsrna pain in my butt and lower backrnthat is beyond my ability to describe.rnBack through the cays and reefs. The searnis rough as hell. We are soaked to thernskin. We’re too scared even to thinkrnabout getting seasick. We are actuallyrnbailing water to stay afloat. We don’trneven have one lifejacket for every threernpeople. What’s it going to be like whenrnwe reach the deep waters of the gulf?rnAnd it will be dark by then, too! Yes, itrnbegins to dawn on us all that we’vernclimbed aboard Charon’s boat on thernRiver Styx—the boat ride to Hell.rnThe surf is soaking us. We can’t bailrnfast enough to keep the water out of thernboat. We almost overturn several times.rnI—a native Minnesotan—am actuallyrngetting the chills in Central America.rnThe Belizian and Honduran passengersrnSEPTEMBER 1994/41rnrnrn