I inhale deeply after stepping off the plane onto the ramp. The air is hot with asphalt and sea water, the scent as comforting as bread baking in our oven at home. It smells like Belize. Not Africa. Not China. Not North Carolina. We roll our bags across the tarmac to the terminal.
It’s still early and we were running on fumes. Got up at 2:45 AM, re-heated some coffee—stars bright, bags already in the car, our exit staged before we lay down to sleep—and drove to the airport. After twenty-five years, we were headed to a place so rich in memories that I might have been born there.
The young lady at the rental counter unfolds a map and reaches for a pen. “You want to take this road,” she says, drawing a line on the map not far from the airport. “Lots of speed bumps.”
Bob guides the car in a graceful arc over the first few concrete barriers, but then they begin sneaking up on us. We hit a few so hard the bags jump. But he soldiers on, mastering the challenge, and draws us ever closer to an extravagant beach vacation in Placencia.
And then we are whizzing along the Western Highway, immersed in the familiar landscape of Coca Cola signs, bicycles, scooters, palms, and roadside tiendas.
I heard that in Belize the tax man can’t collect as long as your home is still under construction. That would explain the inordinate number of cinderblock walls with rusted rebar poking out of the top.
When we reach the Hummingbird Highway the scenery becomes even more lush as it winds through the hills.
Finally, we pull up to the Naia resort gate, check in at the front desk, and drive our bags over to Solvei, their Ultimate Beach House, digs so over-the-top I find myself searching for the camera crew.
I thought places like this only existed in the movies. Seriously, this five-bedroom house (sleeps 10 adults and 5 children) features heated toilet seats with bidets, a pool with a waterfall, a state-of-the-art kitchen, and enough glass to sink the Titanic. All free, thanks to our host, Mandy.
The next morning, before touring Mandy’s farm (stay tuned), Bob and I walk the beach at dawn.
Down to the pier where we sit for awhile, soaking it in. We are back in Belize!
And then we head back up the beach towards our movie star house to change into our farm touring duds.