I walked into Hopkins with a guitar in my hand, backpack hanging off my shoulders, and my mouth parched as sweat poured down my face. I felt lightheaded. I needed a drink. I walked two miles from where my ride had dropped me off. Semis passed me on my hike, kicking up large clouds of dirt, blanketing my vision in tans and browns.
Was visiting this little Belizean beach town worth it? I’d soon see. Getting here required me to hitch two rides. I thumbed my first ride because I missed the stop from the bus, and the second was due to there being no buses going to this town.
But hitching had unexpectedly enriched my experience in Belize. As I stuck my thumb up on the Hummingbird Highway, I felt awkward. Normally I would never do this in the United States. I was told to wait for a bus going the other way, but I didn’t want to wait four hours, so I decided to show a little initiative and take my chances.
Several trucks passed me before a blue Ford decided to pick me up. I was in Marie Sharp Hot Sauce country, this being close to Dangriga. My driver, the general manager and nephew to the founder of this venerated national brand, talked about E.U. trade policy and potential for the brand to break into the European market.
I found my second ride after being dropped off at an intersection by the inter-local bus. A portly dreadlocked Belizean gave me a ride in his old Mercedes. His radio blasted Dolly Parton as we cruised down the dirt road. He drove two miles and left me to hike the rest of the way.
I walked into an unassuming dining establishment and ordered a soda – it wasn’t any too soon. I quickly downed the sweet liquid and ordered another. As I sat in the shade of the restaurant’s palapa, I saw the menu. It said conch steak. I’d return here to sample this delicacy, which they prepared simply and served with a side of coconut rice for roughly eight dollars.
I came to Hopkins, a small Garifuna village populated by only 1,300 residents, with the idea of lounging in the Caribbean and getting away from it all. In these three days I didn’t know I would snorkel among schools of barracudas and sergeant majors and try the traditional Garifuna dish called hudut falumou.
But as I swung in my hammock drinking a Belikin stout next to turquoise waters, I did know that this was exactly where I wanted to be.